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Ashfield Meetings & Events recently held their annual supplier event, The Lab. The 2016 theme was Blueprint For Success and one of the sessions was a Q&A with the board. It provided an opportunity for all of us to hear from the members about the blueprint for their own success.

Some key pieces of advice stuck with me from this session.

Have ambition. The board all had very different background and career paths and had been offered many opportunities throughout their careers but this was underpinned by hard work, determination and ambition, which was critical to their success.

Have a ‘broad bottom’. This is perhaps the only time I have been given this advice before! Our Global Managing Director, Nicola Burns, encouraged us to see our careers as a pyramid rather than a ladder. Building strong foundations in different areas of the business in the early stages of your career can open more opportunities in the future.

Grasp every opportunity. Whether big or small, be open to taking on new challenges throughout your career and be prepared to take risks.

Shortly after The Lab, and following development conversations with my line manager, I was presented with an opportunity for a secondment. I had been working in the venue sourcing team for two-and-a-half years and was also enrolled on the Future Focus programme, set up to identify and develop future senior leaders in the agency. The collaborative nature of the programme gave me a deeper understanding of the different areas of expertise within our agency. In particular, I was intrigued by the event delivery teams. When the opportunity came along for a six-month secondment as a Project Executive in one of our dedicated client teams, I jumped at the chance – bottom first.

The placement opportunity – a direct job-swap with a colleague – was perfect for me to broaden my knowledge, to grow the base of my (experience) pyramid and to help prepare me for future career progression. For me the move seemed a natural progression and has allowed me to get more immersed in the next steps of the event management planning cycle that follow after the venue confirmation. Having worked hand in glove with this particular client team when sourcing venues, I was relishing the opportunity to see the other side. I had no illusions as to the hard work that lay ahead of me, having been on-site with the team previously and seen the hours, passion and dedication they put in to ensure everything is flawless.

Over the last few months, I invested considerable time with my job swap colleague to share knowledge and key skills, shadow each other and hand over key projects seamlessly. By investing this time in advance, it has meant that we have both been able to hit the ground running in the first weeks in our new roles and ensured minimum impact on our colleagues and clients in adapting to the change.

I am now just a couple of weeks into the secondment. I am enjoying every minute. The learning experience to date has been vast but I am sure there will be inevitable challenges ahead as I get more involved in the intricacies of the event management process. I have also found that this opportunity is a great enabler to find better ways of working. The Future Focus programme involves close collaboration with our sister brand SPARK THINKING, where we are encouraged to have a challenger mind-set, be disruptive and ask ‘what if?’ By using this mind-set in the first few weeks, I have found that you can spot concealed opportunities and bring creative inspiration that stems from cross-team working. It enables people to share best practice and connect their individual ideas and experiences. I have already brought ideas to my new team to help us work more effectively and am collecting a journal of ideas to take back to the venue sourcing team to enhance our working practices and create efficiencies.

I am eager to see how my time with the event delivery team progresses and how this move may shape my future career progression at Ashfield. I would encourage others to think about all the different disciplines involved in the event management cycle and consider whether you want to be a specialist or a generalist. I believe there is space for both. As a keen learner I want to experience different aspects and find the route that is right for me. I am very fortunate that I am part of an organisation that has the size and infrastructure to allow me to have these opportunities and invests in my personal development. It was no surprise when Ashfield won gold in the Learning & Development category at the UK Employee Experience Awards earlier this year – a great achievement.

I look forward to bringing you an update towards the end of my secondment and letting you know how broad my bottom has become.

Building a broad bottom for success

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