Welcome to the second instalment of the Make It Happen series. I’m delighted to feature Event Management graduate and blogger extraordinaire, Caitlin Kobrak.
How did you find yourself in your current role?
My route was quite straightforward, with a few twists. I studied Event Management for 4 years at the University of Gloucestershire, graduating in November 2014. However it was during my placement year that I came to the profound conclusion that working in event operations wasn’t for me – which left me with little idea of where I could go in the events industry. That was one of the main influencing reasons I applied to take part in the Eventice competition during my final year, and what led me to first meeting the team at George P. Johnson. It was because of this connection that I started working on a freelance contract at GPJ, firstly within sales and marketing before moving across to the strategy & planning team, and how I became a Junior Marketing Strategist at the start of this year.
Throughout University I was actively working with the industry, at BBC events, festivals and for a year I was planning, creating and running Indian Weddings. It was definitely a real mix of experiences, which was ideal for me because it helped me narrow down areas I was interested in understanding more about. Alongside all this I was, and still am, writing the events blog ‘I’m a Damn Student, what Do I Know?’ that won best events blog in the 2014 Blog Awards. Add in my love for twitter and utilising social media to communicate it’s all played a part in helping me reach the position I’m in now.
What has been the biggest development(s)/challenge(s) you’ve encountered in your industry in the past year?
I think one of the biggest challenges is the linkup between the events industry and event courses. As a past event management student I know the value a degree course can give individuals, but I have also experienced the gap between the academic side and the industry. I’ve been focusing on event students since 2011 and continue to do so with my blog, through #EventStudents hashtag on social media & as a member of the ISES UK educational committee.
The real challenge I’ve seen this past year, after co-creating and running The Student Sessions at Confex in 2015 with Elena Clowes, is the increase of companies & industry professionals creating events aimed specifically at Event Students. Which whilst fantastic in principal is entering a point of major overlap. With all these events covering the same topics, running on the same days and not communicating together.
I think if we want to really continue to bring together the industry with all forms of event educational programmes there needs to be a better conversation. It is important to understand what event are already on offer, evaluate what key outcomes students should get out of it, but most importantly look at how to link everything together. We as event professionals need to work collaboratively to make sure we are portraying the events industry as a whole.
What do you think will be the next trend(s) for the industry?
I can’t pretend to know where the industry is going to go, but I do agree in part with Kirk’s point in the last Make It Happen interview, about VR being an exciting new tool. The actual use of VR is nothing new, it’s been around conceptually since the 1950’s. However it is only now that we’re seeing the development in this technology filter through to consumer level and into our daily lives. I’m fascinated to see where technology will advance live experiences, but I think the real trend is how technology will streamline the whole customer journey for attendees.
Who or what has been the biggest influence on your career to date?
The Eventice was a key moment in my career. It challenged me, taught me new skills and helped me understand the vast amount of different career opportunities there is in the events industry. It was also how I first met Kevin Jackson and subsequently, because of him, how I’ve been able to meet some fantastic, talented event professionals who I get to work with at GPJ and through ISES UK. I think when you meet people who are not only knowledgeable and experienced but so exceptionally passionate and engaged you can’t help but be inspired.
A really key person who profoundly influenced the career path I am on now is Gareth Dimelow. Because if it wasn’t for him I wouldn’t have known about strategy & planning let alone be working in it. He gave me an amazing opportunity, was patient enough & willing enough to teach me, and continues to support and inspire me.
Whether they’re new in the game or changing career, what advice do you have for others starting out?
Do something to stand out. Whether that is from how you apply for jobs, from sharing your opinions on social media, through a blog. Or if it involves creating and promoting your own event, starting your own company, taking part in the competitions like the Eventice or My Event Vision. Do something that sets you apart, that enables you to showcase your passion, which gives you a remembrance factor.
Caitlin Kobrak – Award winning blogger and Junior Marketing Strategist, GPJ
Caitlin is an Events Management graduate, award winning blogger, and Junior Marketing Strategist at George P Johnson (GPJ). She sits on the ISES UK education committee, co-runs the #EventBlogChat monthly twitter chat & is a contributor to Event Magazine’s Student Hub.