This week we gain another Industry Member Insight as we talk to Katie Wages, Meeting & Event Project Manager for CITGO Petroleum and Director of Sponsorship at SITE Texas. Katie outlines some of her experiences, challenges and learnings from this pandemic.
Katie, tell us a little about what you do.
I have been a Meeting and Event Project Manager for CITGO Petroleum Corporation since 2008. Prior to joining CITGO, I worked for Andretti Green Racing, the Honda Grand Prix of St. Petersburg, and Maritz Travel Company. At CITGO, I am responsible for the design, development and execution of all corporate sales and marketing meetings, board meetings, and incentive events. During my time at CITGO I obtained my CMP, CITP, CIS, and a Masters of Tourism Administration with a dual concentration in Meeting/Event Management and Sports Management from the George Washington University in Washington, D.C. I am currently serving on the SITE Texas Board of Directors as the Director of Sponsorships.
What have the past few months been like for you professionally and personally?
Personally, I have loved working from home these past six months. Time spent commuting is now spent on walks in the morning, cooking a proper dinner in the evening, and quality time with my husband. I am really missing my extended family as they are spread throughout the country. The hardest part has been seeing so many friends and colleagues in the industry deal with job loss and uncertainty.
There are many challenges associated with Covid-19. For you and your business, what would you say are the top 3 at this moment in time?
Obviously not being able to travel and gather like we have in the past has completely changed the way we plan our meetings and events. Having to learn all about virtual events has been a challenge, but I am fortunate enough to be serving on the SITE Texas board this year. This July, the board put on a ‘How to Hybrid’ event that was attended by over 600 (mostly virtual) people. Seeing how successful that event was (thanks to our fabulous board and our amazing sponsors) gave me hope and a road map for our upcoming virtual and hybrid events.
This time has been a steep learning curve in so many ways. What are the main lessons you have learnt over the last 6 months?
I have learned more than ever the value of industry partnerships!
Businesses everywhere are adapting to survive. In what way has your business/role altered in response to the pandemic?
I have had to become very familiar with virtual events!
Up-skilling seems to be the order of the day! Have you had time to re-skill/up-skill over this time?
I used this time to get certifications and to assist others in doing the same. Cvent made all of their certifications free and I took advantage of every single one. Thank you Cvent! I have been taking the time to go through any virtual event classes I can find. I also participated in the SITE Texas free CITP study group we offered. The group took their test on Sept. 21 and really knocked it out of the park!
As travel in general is hit, there is a fear that the appetite for incentive travel might not bounce back to as it was before. What are your thoughts on this?
I think incentive travel will come back in a big way. I think people can’t wait to be back on the road again. Traveling, experiencing different cultures, having a shared experience…I don’t think the desire for these things will ever go away. Traveling is one of the things I have missed the most during this time. I think companies will appreciate the need to gather their people more than ever once this is all over and more importantly, they know incentives drive business and produce results.
How did you get into this industry? What is it you love most about it?
My mom actually. I have a Finance undergrad degree and went to work for a bank right after college. My mom’s friend had a daughter that had been a Travel Director at Maritz Travel Company. My mom wanted me to have the opportunity to travel and see the world, and she encouraged me to apply for the Travel Director position. I will always be grateful to Maritz for that opportunity and especially grateful to my mom, who always knows best.
We love to be inspired! Can you leave us with something to mull over?
I am very grateful for my membership in SITE and for my friends in SITE Texas. They do such a great job of building community. I have felt their support this year more than ever.
Written by Katie Wages, Meeting & Event Project Manager, CITGO Petroleum
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