The David Riddell Memorial Scholarship, created in memory of SITE Past President David Riddell, provides an opportunity for worthy individuals to participate in SITE educational programs. This year the SITE Foundation Board of Trustees selected four scholarship recipients based on financial need, nomination from a SITE Chapter leader and their contributions to SITE as David envisioned. The scholarship will fund costs to attend the SITE + MPI Global Forum in January. Natalie Mufutau, CIS, Business Development, MeetingPackage.com, Turku, Finland, was one of the scholarship recipients. Here is an excerpt from her winning essay.
"I wish to honour all the industry professionals I have met during the past few years for their continuous support and encouragement. Thanks to their unshaken belief in me, I have been able to give back to the community and continue my work with students. As a mother of three young children, I have a new goal – advocating for women and mothers in our industry and assisting them with their career development before and after maternity leave. I want to inspire others that, being a mother, should not be an obstacle in career development."
Nikola Tesla said: “We wind a simple ring of iron with coils; we establish the connections to the generator, which allow us to transform, to transmit and direct energy at will.” SITE has been literally been a generator of my global network and the source of my transformation from a student into an industry young leader. Through membership in SITE, I have gained valuable insights and priceless connections.
Completing a Masters in Events Management with certification of Project Management from Rovaniemi University of Applied Sciences (Finland) gave me an initial knowledge of the MICE industry. However, it was the SITE Certified Incentive Specialist (CIS) program that opened doors to the comprehensive theory and practice of incentive travel and motivational events to drive business results.
And so, the unleashing process began...
The experience with CIS inspired me to present a session, “From Ageism to Age Equality”, showcasing how to successfully bridge the gap between generations within the MICE industry. The project was a winner of the IMEX University Challenge 2013 at the Future Leaders Forum in Warsaw and further privileged me to represent Poland at the final round of competition held in Germany.
Thanks to the support of Sebastien Tondeur, CEO of MCI Group, I attended the World Education Conference in Las Vegas, where I met industry peers with whom I shared the same vision. One of them was Joost De Meyer, CEO of 1st Incentive Travel, who later became my mentor and employer. To further continue the learning experience and connect with industry leaders from a diverse and truly global community, in 2014 I volunteered at the SITE booth and SITE NITE EUROPE during IMEX Frankfurt.
My experiences helped me to realise that, through incentive programmes, we inspire people to exceed expectations and transcend their goals. Putting all the knowledge I gained into practice, I wrote an article “What do Millennials Bring to the Table” which was published by The Meeting Professional magazine. In addition, I was accepted as a recipient of the Hard Rock Cafe Scholarship and participated on a panel discussion, “Put Millennials Into Your Business”, with Kevin Hinton, Joost De Meyer and Miguel Neves. Thanks to this, I realised that SITE inspires people to dream bigger and reach further despite their age, nationality or professional experience.
Local affiliation has also been a valuable asset to my personal and professional development. I moved to Finland to seek an education and, thanks to my SITE membership, I received much more than that. I was able to build personal, local connections and develop strong bonds with existing SITE members. It was a privilege to be actively involved with the community, volunteer at the SITE Nordic Symposium and share my CIS testimony. SITE Finland President, Merja Hart exposed me to the incentive travel business at The Travel Experience and taught me how incentive programs are designed and what motivates people to achieve greater levels of performance. Furthermore, I envisioned establishing a local chapter of young leaders in Finland.
Afterwards, as a Business Development Manager for 1st Incentive Travel, I learned to think out of the box, work independently and find solutions to every problem and emergency. In my current role as Sales Manager at Meetingpackage.com, I have been polishing my sales skills while dealing with international clientele.
As a member of SITE I learned that representatives of different generations have so much to offer each other. My mentor, Joost De Meyer has witnessed my transformation from being a raw student into a refined industry professional and a mother of three. Thanks to his support and never-ending belief, I am who I am today. I have learned to push myself daily, discover and learn new things and face challenges with confidence.
Incentive industry young leaders need mentors and guidance to be able to continue to follow David Riddell’s vision of SITE. When asked to share his memory of David, SITE past-president Hugo Slimbrouck, said: “He was such a kind and gentle man who would always put the person above the company within his business relationships. He was a true coach and inspirer for his peers."
With such great coaching, inspiration and education provided by the local chapters and supported by the SITE headquarters, we can continue to successfully "unleash human potential through extraordinary motivational experiences."