A Day in the Life of Unique Industry Professionals

  • A Day in the Life of Unique Industry Professionals

    Find out the true story behind some of the industry's unique professions and the people who somehow pull them off in style.

     
    FROM THE Fall 2015 ISSUE
     

    Scott Rella

“Put yourself in another man’s or woman’s shoes” must be a phrase that they put in some secret handbook for parents. This is about as close as we could come to doing just that and discovering what it’s like to be a performing ice sculptor, experienced meeting planner, the creative force behind a camera lens, conductor of one of Denver’s newest yet oldest event spaces, and orchestrator of fun and team-building. You’ll most likely recognize many of these pros and get a kick out of what gets them going every day, how they relax, memorable moments, war stories and how a day might unfold.

Scott Rella
Fear No Ice, Aspen Vail Ice, IceSculpture.com, Avon

Job title: Owner/artist

Start to the day: Coffee and kids.

Morning or night person: Morning and night, I’m nonstop.

Typical workday: We recently did live shows for California Pizza Kitchen, Adobe, Google and performed before the Country Music Awards in Dallas. These are long days full of details, but it’s all worth it.

A really busy day: Every day is a busy day, especially in the event world. It’s a lot of work but very rewarding. After every gig, you still need to travel home the next day. It’s not over until I see my daughter’s smile.

Longevity of current job: In 1981, I created Ice Sculpture Designs in New York, the first ice sculpting company in the USA. Sold the business and moved to Colorado and established Fear No Ice in 1996-97, the first and only live performance ice sculpting company in the world. In 2012, established icesculpture. com as a resource to find the best ice sculptors on the planet.

Why this job/line of work: The love of art. Immediately prior to this job: Student at New York Academy of Art.

Secret side to job: It takes me around the globe working for the top planners in the world. Not everyone gets to travel the way I do.

Reasons I love my job: Creating pieces for clients based on their event.

Challenges: Trying to design a show in a certain timeframe.

Most memorable/positive moment: At every event, everyone lines up to get a picture with our finished sculpture; that always makes me happy. People love to watch us sculpt—we are very entertaining and have fun with the guests—but picture time is always a pleasure.

War story: Producing a sculpture of Thor in 48 hours at 28 degrees below zero for Team USA at the Winter Olympics in Norway.

Relaxing after work: Water my garden, play with my daughter, have a cold beer … but not in that order.

Total escape: Backcountry snowboarding.

If I weren’t in my current profession: If it were profitable, I would create permanent sculptures. I was commissioned to do a piece for the Denver Art Museum, and that got my mindset in a different direction for sure. I guess if that opportunity presented itself on a regular basis, I would welcome the creative process gladly.

Sabina Fechisin
Fun Productions, Aurora

Job title: Program manager

Start to the day: A large cup of coffee and sorting through emails.

Morning person or night person: I am a somewhere-in-between person. I get the most done in the late afternoon/early evening.

Typical workday: I try to get tasks that are specific to the day done first thing in the morning and work on projects in the afternoon. Throughout the day, I will work on tasks such as staffing the upcoming events and putting together all the pieces of team-buildings. Typically, at some point in the day, something will come up that is urgent or fun that will get me sidetracked from the to-do list. It could be something big like a new event popping up for the weekend that needs staff or small like the new giant Connect Four game arriving and just needing to be “tested.”

A really busy day: The day will include everything mentioned previously, plus making schedules and rules for a team-building, creating an email for ISES Denver, editing graphics for a photo booth, ordering supplies for events, confirming staff for the weekend, staging all of the pieces of a team-building, putting contracts together for clients, booking hotels for out-of-town events and sometimes being on-site for an event.

Longevity of current job: 2 years.

Why this job/line of work: I had worked with Fun Productions as a client when I was in school, so when a friend told me they had an opening, I thought it would be a fun way to get into the industry.

Immediately prior to this job: Student at Johnson & Wales University and worked in the Student Activities department while completing an internship at A Precious Child as an events and volunteer intern.

Secret side to job: I get to be creative and innovative and come up with new ideas. Whether it is brainstorming a new teambuilding or helping the director of operations for sister company VIE Events with graphics for the green screen, there are constantly new opportunities to innovate.

Reasons I love my job: I love the high energy and fast pace of my job—each day is different from the one before, bringing new experiences. I get to make fun happen every day. What more could you ask for?

Challenges: There are days where something comes up that makes everything else urgent, and you just have to be flexible. Events are always popping up or changing, making it difficult to predict what tomorrow will bring.

Most memorable/positive moment: One of the first events that I worked on was a team-building taking place at Crooked Willow Farms. Before going to the event site, we met the group at the hotel. This was the first time that I really was able to see what goes on behind the scenes of a large meeting/event. It was awe-inspiring to see Dawn Abbott and the planners make such a complex event seem so simple and thought out.

War story: We facilitated a team-building event for around 200 people, and it had a less-than-ideal start. When dividing up participants into teams, the fact that not everyone was required to participate turned out to be a bigger challenge than we had anticipated. We ended up merging teams and had to modify the games on the spot to make it all work.

Relaxing after work: I enjoy having friends over and making dinner. On nice days, I go for a bike ride and explore the different trails around my house.

Total escape: I have always found baking relaxing, and you get to enjoy a treat when you are done!

If I weren’t in my current profession: It would probably be catering. One of the best ways to bring people together is through food.

Teri Awwad
OneSource Meeting and Event Services, Highlands Ranch

Job title: President

Start to the day: Coffee and turn on computer simultaneously. At my desk at 7 a.m., usually.

Morning or night person: I have to be both. I just planned a meeting in Rome, so had conference calls starting at 4 a.m.!

Typical workday: At 7 a.m., I’m checking previous night’s emails and catching up on social media posts. The day can end anywhere from 4 p.m. (mostly to get a teenager to soccer or basketball) or 8:30 p.m., depending on where we are on timelines.

A really busy day: Video conference call via Skype with my current planning partner on the East Coast to review hot items for the day and week. Tackle projects with suppliers, hotels and deliverables on timelines for our client. Attend scheduled conference calls, of which there are many! After lunch, I’m always looking ahead to future business deliverables.

Longevity of current job: 3 years.

Why this job/line of work: Natural evolution of being in the industry for 28 years. My husband, Lawrence, and I own the business. He’s on the road as a trip director 90 percent of the time.

Immediately prior to this job: Regional manager for Kuoni Destination Management, a nationwide DMC. Secret side to job: Hmm … can’t think of anything secret.

Reasons why I love my job: Starting with the big picture and figuring out how to get all the puzzle pieces to fit. As a third party planner, my teams are different each meeting. I continue to learn and grow, meeting new players from all over the world and seeing how they produce effective meetings.

Challenges: When your client quits.

Most memorable/positive moment: Being recognized at the highest level of a computer consulting firm I’m doing business with. If they notice all the way at the top, I’ve done a great job.

War story: Having a bus driver decide to make a U-turn in a grass median on the way to an NBA All-Star Game in Charlotte, North Carolina, in 1991 with Michael Jordan’s mother on the bus on the way to see her son play in the game. Yes, the bus got stuck. Yes, he had a map as well as written directions. No, I’m not sure if the bus is still there.

Relaxing after work: Wine and sharing stories with my husband. Total escape: There are some great trails near my house. I get out and take a long, long walk.

If I weren’t in my current profession: I’d be a teacher at the university level.

Kristin Hutton
Denver Union Station, Denver

Job title: Director of catering and events

Start to the day: A 6 a.m. yoga class, and then I walk my dog, Wilson, before heading into the station. Once there, I grab a latte from Pig Train Coffee and head up to my office on the fourth floor to get settled.

Morning or night person: I am a morning person at heart, but our events schedule dictates that we are here long hours. I am most productive in the office in the morning and spend most evenings on the floor working with our teams and vendors on event execution.

Typical workday: Days are always made up of a mix of handling inquiries, site tours, meetings, contracting and executing meetings/ events. We also spend a lot of time sourcing and creating our products and tools. The events program here had to be built from scratch, so every system, menu, communication process, event operations procedure, sales and services team had to be conceptualized and brought to reality in order to execute the roughly 415 meetings and events we’ve held here in the last 10 months (as of May).

A really busy day: The busiest I have ever been in my career was shortly after Union Station opened. The interest and demand for events at this venue were through the roof, literally hundreds per week! Calls, emails, online RFPs, social media, people accosting me in the building … you name it, they were coming from all directions. Four to six site tours a day.

Longevity of current job: Started with the Union Station project in May 2014, about three months before we officially reopened to the public after two and a half years of renovation. I have been in the meetings/events industry for 20 years in Denver.

Immediately prior to this job: Director of catering and conference services at The Brown Palace Hotel & Spa. Apparently I like to work in beautiful old buildings in downtown Denver!

Secret side to job: My colleagues and I have become the “official” unofficial tour guides for our venue. There was no tour program in place when we reopened, but the requests for tours flooded in. We were giving so many sales site tours, we ended up learning a lot about our venue, its history and the renovation. Now there is a tour program in place, but I still offer tours for our contracted events. I secretly love being the tour guide and perhaps that will be my semiretirement job someday!

Reasons I love my job: I love my team. We have been through quite an adventure together. This team supports one another and wants to create something special for our guests, and our guests love Union Station.

Challenges: The great thing about Union Station is it is original and unique, but that also can make it difficult. We have many stakeholders in the project and there is no blueprint. Finding answers and decision-making is more complex than any previous experience I’ve had. Patience and persistence is the key.

Most memorable/positive moment: The night of our New Year’s Eve party, we had 600 guests enjoying yet another event at Union Station, and my colleagues and I reflected back on the previous six months and marveled at how far we had come.

War story: Pulling off our opening gala for 1,000-plus attendees. We had a phenomenal planning team and worked with the best vendors in Denver, which made it all work. However, we were just getting our certificate of occupancy and had no opportunity to be in the building to set up our operations or do any training prior to the event.

Relaxing after work: Summer—a big glass of wine in the backyard. Winter—a big glass of wine in the kitchen.

Total escape: Anything outdoors and physical. I love to hike with my dog, ski and run. I’m excited to go to Yoga on the Rocks at Red Rocks a couple of times this summer with my friends. I also love to check out the growing culinary scene in Denver.

If I weren’t in my current profession: I always joke that I would be a barista in a coffee shop. It smells good and you get to interact with a lot of people, but only for a few minutes at a time.

Cal Cheney
All Digital Photo & Video, Lafayette

Job title: Owner

Start to the day: Watching Good Morning America and reading the paper with my cat on my lap.

Morning or night person: Having been a newspaper editor/publisher for many years, I was used to putting the paper to bed at about midnight. I am definitely a night person.

Typical workday: We have a loft studio in an event center, so there is always energy in our building. My typical day involves supervising photo and video editors and doing proposals from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m., and then returning more emails at home from 7 to 10 p.m. One or two nights per week, I am either shooting an event or going to a networking event. I have been called a networking whore, and I guess I will take that as a compliment.

A really busy day: I’ve been the photographer for Meeting Professionals International Rocky Mountain Chapter for a few years, and their meetings require being out of the office from about 11 a.m. to 2 p.m. So a really busy day would be getting to the office one hour earlier and trying to delegate as much work as possible, and then covering MPI and checking back into the office before shooting an evening event the same day. When you shoot with one eye open half the day, your brain can get worn out, not to mention your knees.

Longevity of current job: I began shooting professionally at age 16. I started All Digital Studios 15 years ago. It was a return to my roots of achieving creative fulfillment by creatively documenting events.

Immediately prior to this job: 15-year stint as an investment advisor prior to 9/11.

Secret side to job: We can make people who are nice to us look really good, or we can let embarrassing photographs slip through unedited.

Reasons I love my job: I like the fact that the work I do gets to be shared and appreciated publicly, versus perhaps being a bean counter. My profession has been the ticket to covering many awesome events that I would not have witnessed on my own and also has allowed me the opportunity to meet so many people of different professions, races, religions and traditions.

Challenges: Dealing with people who may have unrealistic expectations (and millennial employees).

Most memorable/positive moment: The meetings and event industry has provided me with contacts that lead to the opportunity to photograph charitable events—the ones with kids with cancer or disabilities always get to me the most.

War story: The worst of times at meetings is when you are in charge of on-site printing or projection and the system doesn’t work. You don’t want to be the guy up there in front of 200 people when everyone is waiting for a projector or a microphone to work and it fails. I delegate those jobs now!

Relaxing after work: I am still a news junkie. Combine that with sports on TV and binge-watching a TV series, makes me think the DVR is the greatest invention ever. And my wife puts up with it!

Total escape: I enjoy travel and have been to 50 states and 15 countries. Locally, when I am not shooting a camera, I would rather be shooting a golf ball.

If I weren’t in my current profession: With some background in investment advising combined with video production, I would enjoy helping start-up businesses launch in new markets. I like the creativity of bringing new ideas to fruition through marketing and promotion.

What started as a summer job for Matthew Doubek has turned into more than 20 years of caricatures.

 

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