As featured in SITE’s IncentiveWise Blog
From a member of SITE Young Leaders to SITE Canada President 2017, Diane Alexander has come a long way since joining SITE five years ago. After receiving a degree in Event & Meeting Management from George Brown College, Diane started her career as a Program Manager before making the transition into business development. With encouragement from her mentor, Joanne Keating, Diane joined SITE in 2012 and became actively involved in Young Leaders. In 2015, Diane joined Strategic Meetings + Incentives as an Account Executive, responsible for sales and client management.
What advice would you share with young professionals trying to break into the business and grow their careers?
Early in my career I learned if you want to stand out you need to step outside your comfort zone and put yourself out there. SITE is such a welcoming community and there are many ways for young professionals to learn about the business by joining a committee, volunteering to assist with chapter activities and introducing yourself to new people at SITE events.
Start exploring potential job opportunities when you are in school and ask your professors to help you make connections. That is how I learned about an opening and was hired by an incentive house right out of school. I also suggest seeking out two or three people to be mentors and talk to them regularly. When I started in this industry, I was fortunate to have several mentors, including Joanne Keating, who not only encouraged me to join SITE, but also served as a great teacher and role model on how to achieve success in the industry. Ask questions like: “How did you get started in the industry? What do you look for when hiring people to join your team? What skills are important?”
The global incentive industry is always evolving and it is important to stay on top of industry issues and trends. Take advantage of education and training offered by SITE headquarters and chapters to improve your knowledge and skills.
SITE Canada offers a variety of educational events each year. Also, the SITE Certified Incentive Specialist (CIS) course is a great way to learn about incentive travel fundamentals and earning the CIS credential enhances your credibility in the industry. Another way to stay on top of trends is to read the latest SITE Foundation research and white papers and participate in the SITE Index survey panel.
In a 24/7 industry, as a mom with a full-time job and chapter president role how do you achieve work/life balance?
As a mother of two young children, I have learned to use my time efficiently by looking ahead and working ahead. It is important to ask for help and not feel that you have to do everything yourself. Learn to delegate tasks, and trust and empower your colleagues to deliver. SITE Canada is fortunate to have a very committed and experienced board and active group of members that willingly volunteer to assist with events and activities.
In the past 5 years, SITE Canada has been twice recognized as Chapter of the Year and has also received three Chapter Excellence awards. What do you think have been the keys to the chapter’s continued success?
I attribute a lot of the chapter’s success to our succession planning. Five years ago I joined SITE as a Young Leader and over the years have served on a number of committees. I learned a lot through those experiences and worked with many great people that encouraged my development and growth into a board position. The SITE Canada board is always looking to identify and cultivate members that have the potential and willingness to assume a leadership role in the future.
SITE Canada also has a very welcoming culture. When considering new initiatives, we ask ourselves “How will this benefit our members?” We are always seeking ways to raise the bar, actively reaching out to members via surveys and personal phone calls to better understand how we can make their membership more relevant and valuable.
The Gain InSITE program is an ongoing initiative that our chapter continuously promotes which is essentially “members supporting members.” The program creates an arena of trust among members and is a great benefit that resonates during the recruitment process. We are working with SITE headquarters to roll this model out to other chapters.
Another key to the chapter’s success is our incredible network of sponsors from around the world. In 2016, we introduced several initiatives to help our sponsors realize greater value from their investments. For example, at one of our events we featured a Supplier Showcase that provided our sponsors the opportunity to personally connect one-on-one with attendees. Each supplier was given a code and buyers visited with suppliers and collected codes, using a mobile app that enabled their entry into a raffle for a trip to Dublin.
What does the chapter have planned this year to continue to accelerate member recruitment, engagement and growth?
We know that to continue to grow we can’t rest on our past successes. Canada covers a very large geographic area that makes it challenging to recruit and engage members throughout the country. Many of our events take place in Ontario, where a majority of our members are located. One of our priorities this year is to expand our membership by attracting industry professionals in other parts of the country. On 24 May, we will be hosting our first educational event in Vancouver, which is funded in part by a grant from the SITE Foundation. And, on19 July we will host an event to celebrate SITE Canada’s 30th Anniversary, in conjunction with Canada’s 150th birthday. In addition to these two new events, our board is working on new ideas to enhance our very successful signature events to keep them fresh and new this year.