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In The Spotlight with Jenna O'Grady 🌠

Hey there, I’m Jenna! I’m an International Events Manager, Dog Mama, Tequila Lover, World Hiker, Foodie and Adventure Seeker. I’ve been in the events industry for 7 years and counting, dabbling on the corporate, agency, supplier, exhibition, sales and virtual side, producing a diverse range of events in loads of different sectors. I’m currently seeking my next role as an Events Manager. Just like the thousands in our industry, I too was made redundant due to the global pandemic.

I will be the first to say that I have a very squiggly career and I don’t regret it for a second. I’m a huge believer in dipping your toes into many different sectors and roles until you find THE ONE that suits you best. The beauty of the events industry is the abundance of opportunities and endless possibilities. If you don’t enjoy your work, move on. To me, it’s so important to love what I do.

Where my love for events started...

The second I developed my social skills as a kid, I was planning everything. I was the ‘socialiser’, the ‘party planner’, the ‘plans-maker’ - I was an event planner before I even knew that was a real profession. I went to Arizona State University where I studied Business Tourism and Hospitality Management and completed my Special Events Management certificate. It’s a weird one - I studied events before they were really ‘a thing’, meaning it was more book studying than actual hands-on experience, which I think you get more value of actually being onsite. You can’t REALLY learn events from a book.

Once I graduated college, I entered the ‘corporate world’ as a Front Desk Agent at a luxury meeting & conference resort in Arizona, USA. This was my first real job, face to face with many different kinds of people. I dealt with many leisure and business guests, all having various requests and disputes. I quickly learned how to be hospitable, empathetic, anticipate guests' needs, solve problems and stand on my feet for up to 14 hours.

After 2 years, I moved to New York City - where dreams are made of - and accepted a title upgrade as a Front Office Supervisor in a boutique hotel. The company wasn’t right for me and I honestly couldn’t do anymore overnight shifts. I missed my sleep. So, I transitioned into private equity as a Conference Coordinator where I managed 9 conference rooms, launched a meeting planner platform, managed catering, answered phones, greeted and nurtured clients and stakeholders as they came and went. I was the face of the firm; the first person anyone sees as they walked into their office. My bubby hospitality skills were in full force.

After 3 years in the hustle and bustle of New York City, being promoted twice from Conference Coordinator to Executive Assistant to Events Coordinator, I was ready for more. Craving it actually. I also met the love of my life in NYC who just happened to be British and live in London.

I began to LOVE events, basically obsessed with it, and I wanted to learn more. I found an awesome Postgraduate Degree that was CIM accredited at the Event Academy in London. BOOM, there’s my big move! Seeking out global opportunities and literally living and working in the epicentre for events. Hell yes.

How it’s going…

This is where my career gets a bit squiggly as I battled visa issues, long distance, and the urge to call London my home. I did my 6-month work placement at Boulevard Events which is a family-run catering company. I was constantly on my toes working the full end to end event management from the sales and operations side. I assisted with the logistics side of corporate gala dinners, conferences, canape receptions, award shows, private events and weddings. On site event days were very long, but thrilling. I had the opportunity to work in some bomb venues with some awesome clients and also cater for a couple weddings. Dreamy. Then, my visa ended & back to the States…

During my time at Boulevard Events, I met a client who had an event idea and wanted me to bring it to life as a health & wellbeing industry event geared towards #EventProfs. This was an awesome contract role as I was able to keep one toe in the UK and still keep my connections fresh. I called this my ‘early morning role’ as I also had a full time job at a health & wellness spa in Denver, CO as a Sales & Events Manager. It was fitting as both jobs aligned with each other revolving around health & wellbeing. Did I learn how to juggle multiple time zones? Did I learn to build relationships virtually? Was I able to manage international sponsors, ambassadors and influences from another country? Could I put on an event with no budget? YES YES YES & YES! Ya’ll you can do ANYTHING you set your mind to. Don’t get me wrong, this pandemic has been disastrous on so many levels, but one of the amazing things is that it proved you can work hard and get sh*t done from anywhere in the world from your laptop and some strong wifi. I was working remotely before I even knew it was going to be the ‘new normal’.

At my ‘day job’ at Hydrate IV Bar, I utilised my sales, events, and hospitality skills by being the top seller of membership programmes, going out in the community to seek out BD opportunities to put our brand at the forefront of corporate, boutique and health events, and executing pop up events, product launches and private events. Honestly, that job was so much fun, bringing together two of my top passions (events & health), but the end goal was always the UK.

Long story short, my partner and I did a full year of long distance. It was rough. He proposed. I got a visa. Andddd I’M BACK IN THE UK and here for the long haul!! I got a job at a motorsport company doing exhibition sales and content creation for Europe’s largest motorsport exhibition show at the NEC. It was a really exciting job, but I wasn’t excited. So I left after 6 months because I was on the search to ‘love what I do’, not be complacent.

In December 2019, I secured a Senior Account Manager role at a creative events agency. I’ve always had my eye on working for an agency and I was SO pumped for all the amazing things 2020 was going to bring me… Sike. JK. Nope. OK rewind… at my agency job, I spent the beginning parts researching potential clients, implementing strong marketing and sales strategies, securing 1-1 meetings and attending networking events to get the company’s multi-brands out there.

After receiving many briefs, brainstorming with my team on creative ideas and strategies, and curating detailed proposals aligning with the client’s brief and budget, it was time to pitch our services. Through my hard work and dedication, I was able to secure 6 new clients in the quietest month of the year. 2020 was buzzing for me! I love building relationships, managing projects and thriving under pressure, so I knew this was the right place for me. From there, I liaised with many suppliers, produced contracts, H&S forms and other relevant event documentation. Then, COVID happened. All of our events were cancelled and I was placed on furlough...send help.

How it’s ended (but it’s not over!)

Things I had to google come April 2021… pandemic, furlough, pivot, how to stay busy during quarantine?! Huuuhhh? Life as we knew it had been forever changed. I won’t lie, 2020 was HARD. My mental health was poor, my mind constantly swirled, I was anxious, I didn’t know how to be still and slow down. I started watching event webinars, doing classes, got a puppy... anything to keep my mind stimulated. I was off and on furlough a couple of times throughout the year, but I was eager to keep up with the changing trends. I volunteered for a couple of virtual conferences that needed some extra help pivoting digitally. They were really great experiences and extra rewarding as I was understanding virtual events can work.

1 word to describe the events industry:


Come August 2020, I was all about personal development, self care and embracing the calm. I invested in a ton of incredible books, joined some #EventPro networking groups and started scaling my personal brand and side hustle. What a transformation. I felt alive again. I felt like me. I sadly was made redundant after lockdown3.0, but for once, I didn’t feel afraid. I was surrounded by an amazing and supportive community of #EventProfs who I met all through lockdown.

My theme for 2021 was investing in myself and COMMITTING. I worked with the fabulous Juliet Tripp on all things events, goal setting and personal brand, as well as, investing in a Personal Branding workshop curated by the social media gurus, Sabrina Meyers and Juliet Tripp. My confidence was booming, I felt comfortable putting myself out there, and I even asked if I could be a guest blogger on professional’s websites who I admire. Hence, why I’m here now :) I also spent a lot of time training and playing with my pup, taking extra long walks outside, meditating and journaling.

Now that I’ve talked your face off, here’s my ending advice…

Don’t be afraid to put yourself out there. Don’t be scared to slide into someone’s DMs who inspires you to ask how they got started or if you can pick their brain - people are SO NICE and willing to help you. We are all going through this together and we are going to come out of this as an industry stronger than ever! ACT NOW! I can’t tell you how much time I spent “learning” and “going through the motions” when I needed to just do the damn thing. Just. Do. It. Please please don’t let that little devil in your brain try to tell you that you aren’t special. Because YOU ARE. Let the negative thoughts flow in & then right back out. You are literally impacting someone’s life right now. And finally, your dream job is out there! Be patient and trust the process. This is what’s kept me going and I encourage you to do the same!

Thank you Jenna for taking part in the Event Grads In The Spotlight feature!

You can follow Jenna's journey here:


“In The Spotlight” aims to educate, motivate and inspire industry newcomers by sharing career journeys, insight, expertise and advice from event professionals.

If you would like to contribute to the Event Grads blog, get in touch! E-mail with the subject "In The Spotlight" for more information.


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