Tuesday, February 8, 2011

Education or experience?

I started this post and stopped, more than once. Today I dropped in and out of an #assnchat that was really about this topic and it has made me re-think about this again. So tonight, as I sit watching the class I teach (Event Planning 101) work on designing their projects that are due in six weeks, it seems an appropriate time to delve back into this topic.

Experience = Experience. Full Stop. Experience + Certification = credibility.
I didn't say this - it is in the transcript from the #assnchat you will find below.
Is it true? What matters to our peers? bosses? future bosses? clients?

Work life balance
First, I think formal education, in any context is a personal choice. I come from a family of teachers, and some degree of formal education and a yearning for "academic approval" is part of what feeds me. First, some history. When I was 13 I got my first job. In a hair salon. I took beauty culture (you cannot make that name up!) in high school, and at 17 graduated, wrote my license and went to work. I sought education through shows, and as I became a salon manager, went back to college and took some basic business classes. Mostly, I learned everything the hard way about managing staff, as you are apt to do at 21, when you still know nearly everything there is to know! I went on to educate stylists about haircolor for a leading manufacturer, grew the salon from 5 to 14 staff and attended lots of shows, and loved what I did.

At 26, I had to have life changing surgery on both arms and was told accurately I would not be able to cut hair again. So I cried. and cried. and cried. Then I saw a tiny ad for a brand new diploma in Event Management. Oooh, glamour and excitement waited, I was sure. Now this was 1993, so the textbooks were AH&MA or Joe Goldblatt. The magazines were full of names like Joan Eisenstodt, Greg Ruby, Jeff Rasco, Corbin Ball, Andrea Michaels, Colin Cowie and John Daly. Oh, how I longed to be as knowledgeable, as experienced...

I graduated, and went to work as a coordinator, with a naturally underwhelming salary, which of course with my 2yr (compressed into an intensive 1) diploma I was ready to take on the world. I joined MPI, joined the local chapter board, and learned all I could. Eventually I was asked if I wanted to do some teaching, and dabbled, formalizing this with a Provincial Instructors Diploma, and obtaining my CMP. I worked at a PCO, and did many city-wides and some traveling across North America. After 8 years, I decided to focus on creative production and worked for a fantastically creative DMC until it closed unexpectedly. I then went on to the agency side as a Producer at an incentive house.

Oh the travel, the excitement, the EXPERIENCE gained. But I was not seeing my children, and I was at a place / time where I was not learning anything really new. (before Twitter) I attended industry conferences across North America - some really great conferences, but the takeaways became smaller - typical as more experience is gained. I decided to go back to school and earned my Degree in Hospitality Management. Here HR, Risk management, Branding, Tourism and Marketing, Finance and Yield Management were all explored.  The peer group was awesome - leaders in our community, who had hit the same ceilings and went back to get a degree too. A smart institution recognizing a hole in the industry and filling it.

So does all this education matter?  Not really. I have not worked for anyone yet - organization or client that cares what credentials I have. They care a lot that I come to the table with a lot of experience, a lot of common sense, a high degree of enthusiasm for creating and delivering exceptional events with the awesome team I work with, and that their guests have a memorable, relevant, authentic experience - whether it is a few hours or a few days; whether it is in Vancouver, Beijing, Stockholm or Boston.

Do I regret the time spent on education?  Not one tiny bit. I have read more textbooks than I can remember,and have spent much time in classrooms and doing homework and have met many great learners and have had numerous great instructors - each piece a building block - all good. Do I think that it is imperative to get a certification - whether CAE, CSEP, CMM, CMP, diploma or degree? Definitely not. If you want it - then go for it! If you don't - that is ok too. I believe that education should be a personal choice and if you decide that your learning should be dance, yoga, tae kwon do, ikebana, improv theatre or culinary training - learn more about what interests you.

Find your passion, feed your passion. Personally, I can't wait for event camp - in just three days! 

I loved seeing the multiple opinions expressed in assnchat today - so have included the link to the transcript here. So many valid thoughts shared!  #assnchat certifications chat Feb 8/11

Meeting Certifications - Which one is for you?

1 comment:

  1. Great post, Tahira!! I think you're right on - the type of education that you get is a very personal decision. I think that education is important, but whether it's a formal program or articles on Twitter.