Mary Gallagher, CMP is the Director of Mid-Atlantic Convention Sales for the Los Angeles Tourism and Convention Board. With almost 20 years of experience in the events industry, you would never guess her degree is in Accounting! While she entertained that career path for four years she eventually found her passion for the industry through working on cruise ships for 2.5 years then transitioning into hotels. “It was fun, but I wanted to get back to the real world…back on land!”
From catering assistant to hotel sales to CVB’s, Mary has built her knowledge and skills through experiences in an array of positions and locations. She started in hotels in Virginia, moved out to San Jose, CA to work at another hotel and eventually transitioned over to selling San Jose followed by San Francisco and now LA to the DC market.
Under her current position, Mary is primarily responsible for driving business to LA. “It’s my job to create awareness about the changing destination and bring conventions into LA.” It’s important and enjoyable to bring an evolving destination to organizations who may not have considered Los Angeles previously. What Mary loves most about her role are the PEOPLE she meets! “It doesn’t matter if they’re a supplier or planner, I love the interaction, being engaged in the industry and getting people involved!”
So, what’s the catch? Data Entry! It validates and shows the purpose of everything, but it’s tedious and is not a high priority. Additionally, while it’s not a negative for Mary, the work schedule is something to consider. Mary’s typical work schedule is 8:30 am – 6:00 pm, 5 days a week with some weekends, evening events 1 -2 a week, plus 4 – 5 days of travel once a month. “It doesn’t bother me. I love what I do, so it doesn’t seem like a job!”
Although that wasn’t always the case. A common mistake people make, Mary included, is changing jobs because they think the grass is greener on the other side. Mary quickly realized that every destination has its challenges. “I had to find the right one where I could deal with the challenges at hand.” You have to identify what challenges you can manage and what one’s you can’t. “If you can overcome a challenging work environment, that’s great, if not, then it’s time to find the right fit elsewhere. For me a healthy workplace is important and I’ve been fortunate to find that with LA and our great team.”
Another important lesson Mary has learned in sales is not to take losing a sale personally. In the beginning you think “They don’t like me!” Jobs become our identity and are personal but the rejections aren’t because of you. For Mary, it’s the simple fact that the destination doesn’t meet the needs of the organization. Remember it’s NOT you!
Mary is the current President of PCMA Capital Chapter and to describe being involved in one word she said– Imperative! Mary has found her involvement has resulted in personal and professional growth. It allows you to become more visible and active as well as learn new things. By joining the communications committee, she was able to better her writing skills and engage with the volunteers. With the sponsorship committee she was faced with new challenges. “There’s a growth opportunity for everyone!”
Mary leaves us with some final advice and thoughts. First, find a mentor! “Take advantage of PCMA’s mentorship program. Second, Ask Questions! “Don’t be afraid to ask questions.” It’s the best way to fully understand the whole picture.
Lastly, Mary would like to highlight that “the industry’s emerging professionals are and should be the focus of PCMA and other associations. They are the ones who will sustain the health of the industry. We need to make sure we’re engaging them and capturing their spirit and ensuring their growth in our industry as a whole.”
Please leave any questions or comments for Mary below.