This summer the Emerging Professionals Committee launched PCMA Capital Chapter’s Summer Internship Program.  This program is specifically tailored to students who are pursuing careers in the Hospitality Industry.

James Madison University’s Brett Woolwine, Hospitality Management Major / Business Minor, Class of 2018, was our inaugural intern for the program.  Brett’s experience included supporting American Society of Clinical Oncology’s Annual Convention in Chicago, PCMA’s Education Conference in Cleveland, various departments within the DoubleTree Hotel Crystal City as well as the American Association of Colleges of Pharmacy’s Annual Meeting in Boston.

The following is a recap of Brett’s experience:

My Experience as the PCMA Capital Chapter’s 2018 Intern

Brett Woolwine, Hospitality Management Minor / Business Minor, James Madison University, Class of 2018

In order to graduate with a Hospitality Management degree from James Madison University’s Hart School, all students must go through a ten-week internship program.  What the student wants to do for that internship is up to them, however, it has to be within the Hospitality “umbrella.”  I was given an opportunity I could not pass up, all thanks to the PCMA Capital Chapter who invited me to participate in their inaugural summer internship program.  In return for this paid internship, I was the Capital Chapter’s “guinea pig” and shared with them the inside scoop on the pros and cons of the experience.

During my ten weeks, I rotated through four different organizations. Each one different from the other, yet similar in their own ways. The first organization I visited with was SPARGO, Inc.  SPARGO is a full-service event management company that focuses on providing cost effective event management solutions that support the production of trade shows, conventions, conference, symposiums, and seminars. During my experience, I was provided a glimpse into each of their four departments – housing, logistics, exhibit sales, and management and registration. I met with just about everyone to learn what they did and how they contributed to the organization. After working at their office and meeting the team I was fortunate enough to work onsite for one of their larger meetings, the American Society of Clinical Oncology’s Annual Meeting.  With over 40,000 attendees, this meeting brings together oncology professionals from all around the world to discuss new treatments and therapies at the McCormick Place in Chicago. Since SPARGO provides meetings management solutions for ASCO, I was able to work side by side with SPARGO representatives from every department. At first, it was a little overwhelming, only because I was trying to familiarize myself with everything, but once I got the hang of things it became a really fun process. SPARGO was a great company to intern for, even if it was for three weeks. Everyone was extremely welcoming and were there to answer any questions I had. I made some great connections and am excited to stay in touch.

My second rotation was with PCMA at the Education Conference in Cleveland, Ohio. I worked alongside Alison Milgram, Director of Events, and soaked in every ounce of advice she gave me. Although I was only there for four days, I learned a ton. PCMA is such a fun organization to be a part of and by being on the inside track, I became more appreciative of everything they do for us. This rotation taught me about what an industry organization looks like and how they operate. PCMA has a number of different chapters, but Chicago headquarters is what really keeps it going. It was great to see how close and connected everyone on the execution team was, especially when someone needed help, or something had to be done. During my time there, I was not assigned to a specific task, but just helping wherever needed. I liked that because if I saw something that looked off, or someone had a question- whatever it may be, I was able to step up and help. I was also given the opportunity to attend the networking events scheduled during the conference and Christine Faiman, CMP, Chair of PCMA Capital Chapter’s Emerging Professionals Committee, was with me at each event.  I give all props to Christine as she helped me to step out of my comfort zone and introduced me to some amazing people. People who were so willing to hand me their business card and say, “If you’re ever interested in something like this or have any questions, please contact me.” This just goes to show that PCMA has some great members! I was thrilled to have been a part of this experience and work with such a cool group of people.

My third rotation was at the DoubleTree in Crystal City. When I first arrived at the hotel, I was greeted with a warm welcome from the Human Resources team. My first day was spent being introduced to various departments.  On my second day, I spent a significant amount of time with the Housekeeping department. The team in this department are some of the nicest people I have ever met. They are so appreciative and happy to be at work!  They speak so highly of the hotel and the tenure of employees was humbling – some of them have been working there for over 30 years.  Following Housekeeping, I was welcomed into the Sales and Catering team where I was able to see so many things come to life that I learned about in class. I learned how to create a BEO, how to review and prepare contracts, how to close a sale, the interworking’s of revenue management, and how a hotel operates. It takes a special type of person to work at a hotel, and for those who do, props to you. It can be stressful at times and no one day is ever the same, which I found exciting. I came across some interesting challenges and I was only there for two weeks. One can only imagine what it would be like to work at a hotel full time. It taught me how to keep calm under pressure and come up with creative solutions and bring to resolution quickly.   It is extremely beneficial to have some hotel experience when getting involved in events, especially if you are planning to host your event at a hotel. It gives you some insight on what to expect. I am incredibly thankful for my opportunity at the DoubleTree and am encouraged by how personable and welcoming everyone was.

My fourth and final rotation was with the American Association of Colleges of Pharmacy (AACP).  Before getting into the Hospitality program, I didn’t even know that associations really existed, nevertheless had a Meetings Planning team. I was a little hesitant going into this, mostly because I wasn’t sure of what to expect and to my surprise, I actually loved it. I worked with this team for three weeks and went to their annual meeting in Boston. During my time at ASCO, I rotated between each department, learned the ins and outs of the operation and met some really great people. While in Boston, I helped mostly with registration but got my hands in a few other things. We had to unpack and organize everything we shipped, I had to familiarize myself with the schedule of events, set up and make sure everything was good to go and soak in every piece of information that was given to me. I was on a team with three women who did a phenomenal job of showing me the ropes. They weren’t afraid to give me tasks and hand me a good bit of responsibility, even though I was their intern. I felt like I was actually helping and contributing, and that felt good. What I really loved about ASCO was that their CEO was extremely hands-on and everyone in the office knew each department, everyone’s names, and took the time to actually get to know me. Along with association, their members are some of the nicest people and that just goes to show how great of an organization they are.

So, as you can see, I’ve had a really busy summer. I have learned more than I could ever imagine, met some amazing people, and made connections I never thought in a million years I would have the opportunity to make. PCMA’s Capital Chapter did a great job in finding organizations that not only allowed me a wonderful experience, but that was also incredibly welcoming and fun to work with. Going into this internship at the beginning of the summer, I was lost and wasn’t able to tell anyone what I wanted to do once I graduated. However, this has taught me so much not only about myself, but about what I could potentially be doing as a career. This internship has made me a lot more comfortable and confident and pushed me to step out of my comfort zone even when it may be awkward. Thank you to the PCMA Capital Chapter, SPARGO Inc., DoubleTree in Crystal City, and AACP for all you did for me this summer and for giving me an experience I wouldn’t trade for the world.