by Sarah J.F. Braley and Michael J. Shapiro | February 01, 2016

Senior manager of meetings
Community Associations Institute,
Falls Church, Va.

Carly Reid takes care of all the logistics for events of 80 people or fewer for the Community Associations Institute, whose 33,000 members manage homeowner and condominium associations. "It sounds like a lot," she concedes with a laugh, "but you get into your groove and it's manageable."

Reid has been on the job at the CAI for 12 years. Her boss, Holly Carson, CMP, took the young woman under her wing from day one. "She helped me find my niche," says Reid, who is a member of both MPI and ASAE and very proud of her two hard-won certifications. "My first six months here, she let me listen to her conversations and learn how to talk and respond on the phone."

Reid's off-hours passion is hot yoga. "It's a great stress reliever," she says, "and you can't think of anything else while you're doing it."

Event manager
Play With a Purpose, Orlando

Ashley Schmid's colleagues treasure her creativity and resourcefulness. Plus, "people always think I'm older than I am," she says.

Before coming to Play With a Purpose, a special-event and team-building firm, in 2014, Schmid got her start at Disney working on recreation activities for kids. Today she does everything from dealing with clients to facilitating events that incorporate play.

Schmid, who got married last August and honeymooned in Italy and the Mediterranean, took her CMP test on Jan. 21. "Maybe eventually I'll get into actual corporate meeting planning," she says. "I'm going to go where the wind takes me."

Association manager
Essentient Association Management, Toronto

At boutique management company Essentient, Thack oversees one association and plans all the events for the organizations the company manages, including breakfast panels for 150 and receptions for 1,000.

"We have a really great team, and we play to each others' strengths," says Thack. "I love getting out of the office, doing on-site problem-solving. I love the adrenalin rush, I guess."

Still, being young has its drawbacks. "I do find it a struggle sometimes not to be judged by my age," Thack says. "There are times I've communicated with someone by email or telephone, and when they meet me their attitude changes a little bit." For those new to this industry, she advises, "Don't be afraid to clarify things and make sure you have all the information you need to do a project well."

Director of sales
Baton Rouge (La.) Marriott

Jamie Turnage happened into the hospitality industry by chance, in search of a job to help pay the bills during college. She wandered into the restaurant at the Embassy Suites Baton Rouge, where she took a job as a server, and spent the following decade working her way up from catering assistant to catering manager to sales manager, eventually becoming the property's director of sales. She recently moved across the street to serve as director of sales for the Baton Rouge Marriott.

Turnage credits Lenore Elvir, former director of sales at the Embassy Suites, for serving as a mentor. "She taught me everything I know, from how to manage people to the best way to transition to a new position."

Turnage, who has two young sons, also credits Elvir for instilling in her an appreciation for a work/life balance -- not a given in the hotel industry. "Lenore recognized that family is equally or more important than work," she says, and finding the right balance has helped cement her devotion to her career. "Unless I win the lottery," she adds. "Then I'd spend more time with family."

Program and events manager

California Association of Boutique & Breakfast Inns, Sacramento, Calif.
Jenn Wheaton is Jill-of-all-trades for the nonprofit trade association that promotes 200 member B&Bs, small inns and boutique hotels. "I'm the only full-time employee," she notes. "I do sales, marketing, PR, website management and development." She also plans all the special events, including four board meetings per year and an annual conference.

The effort has not gone unnoticed. In 2014, Meeting Professionals International gave Wheaton its Rise Award for Young Professional Achievement. She currently serves on the board of MPI's Sacramento/Sierra Nevada Chapter as vice president of special events, and is a big advocate of industry organizations. "Continuing education is key," she likes to tell planning newbies. "Learning and keeping up with the industry will help you make great connections moving forward."

One upcoming project is her November wedding. "Having a planning background makes me more proactive," Wheaton notes. "We've already got a venue, my dress and the save-the-date cards -- and we've been engaged for only three months."