100 Women Who Inspire Us: Rising Star

Meeting Planning

Brooke Davis, vice president of operations, Global Access Meetings

Inspiration: I had the ideal mentor, my mother. Closely watching and learning from her professional business acumen, tenacity to always push for better results for our clients, and successful balance of managing both client and supplier expectations has been invaluable. Event management allows me to access my creative passion from agenda development to meeting-space layout—all on a budget!

Superpower: My husband would call it my B-Sense. It is my uncanny ability to walk into a room and see the possibilities, the need for change, transformation, or pick up on the smallest of details to make an event flawless.

Action Item: I constantly ask myself: Am I contributing to my community in a positive way? Am I acting on behalf of my own self-interest or considering the interest of others when it is necessary? Am I willing to stand up for my beliefs and respect my integrity, but at the same time am I listening to others? If we, as individuals, take small steps every day to be the best person we can be, then it will have much greater affect in changing the world as a whole.


Bianca DeStout, account executive, Marcus Hotels & Resorts

Inspiration: I am inspired by the women I work with every day on my team. Their stories and challenges inspire me to push through. They are my mentors, my family and my friends. I am lucky to have such a strong support system and to be a part of a company that truly wants to grow me.

Superpower: Ability to connect with and relate to anybody. What I love so much about this industry is the opportunity we have, day in and day out, to meet people from all walks of life who also represent various associations with missions that I am so fascinated and inspired by.

Action Item: I volunteer and mentor with a few organizations locally that are near and dear to my heart. I want to make sure that I leave the world a better place. I hope to inspire people to do the same; to give more, pay it forward and get involved.


Danielle Furnari, event coordinator, Geisinger

Inspiration: I am inspired by my coworkers, my family and the goal of constantly bettering myself. I am inspired by making leadership’s vision, objectives and dreams of their event a reality. Being able to exceed what they imagined gives me great pride, and drives me to keep pushing myself. On a personal note, I am inspired by my mother. At a young age, my father passed away from cancer. My mother instantly had to become a mother and father. She worked fulltime as a nurse, taking care of those who were sick, and then came home to take care of me. She is now a director in the pharmaceutical company. I would be happy to be half the woman she is.

Superpower: A calm demeanor when 50 million things are going on. My previous boss used to tell me, “You just smile and look so calm when these issues are going on behind the scene.” That is a wonderful compliment.

Action Item: I hope to continue to learn from amazing women in every aspect of business. We need to build each other up, and fight for one another. When women come together, we can accomplish amazing things. The women before us paved so much of the way for us. We may all come from different backgrounds, but if we come together, we can one day make it so our children and grandchildren only know of the glass ceiling in history books.


Marjan Ghaffari, senior strategic purchasing analyst for meetings, events and travel, Informatica

Inspiration: I am inspired by all the previous generations of brave women before me that fought hard for me to be able to make it this far, and have my ideas considered as viable as any man’s. I was born in Iran, where women’s rights were nonexistent. I witnessed generations of strong women, including my mother, fighting for their rights. We often take our freedom for granted in America. I try to express complete gratitude for the freedom bestowed upon me.

Superpower: Raising a son as a single mom while pursuing my career in full throttle. I try to keep a healthy balance in life, allowing for ample time to reflect and recover.

Action Item: I am concerned with global warning. I know I cannot make an impact on how much investment is made into fossil fuels and offshore drilling, but I can make a conscious effort every day to not invest my personal money in companies that might support such things.


Shameka Jennings, education and events manager, National WIC Association

Inspiration: I have a profound appreciation for what was achieved in history’s shadows by African Americans. I loved learning about the inventions and innovations that changed the world by people who look like me, but I was always troubled by how the majority of those changemakers were overlooked. That planted the seed for me to not only chase my greatness, but make sure I gained the skills and tools to step from behind the shadows and become the great leader I knew I was destined to be.

Superpower: Maximization. I am compelled to discover and uncover excellence, and then refine it and apply it. I look for the most unique characteristics of people and events that are already well refined—and strive to elevate these characteristics even more.

Action Item: In 2011, I served as a City Year Corps Member and learned the following story of the Bridge Builder by Will Allen Dromgoole: An old man, going along the highway, came at the evening, cold and gray, to a chasm, vast and deep and wide, through which was flowing a sullen tide. The old man crossed in the twilight dim. The sullen stream had no fears for him. But he turned when safe on the other side and built a bridge to span the tide. “Old man,” said a fellow pilgrim near, “you are wasting strength with building here; your journey will end with the ending day; you never again must pass this way. You have crossed the chasm, deep and wide—why build you the bridge at the eventide?” The builder lifted his old gray head: “Good friend, in the path I have come,” he said, “there followeth after me today a youth whose feet must pass this way. This chasm has been naught to me, but to that fair-haired youth may a pitfall be. He, too, must cross in the twilight dim; good friend, I am building the bridge for him.”

I desire to be that bridge builder, to empower youth to become the best versions of themselves through mentorship, personal development and professional development.


Jenny Stanfield, director of sales and marketing, Engagement Unlimited

Inspiration: I am inspired by the powerful, resilient people I am proud to call my friends in the meetings industry across North America (and the world!). We are so lucky to work in an industry that is built on connection, mentorship and true friendship.

Superpower: Lifelong learner. Every connection I make, every place I go, I am constantly striving to gain new skills across different disciplines that will help in my career, while at the same time helping others reach their potential.

Action Item: Face to face meetings have the power to change the world. I try to make sure those meetings are the most inclusive, potent and successful as possible. I want everyone to have an equal voice and an equal opportunity in this world–and be able to tell their unique stories in the events and conferences we execute.

Shanae McFadden, coordinator of meetings and education, Consumer Healthcare Products Association

Inspiration: I am inspired by innovative thinkers, people who constantly push the envelope and ask the tough questions. I have some amazing innovative thinkers in my life that challenge me to be a better person professionally and personally.

Superpower: My creativity is my superpower. I love the process of taking an idea and seeing it come to fruition. It is one of the main reasons I gravitated to this industry.

Action Item: Being a bright spot in people’s lives. I believe care, compassion and laughter goes a long way to making this world a better place. If I can positively impact someone’s day then I am doing my job. Helping people in any capacity brings me so much joy and I grateful that I have been able to do so.

Kristen Fraga, meetings and event specialist, Paragon Events

Inspiration: I owe most of my inspiration to my father, who has worked hard his entire life to support his family, which has instilled the strict and determined work ethic I follow today. I have also been extremely fortunate to work with strong, talented and successful women within the industry. These women, past and present, have inspired me and motivated me to push the envelope, trust in myself and truly love what I do!

Superpower: Problem solving! As meeting planners we are constantly being challenged day in and day out. My ability to think fast on my feet, while still keeping calm, is my “super power”. How we handle and overcome obstacles, are what make us who we are. Handling these obstacles with a smile on your face is what makes the people around you feel confident and trust in you.

Action Item: Success and growth are my two motivators—not only for myself, but for my colleagues and clients. “You are only as strong as your team!” The more you teach and build upon each other, the more successful you can become. “Collaboration is key!” The opportunity to put my creativity to work to help my client host a successful meeting and build their brand is truly the ultimate motivator.

More Rising Stars

Ariela Kiradjian

Vice President, Boutique and Lifestyle Lodging Association

 

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