Gary Murakami, CMP, saw his mother work in hotels throughout his childhood. “[She] had a passion and love for the industry,” he says, which carried through to him. “Her dedication and appreciation for the connections with guests and co-workers and the career opportunities hospitality provided for an immigrant coming to the U.S. with a minimal command of English inspired me to pursue a career in the industry also.”
He now serves as vice president of sales and industry relations at Teneo Hospitality Group. In addition to the CMP, he holds the GTP, GLP, CMM and DES designations.
“In my early career,” Murakami says, “I found mentors and role models that ‘looked like me’ to be limited. Education was a critical component to career success that my parents had instilled in me, resulting in my focus to pursue professional education and learning to establish credibility and provide advancement and opportunities in a competitive landscape,” he said. He added that he pursued the CMP because “I wanted to understand further as an industry supplier the experience and knowledge of my clients and customers.”
Murakami has sought out these industry designations, along with learning from mentors and clients, to develop expertise in his specific field of the industry. He says, “My dedication to continuous learning reflects my belief in staying ahead of industry trends and honing the skills necessary for effective leadership in our dynamic and constantly changing industry.”
He has taken industry-specific courses, attended conferences and events, pursued leadership programs and continually pushed himself to take on accelerating roles and pursue different responsibilities throughout his career.
Earning the CMP
Murakami first discovered the CMP by attending industry conferences and networking events. Many of the thought leaders he met at these events took part in leading and shaping the overall industry, which inspired him. And, he says, many of them held the CMP designation.
“Recognizing the significance of staying at the forefront of the meetings and events industry,” he says, “I pursued the CMP certification as a strategic step in elevating my professionalism within the industry, enhancing my skills, and fostering meaningful industry connections.”
To study, Murakami developed a structured study plan for himself, which included utilizing official CMP resources and participating in peer study groups. He also spent time reflecting on his own practical experience and leveraging the industry resources he had access to. The study group was a particularly meaningful way to prepare. “They connected me with a community of other dedicated industry professionals focused on elevating their own professionalism within the industry,” he says. “Many of these connections have remained throughout the years.”
Where is He Now?
Murakami says, “Engaging in formalized education programs such as the CMP has not only equipped me with the confidence and foundation for continuous learning and has also motivated me to share my expertise through thought leadership and mentorship by volunteering in industry leadership roles, aspiring to serve as a role model for others.”
As an active CMP, he feels that his professional credibility and visibility is enhanced, which allows him to serve as one of those thought leaders he once looked up to. It has expanded his professional network and allowed him further opportunities to share his expertise.
He currently serves on the MPI Foundation Global Board of Trustees, the board of directors for the LGBT Meeting Professionals Association and is the vice chair of the Advisory Board for the Corporate Event Marketing Foundation. He is the inaugural chapter president for SITE, Northern California Chapter, upon its 2024 relaunch, which he spearheaded following its disbandment several years ago.
Murakami is particularly passionate about DEI. He serves as an Equity Task Force member for EIC and sits on the MPI DE&I Advisory Committee. He is also co-chair of the DE&I Committee for CalSAE as well as co-chair for WINiT’s community & engagement committee. In 2019, he was awarded the MPI Meetings Industry Leadership Award, and in 2023, PCMA’s Groundbreaker Award as part of its Visionary Awards lineup.
The CMP designation remains a mark of excellence and expertise for those who hold it. Murakami says, “It demonstrates a commitment to furthering one’s professionalism that hopefully opens doors to higher-level opportunities and to enhance one’s network and community.”
Over the years, he explains further, and as awareness of the CMP designation has grown, “the industry views these individuals as dedicated to the industry and knowledgeable with an unwavering commitment to high standards and best practices.”
The hospitality and meetings industries themselves, Murakami says, are “dynamic and ever-evolving.” Global demand of unique experiences, as well as enormous technological advancement, brings an undeniable air of excitement for future opportunities and expanded creativity.
“Our industry provides boundless opportunities for innovation and creativity,” he says. “There is an unmistakable influence and understanding of the social and economic impact to transform business events, which includes ongoing sustainability and socially responsible practices and a heightened priority on facilitating customized and personalized experiences.”
His favorite quote comes from Winnie-The-Pooh: “You’re braver than you believe, stronger than you seem, and smarter than you think.”
To him, this is a message of perseverance and confidence in one’s own abilities. “We sometimes feel self-doubt professionally and personally, and the quote is a reminder that we are remarkable in our own way and a gift to ourselves and others,” he explains.
He says that, in many ways, it correlates to the meetings and hospitality industries. They often require resiliency and adaptability. “[It] emphasizes the inner strength and capabilities that we may underestimate in ourselves with the challenges and opportunities we face daily,” says Murakami. “The ability to acknowledge one’s own bravery, strength and intelligence…is a crucial attribute to help navigate the dynamic landscape of organizing and providing successful and impactful events.”