Grace Louisy sat down with Gemma Bassett for the December FF15 Newsletter.
If the M&E Industry had a hall of fame, trust me, Gem would be in it. Her CV reads like ABBA Gold – a complete collection of back-to-back hits. From EMEIA Meetings & Events Leader at EY, to Director of Client Services at HeadBox, Board Director of Meeting Needs. Her work at Meeting Needs combines her expertise as a leader in the industry with her passion for philanthropy; raising funds for worthy causes relevant to the events industry.
A northern lass with a huge heart, she’s proven time and time again that kindness goes a long way. I sat down with Gem to discuss how she became confident, the lessons she learned along the way, and how she hopes to inspire the next generation of event professionals.
Tell me a little bit about yourself and how you got here.
I’ve never been unemployed. Ever since I was able to work, I did, washing cars, babysitting, I’ve done it all. My biggest driver comes from my upbringing in rural Yorkshire in the 1980s; my mum, a working-class single parent of 5 children, taught me everything I know.
Whilst my circumstances now are completely different from where I grew up, I have always kept two feet on the ground. At 19, I worked at the Job Centre, supporting people from all walks of life to find employment. I soon realised how much she loved to help people and it was this need to help that steered her toward the event industry.
My career in events has spanned over two decades. The most important thing in every role is who I’m working with and who can I support. For me, happiness is everything. Whilst working in events may be challenging, I have always been grateful and happy for the work I’m doing. It’s important to keep an appreciation for who you are and where you are right now, taking a step back and taking stock of what you’ve achieved. I remember the moment when I first stood in a 5-star casino in Monaco, I had this moment when I I realised how far I’d come. I’d never expected to get there!
What does confidence mean to you?
I like to think of myself as quietly ambitious. My confidence comes from working hard and doing the right thing. I know there will always be competition for a seat at the table, I’m confident that I earned my seat.
Have you ever experienced imposter syndrome?
No. I’ve worked really hard to be where I am. There isn’t a competitive bone in my body with others, and yet, with myself, I am always striving to be better. As an introspective person, I’m always looking inwards if things go wrong. Over the years, I’ve grown in confidence as I’ve gained life experience, I’ve learned when to back myself and what to let go of.
Each month, I aim to challenge herself. From leaving EY to join HeadBox, or speaking at live panel events, I like taking myself completely out of my comfort zone. Being afraid and vulnerable can help you learn and grow.
When have you felt your least confident, how did you overcome this experience?
One thing I’d love to work on – my constant self-deprecation. In my early career, I always made myself smaller to make others feel bigger. I’m really proud to see the next generation of professional women sticking up for themselves more confidently.
When I feel doubt or insecurity, I talk to my 8-year-old self. I am so proud of her, every success and the life she’s lived. My mum has always said “don’t look down, look up!”
If you could offer one piece of advice to give young event professionals more confidence, what would it be?
Authenticity is key. Make decisions based on doing the right thing for yourself and what will make you happy. Regularly check in with yourself, and remind yourself that you deserve to be where you are. You can remain flexible and amiable at work without compromising your sense of self.
If there’s one thing I’ve learned, Gem is like Yorkshire tea – put her in hot water and she gets stronger. When I asked Gem what her next challenge is, she told me she loves to write and she’s sure there’s a book in her. When she eventually writes it, I’ll be first in line to buy a copy.