Tahlia Roberts06 May 2015
Tahlia Roberts loves music and dreamt of a career managing music festivals. Now the Divisional Business Unit Head at London Business Conference Group, find out how UQ Business School helped steer her in the direction of her current position.
What did you want to be when you were 10 years old? Is the career you’re in now something you ever thought you would be doing?
I wanted to do music festival events, I loved music and that is why I wanted to get into event management- more fun events. I never thought I would be doing what I am doing now but before I graduated I did the Executive Shadowing Program and I got a position out of that. It was completely unrelated to anything that I had studied and it made me realised that you just need to take opportunities as they appear and not be so set on ‘this is what I want to do’. I would never be anywhere near where I am today if I had of been stubborn and just wanted that career path.
What was it that appealed to you most about the Bachelor of International Hotel and Tourism Management?
I loved the fact that it paired business related subjects with some tangible subjects that I could use in my career. I looked at doing a business degree which would definitely help me but then when looking at the subjects for the Bachelor of International Hotel and Tourism Management I thought the events major would be a bit more practical and give me more experience in my desired career.
How has your degree helped with your career?
I participated in the Executive Shadowing Program that was organised through the Student Employability Team, it was the most phenomenal opportunity and it really set me up to go from being a student who went to University, to go to a professional in a business.
I was shadowing the CEO of Hospitality Training Association and he really took it seriously, I went to Board meetings and sat with each facet of the business. I sat down with the CEO at the end of the 6 weeks and I had prepared an analysis of the business, which wasn’t required. He was blown away by that and he said that in the first week I had asked some really intelligent and interesting questions.
I was offered a job as a Business Relations Officer. When I started my degree I would never have said this is what I wanted to do but it gave me the best foundation, huge step up, and I wouldn’t have been able to do that without UQ Business School.
From that program I not only gained a qualification on paper but it gave me the confidence to be able to achieve anything. Having people like lecturer Karen Hughes, believe in you, drives you even further.
Could you give us details about your career history? How/where did you start?
I started as a Business Relations Officer for HTA for a year and I loved it but I needed another challenge so I booked a one way ticket to London. It was really hard to get work in my field and I think some people might think once you have a degree you can get your dream job but you really have to work for it. I started looking online and I had originally been quite narrow in what I was searching for, looking for music festivals or fun events, I wanted my dream job but it wasn’t available.
I broadened my search and I found a job as Conference Producer with the London Business Conference Group, the interview was an assessment day rather than a one-on-one interview so I had a full day of creating a conference and presenting to the CEO and the Board. I think my sheer hunger to get this job shone through.
For the first 6-12 months I worked 12-14 hours a day plus weekends, I worked my butt off and did everything I could to succeed. I have achieved some great things, I set up an event that is now the most profitable event at the company and I won a lot of awards. I don’t work nearly as hard as I did back then but I am so glad I did that because it showed my CEO that I was committed to the company and that I would do anything.
The company flew me back to Australia to set up the company in Asia; we had never done events in Asia before because of time differences. I set up an event in Shanghai with Japanese, Korean, Chinese and Indian speakers. I then moved back to London once my Visa had been approved. That hard work proved to my boss that I deserved a promotion so I became a Conference Producer Manager where I had to grow my own team of nine conference producers. I had no management experience but I wanted to prove that I could do this. I ended up managing the best team at LCG, it was tough as I had to grow and manage my own team but I had to continue producing my own events.
Could you please describe your current position?
I wanted to move back to Australia but the CEO wasn’t ready for me to leave the organisation so now I am the Divisional Business Unit Head but in addition I am still producing all of my other events around the world and in the next 12 months I will be starting to produce events in Queensland and around Australia.
I manage a team that delivers conferences on any topic that isn’t oil and gas - it can be on the internet, smart phones, new technologies, 3D printing, any niche topic within any industry other than oil and gas.
What’s the most challenging part of your career?
To come over to Australia and set up the first Asian event without speaking any Asian languages and only be in touch with the London office every 12 hours.
What is your proudest career achievement?
The proudest career achievement for me was developing one of the most empowered teams at LCG, I love my individual achievements but training, developing and managing staff into being conference producers is very rewarding. It was a really great team environment and I really love managing people.
UQ Business School’s tagline is “Challenging the future”. For you, what will be the most challenging business topic in the next ten years?
I think the biggest challenge over the next ten years will be businesses adapting to disruptive change.
For example the internet, smart phones and now 3D printing are all now considered disruptive. Businesses are becoming increasingly global but it doesn’t matter as long as you have the communications to ensure it can happen.
What mentor or inspirational figure has guided or influenced your life in a certain way?
Karen Hughes was one of my lecturers during my time at UQ Business School and she definitely was a great mentor. It’s very rare for someone to have such confidence and faith in you when you don’t have it in yourself. She was the person that I would call to say I just got the job or I just got a promotion. I wasn’t the star student and didn’t think I would be a high achiever but having someone believe in you was great.
What is your motto in life that you try and live by?
It is a quote by Anthony Burrill, ‘Work hard and be nice to people.’ When I got my first promotion I finally had enough money to buy it and it was the most expensive thing I have ever bought but I hung it up proudly in my small one bedroom flat in London.
What advice would you give to someone who was looking to work overseas?
Don’t just expect that you are going to get your dream job. Graduates need to be prepared to really put effort in and take any opportunity that presents itself - don’t be completely narrow minded in what you want. Take any business experience that you can, if you aren’t employed in a business setting now, go out and get a job even if it’s just in administration. It is a competitive market and you have to put yourself out there. You can’t expect to get all 7’s and land a job, you have to show your commitment and drive. Don’t start your first job and expect to walk out at 5pm, stay there until your boss leaves and you will redeem the rewards later on.
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