By Zoë Turner, head of events, Trinity House
Zoë Turner joined Trinity House in 2006 after many years in the hospitality industry, with operations such as Trust House Forte, Best Western and Holiday Inn. Over the subsequent 13 years, she has managed or co-supervised thousands of events including royal events, corporate board meetings and dinners; product launches and exhibitions; private weddings and wedding fayres and promotions; milestone social occasions; the 2012 Olympics and significant events in the calendar of the Corporation of Trinity House.
Over a two-year period in 2015-2017, she set out to complete a master’s degree in event management at the University of Greenwich, simultaneously holding down her job at Trinity House. She was subsequently awarded a Certificate of Distinction and received the highest mark in her class for her dissertation: ‘The Role of Events in the Sustainable Management of Historic Buildings’.
Looking back on it now, nearly two years later, I can’t believe I actually thought undertaking a master’s degree in event management – while holding down a full-time job as deputy events manager at Trinity House – was a good idea! And there were many times when the sleepless nights, worry and stress made me wonder if it was going to be worth it. However, when I was handed a Certificate of Distinction, I was very glad I had committed to the decision and appreciative of the support of Trinity House throughout.
I can’t remember why I decided that, years into my successful events management career, gaining an academic qualification was important. After working in the hospitality and events industries for over two decades, I did come to the conclusion that practical event management seems disengaged from the academic events industry, somehow, and I wanted to understand both perspectives.
The course I selected at the University of Greenwich incorporated strategic financial management, sponsorship proposal writing, relationship marketing, innovations and enterprise and the planning, and the management and execution of an event. For my dissertation I researched events’ roles in the sustainable management of historic buildings because this is so relevant to my work at Trinity House.
Only a couple of months into the course I realised how much I had underestimated the amount of work involved but I was committed and determined to make it work. When not organising and managing events at Trinity House, I was reading and writing assignments or in classes… it’s fair to say that I had very little social life for two years.
However, I did begin to notice at work that I was managing events with a different perspective… I was more aware of trying to maintain a balance between encouraging, managing and promoting more quality event bookings with the ‘sustainability’ aspect of off-setting the increased ‘wear and tear’ that the popularity of the venue inevitably entails. It’s always a bit of a ‘catch-22’ situation but one that we are very happy to have in these days of financial uncertainty.
Extending one’s education later in the day can be an enlightening experience. I found that by undertaking this academic course, my horizons opened up and I did start to think differently and consider situations from another perspective as I explored aspects of the industry not encountered on a day-to-day basis. It was also an excellent way to meet young people wanting to get into the industry – there can be no better way to determine someone’s ability and commitment than working alongside them in a group project.