Cassie Poss: Young Professional Achievement, MPI RISE Awards

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Cassie Poss: Young Professional Achievement, MPI RISE Awards

By Rich Luna | Jul 20, 2020

Meet Cassie Poss, CMP (MPI Dallas-Fort Worth Chapter), who received the 2020 MPI RISE Award for Young Professional Achievement. This award recognizes an individual 40 years of age or younger with five or less years of professional experience in the meeting and event industry who has made outstanding contributions to MPI and/or the meeting and event industry.

Who or what inspired you to become involved as a volunteer?

My degree is in music performance and while I had experience through college and early in my career in the meeting and event industry, I didn’t have any real formal training or education. I wanted to gain some knowledge into the industry I had fallen in love with and adhere to a set of standards, but also provide myself with some industry credentials that were widely accepted in order to move my career forward. The MPI Dallas-Fort Worth Chapter (MPIDFW) offers a fantastic eight-week CMP Study Course to help prepare for the exam and I participated in the spring of 2016. The group averages about 20 to 25 people, and over the eight weeks you become extremely close with your classmates as you all are striving for the same goal of passing the exam. I sat and passed my exam and the entire experience was one I truly enjoyed and is what inspired me to want to assist others in this goal.

I joined the CMP committee that fall and it gave me the courage to join a few other committees in the chapter to really use my strengths to give back. Next thing I knew, I was asked to co-chair the planning of the MPIDFW’s 40th Anniversary Celebration and Awards of Excellence. This was an absolute honor and an unforgettable experience that allowed me to grow and change as a professional in a process that was inviting, healthy and safe. Two board terms then followed this, and I was actually able to do this alongside a few of my CMP classmates, which made us all the more closely bonded.  So, not only do I get to give back, but I have been able to meet new people while strengthening a lot of the relationships that initially started day one of my MPI journey, and that is exciting.

This award honors our younger professionals. What are the traits that the younger generation of meeting professionals are bringing to the industry?

Inquisitive: I think that we are inquisitive and are finding ways to have the courage to be vocal about things we are passionate about. Simultaneously, we are able to be respectful and vulnerable enough to ask the uncomfortable question of “WHY?” rather than just blindly accepting the rules and processes put forward in our industry, companies and communities. This not only leads to education on the part of the young professional as to why things are done the way they are or that there might be a historical significance, but also allows others to contemplate the answer to this question. Sometimes the answer is a good one and sometimes its “because it’s always been that way.” It’s when answers like the latter are produced that allow situations that are ripe for change and further exploration. Thus, ultimately ushering in the next phase of growth that propels us all forward.

Hardworking: I know a lot of people have the opinion that young professionals who fall into the Millennial and Generation Y category are not hardworking. They don’t “settle down” as soon as they should, they “aren’t buying houses,” and I’m sure I could go on. However, colleges and universities are more expensive than ever. Loan amounts continue to soar as do the costs of education overall. Many young professionals have still continued to work part of even full time while trying to go to school. Housing costs have a similar progression as education costs. Buying a house takes time and savings, but with all that debt stacked up, it’s understandable why that’s not the first purchase many will make upon graduating from college.

These generations have seen hard work in action with their parents, with a vast majority of these age groups growing up at a time when both parents worked, or they were raised by a single parent or caregiver. It might look a little different than what people are a used to, but these individuals are able to multi-task. They are not only managing work, but are also managing their social lives which also include volunteering. Studies like that of the Corporation of National Community Service have shown that the volunteer percentage of Millennials is at 28.2 percent and Generation Y at 26.1 percent. Generation X takes the win here with 36 percent, but these percentages put the younger categories just a few points behind the Baby Boomers sitting at 30 percent, most of which have started retirement or may be on the verge.   

Push for purpose: I think it is also more important now than ever for those new to the workforce or earlier on in their careers that they not only have a purpose but are pushing to understand what role that plays in a larger picture. We boldly look to leadership to not only model the way but to communicate company values in order to look for ways to align them with their own personal values. I know, for me personally, I want to have a larger impact and be part of the greater good. I know I may not always be in a leading role but knowing that I am contributing to something bigger definitely helps keep me motivated while striving for other ways to contribute. Everyone loves a good cause to get behind.

What would you still like to accomplish?

I truly feel like the possibilities are endless. I have no idea where my career path will lead, but it’s exciting to be on the journey. From a sports perspective, I would love to someday be part of helping plan for an Olympic Games. That has definitely been a major goal of mine. I would also like to run (and I do mean run the whole time) a half marathon in the next year. So, here’s to those goals! 

“Knowing that I am contributing to something bigger definitely helps keep me motivated while striving for other ways to contribute.”

What does is mean for you to receive this RISE Award?

It’s so hard to me to put in the proper words what this truly means to me. I am so very humbled and honored to be the recipient of this year’s award and be acknowledged for the great things that I have accomplished up to this point in my career. A career that, honestly, I fell into but I have loved the incredible ride up to this point and am excited for all that is to come. But this award is also shining a light on all the various people in and outside of this industry who have helped and mentored me along the way. Their time and effort hasn’t been in vein and I am here today because they have shared their experience and knowledge to help me grow. And to them, I send a big thank you and a virtual, social distance acceptable hug!

How has MPI helped you in your career as a meeting professional?

MPI has provided me with the educational opportunities that I was looking for but also has provided me with a community a didn’t know I needed and relationships that will truly last a lifetime. It has allowed me to grow and change as a professional, leader and person while finding people who help drive, inspire and support me. So, the value is limitless.

What do you enjoy most about your role as manager of sports events for Visit Fort Worth and the Fort Worth Sports Commission?

I enjoy the opportunity to collaborate with city leaders to promote its offerings and to identify ways to improve the community while setting it up for future success. Every event brought to Fort Worth involves extensive collaboration with stakeholders, city leaders, local industry supplier partners and local businesses, from bidding through promotion, planning and execution. One can imagine all the spinning plates involved in securing and executing an NCAA national championship, for example, and I’m excited to be at the center of it all, organizing, participating and helping to lead various tasks that bring leaders together to ensure a championship-quality experience unlike any other.

Furthermore, we are in the unique position to not only provide substantial economic impact with these events but also direct social impacts through various service projects with the organizing bodies. For example, in 2019, we launched the Readers Become Leaders program in conjunction with the 2019 NCAA Women’s Collegiate Gymnastics Championships. This program focused on elementary students from grades there to five and encouraged students to log their reading minutes over the course for two months. We had over 17,000 kids in Fort Worth participate for a combined reading total of over 6.7 million minutes! The top three schools were bussed to the championships practice sessions where they not only got to hear the winning school announced, but they were able to see some of the best gymnasts in the world perform.

This was the biggest outreach that NCAA has done up to this point. This year, the program was halted due to COVID-19 and the cancelation of the championships, but we had already increased the number of students to 25,000 and they had already read over 7 million minutes. It’s outreach and experiences like these that provide a lasting impact on the community and allow kids in our community a chance to able to be exposed to events that they may not otherwise be exposed to.  

How have you coped with the COVID crisis, professionally and personally?

I think COVID and honestly, the entire first half of 2020, no one saw coming. I have seen incredible sparks of transformations in our industry, the way we conduct business and in our communities. Some of those have been welcomed changes, some of them are uncomfortable or disheartening. I am usually a results-driven person and I tend to live event to event or milestone to milestone. Those moments provide extreme shots of adrenaline that provide motivation, drive and great happiness. Like many others, my “normal” has definitely changed. I first had to grieve the loss of that normal in order to fully accept it. Then it was time to pivot and move on to really get moving to what lay ahead, but I had to change my approach.

I started really focusing on smaller victories and that meant finding small moments of joy, both professionally and personally. I had to stop saying, “I’ll be happy when COVID is over” or “I’ll be happy when we return to normal.” Those statements contain qualifiers that indicate I can’t/won’t be happy until those situations come to pass, ultimately limiting my own happiness. Instead, I needed to embrace that this was going to be a process and focus on small, maybe even mundane, moments that produced joy or even a smile. By doing this, I have not only increased my appreciation for these small moments, but they have led to a more sustained happiness overall even in the crazy time that we are living in. This, of course, affects me personally but also professionally as I continue to help generate solutions during our new normal.

What have your learned from your participation in Leadership Fort Worth?

My experience with the Leadership Fort Worth program has been invaluable to me. The program has three different age groups and aims to provide curriculum-based learning about the city of Fort Worth and how to really understand who you are as a leader and where you want to be. LeadingEdge, the group I was a part of, offers Fort Worth’s emerging leaders an opportunity to strengthen leadership practices, create connections with community leaders and move beyond volunteerism into board service and community trusteeship. Seeing as I didn’t grow up in Fort Worth, it was nice to not only hear about a lot of the historical elements of our city but also be introduced to community leaders who are already working to make a difference. I’ve learned so much about initiatives that I had no idea about and I’ve also met several young professionals in a variety of careers that I will have long-lasting relationships with.

2020 MPI RISE Awards: Learn more about all of the recipients.

When you were young, what did you want to do when you grew up?

At first, I wanted to be a lawyer and then a district court judge. It was a stair-stepped plan, haha! That stayed pretty well with me until I was in early high school and really started to take music more seriously. Music has always been part of my life, being raised by my grandmother who had a degree in music herself and was my first piano and voice instructor. By middle school, I was playing the saxophone regularly and focused on that. I took private lessons, got a spot on a music tour to tour Europe with ambassadors of the state of Iowa and then decided I wanted music to be my career.

I attended the University of Nebraska Lincoln (UNL) on scholarship, played in the marching band and a variety of ensembles. In the summers, I was selected to participate as a conference assistant for the UNL Conference Services Program. This was a small hospitality operation run out of the UNL housing department that welcomed summer camps and conferences to the university. We got to interact with different guests, learn about groups and more. I honestly started it because it was a way to earn money and live on campus during the summer so that I could spend more time practicing. However, it turned into an experience I’ll never forget and it’s actually how I got my first job and landed in DFW, which was only to be for a year or two while I was preparing for grad school. However, it turned into an amazing career. So, I will be forever grateful for that.

What are you most passionate about outside of your career and the meeting industry?

I would definitely say my family. My husband Zach, a mechanical engineer, has been my rock. He’s the kindest most level-headed and logical person (engineers, got to love them) I have ever met. We met while I was still in high school, dated for six years and have been married six. He’s quick with a joke to make me smile and build me up when I suffer from my chronic imposter syndrome! We have two dogs, a black lab and a boxer, and a cat and hope to begin to add to our family soon. Both of our parents and families still live back in Nebraska so we try to make it home as much as we can and are die hard Husker fans. GO BIG RED!

What’s the best advice someone gave you?

When I was graduating from college, it was a unique and weird time for me. I had just decided to put my music degree on hold, take some much-needed time off after experiencing intense burnout and had decided to move more than 500 miles away from the nearest family member. As a graduation gift, a great friend and mentor gave me a necklace that had inscribed in it “Be the change you wish to see in the world” - Mahatma Gandhi. This was so meaningful to me as I was literally starting on a path I had no idea what was ahead. It has served me well and has become my personal motto that I try to live to accomplish every day. 

What advice would you give to someone considering a career in meetings and events?

Intern and volunteer as much as you can! This not only gets you into the work force, but it teaches you some valuable lessons while also allowing you to decide what you do and don’t like. Hospitality degrees are fantastic and provide a lot of knowledge but much of the core curriculum surrounds hotels and restaurants. There are so many other organizations out there that contribute to the meeting and event industry and the best way to know if those are fit for you is to try them.

Next Monday we’ll start sharing profiles of innovative MPI chapters honored with 2020 RISE Awards.



Rich Luna

Rich Luna is Director of Publishing for MPI and Editor-in-chief of The Meeting Professional.