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Overall Excellence Chapter Award

 

 

Getting to Know - Sandy Ouellette

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By: Sandy Ouellette | Nov 19, 2021

Name: Sandy Ouellette 
Position: Professor, Event Management 
Employer: Algonquin College of Applied Arts and Technology: Overview | LinkedIn 
Joined MPI in: 2016; however I was a member in the mid 1990’s as well for about 7 years. 

Contact information:
Email: Ouelles1@algonquincollege.com
Linked In: Sandy Ouellette | LinkedIn

Sandy Ouellette Headshot

Tell us a bit about yourself 
My family came to Ottawa when I was two and I have lived in this amazingly diverse city since. I earned my honors Degree in Law – hoping to head to Law School. I decided to take a year off and joined a technology company. I found this new industry exciting and full of opportunity - I was able to start at a management position in Customer Service. The technology industry was booming and I spent 18 years of my professional life working in a variety of roles at Mitel Networks. It was there that I fell in love with the event industry. The company was planning a 500-person business conference in Palm Springs and the planner decided to move to Australia three weeks before executing that event. I sought out the Marketing Director and asked if there was anything I could do to help on site since I was to be attending anyway. That was my initial exposure to multiple aspects of the business including plenary sessions with professional speakers, educational sessions, awards galas, themed evening parties, and a significant tradeshow component. Following this event, I applied for the open position in Marketing and the rest is history.

How did you join the industry?
Wishing to pursue the option of self-employment, I established a company and provided services to Nokia, a leading cell phone and security platform company. Billing by the hour, this role became full-time, leaving no time to secure other customers; ultimately, Nokia wanted to have me join their company full time as North American Event Manager. At Nokia, I had the unique opportunity to manage large-scale productions including Consumer Electronics Show (CES – held annually the 1st week of January) and planned quarterly strategic events for the North American market with the goal to increase sales and brand exposure. Nokia was a wonderful place to work given its Finnish approach to their human resource and workplace management; however they made decisions to restructure the organization and sold off their enterprise division leaving my colleagues and me with the dilemma of looking for work.

A friend of mine suggested teaching, and there was a position available at Algonquin College in the Event Management program. In December 2009, I joined Algonquin College as a full time Professor in the 1-year Event Management graduate certificate program. Although I still miss the hustle and bustle of planning, I believe my role as a professor is to help students correlate the strategies and tactical requirements behind event planning and learn to apply those in the real work of Event Management.

Social Media

  • What is your favourite industry app?

My favorite industry app is Airtable. It manages the critical path/project plan aspect of a project but is also used as the on-line conference binder where you can store budgets, marketing, staffing, etc. in tabs, all in one app, that any of your team members can access at its most current stage of planning.

Inspiration

  • What do you want to accomplish before your next birthday?

I am currently planning my daughter’s wedding that takes place in May 2022. My daughter has given me carte blanche on the format but has asked that it be different from traditional weddings. I plan to make this a special experience for her and her fiancé as well as our guests and have managed to bring together some amazing vendors to create our vision.

Professional:

  • What is the best giveaway item you’ve ever received at a conference/event?

The first time I heard the world was exposed to a deadly virus (SARS), was in 2003 when I was preparing for a large-scale tradeshow in Las Vegas. Much of the event industry was on hold for a few months waiting to hear whether conferences and tradeshows would be cancelled. That wasn’t the case, but I couldn’t help thinking about the number of handshakes that would take place on the show floor and surfaces our staff would touch. So, I researched portable hand sanitizers as a giveaway and found one that looked like a pen but when the top came off, it was a spray you could use to sanitize your hands. Now given how we have lived the last 2 years of our lives with hand sanitizers, masks and social distancing, this may not seem so significant but in 2003, it certainly was. Today, you can’t go wrong with a full on-site first aid kit that would include the sanitizer, mask, gloves, etc.

Personal

  • What is the advice you would give to your younger self?

Many of the pioneers in this industry who had children wanted to make sure there was balance between their family and their professional life. In doing so, I believe we forgot about what we needed for ourselves personally. The advice I would give to my younger self would be to carve out time for exercise, eat healthier and get more sleep when travelling for work.   

Networking

  • What’s your favourite 'icebreaker question' at a networking event/best conversation starter?

My colleagues joke about how they like to go to networking events with me because in 5 minutes I would have scoped out the room, found a person I didn’t know and later return introduce them to that person. Don’t be shy to approach someone at a networking event – after all, everyone is there to mix and mingle with people they know and make new contacts in the industry. I just march up to someone and introduce myself and what I do. That will always get a positive response– it’s that simple, a conversation begins.

Last Words

  • How have you contributed to MPI Ottawa?

I strongly encourage people to volunteer for MPI and attend their events. Be it to gain experience or network with other industry professionals, MPI is a great organization to work with. In past years, I directed the MPI Education Committee for 2 years, and assisted the co-Chairs in the planning of a few Signature Events. My work with MPI has earned me two nominations and one win for the MPI Mentor of The Year Award in 2018. I am currently on the Canadian Council for the MPI Foundation; we help raise funds for MPI member scholarships and other strategic industry projects. Stay tuned for some amazing events and activities planned by this organization.

Sandy Ouellette Headshot Article written by Sandy Ouellette | LinkedIn, professor Event Management at Algonquin College

Article edited by Darlene Kelly-Stewart, Stonehouse Sales & Marketing Services

 

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Sandy Ouellette

 

 
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