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Women to Write Home About: Stephanie Lee

Our Women to Write Home About blog is back and we’ll be featuring Women in Tourism members and their thoughts and experiences, often including the diverse impacts of Covid-19 on our industry professionals. We were delighted to have a cuppa and a catch up with WIT member, Stephanie Lee.

Stephanie is a highly regarded professional working across the business events industry. Here she reflects on her career experiences, shares industry insights and envisions the next steps for her career.

Tell us a little about your background

I started my career in the Room Service department at The Balmoral while studying for a BA in Hotel Management at Napier University.  After university, I spent a wonderful few years working in Canada, US and Bermuda where I would have stayed forever, however I met my future husband who was only staying for nine months – back to the cold UK then!

Our family followed, some part time jobs in retail and PR before starting back full time at the Radisson on the Royal Mile as Sales Executive. I then moved to Sodexo Prestige Venues and Events as National Account Executive, during my four years I set up the National Enquiry Hub, which was a brand new facility – the central sales function – and delivered all the training for this in the UK.

This successful model is still in use today which I am very proud of.  From there I moved to the Royal Botanic Garden Edinburgh for a year as the Sales Manager, responsible for all wedding and corporate events business across the Gardens: a beautiful venue which I loved selling to clients and it brought its own challenges with specific rules and working in a space that is open to the public.

I was then headhunted to join Heritage Portfolio in the newly created Head of Corporate Sales, this was a role I loved.  I was very lucky to work with some incredible venues and a superb team of slightly maverick, passionate people.  Heritage was then purchased by Sodexo as part of a global acquisition and I rejoined the Sodexo family in March 2019 to take the position of Head of Sales MICE UK.  I had a team of four based around the UK with a remit to sell from above venue to support the overall C&E budget, a real variety of venues from football stadiums to the National Gallery in London.  Unfortunately my role became a casualty of the COVID crisis in July 2020 which was a sad day.

Many excellent industry professionals have been made redundant due to COVID. How have you adapted and pivoted in the last few months? 

To see the impacts of COVID on the hospitality and specifically the events business has been heart-breaking,  frankly.  I have had the privilege to work with some fabulous people, from talented chefs, front of house people, HR, marketing and other sales professionals and to see so many out of work or unable to work is horrendous. I’ve tried to keep as busy as possible – I was a mentor on a DLP alumni project in spring 2020 which was helpful while I was on furlough and since redundancy I have reached out to my network to see how I can help.  I am a member of the SITE Scotland board, looking after social media, which has been brilliant; and what a fantastic bunch of people they have been, their support has been awesome!  I have also self-started a project looking at Legacy for Business Events in Edinburgh which I hope will be of benefit as we start to look towards recovery in a competitive market place. Away from work, I am volunteering for a local driving and befriending network which has been incredibly humbling. This could be taking an elderly person to the health centre for their flu jab or doing their shopping. I love this and it has certainly put all this turmoil into perspective!

Top three tips for WIT readers?

  • Stay connected – reach out to your network, both professional and personal to see how you can help.  People are struggling either from working from home remotely or being out of work, ask if you can help or be a friend. I think people find it hard to admit weakness so if you think someone is not brilliant, be the person to say hello, get a coffee etc.  Don’t be afraid to let people know when you are having an “off day”, we all have tough days, so reach out!
  • Stay visible – social media is great to stay in touch with people. LinkedIn is an amazing resource and a bit of a shop window to the business world.  Share thoughtful content, network with people, keep your profile up and active, so that you are positioned well for when jobs start to come back.,
  • Use time well – once this passes (and it will pass) we should all be able to look back and say, “I was as productive as possible” and of course, time well spent to one person is not the same as the next. Spending time with children or relatives, upskilling with new courses, learning to bake – whatever makes you happy is the right thing in my book.  Hopefully this is a historic blip that we won’t face again, so use your time wisely.

Share your future plans, ambitions, goals

I have spent the past few months thinking about what I love, what I need and what I want to do next. I am most passionate about the Scottish hospitality industry so I really hope my future involves helping in the recovery and bringing back the very best of Scotland to the world.

I have recently joined En Pointe Solutions as an Associate Consultant and I hope that we can be of service in the short term to build back business. I love working in sales – it satisfies my need for actual human interaction, planning and competition (if you know me, you know!) and I feel confident the right next step is waiting for me.

Connect with Stephanie on LinkedIn

If you are a WIT member and would like to feature in Women to Write Home About, we’d love to hear from you – email us.