Inspirational Woman: Meena Chander | Founder & CEO, Events Together

Meena ChanderI am the CEO and founder of an events consultancy and agency called Events Together.

Events Together helps clients plan, manage and deliver their events programmes, and an event could be anything from an away day to a company conference or an international exhibition.

I am also the founder of a social enterprise which focuses on raising the awareness of Diversity and Inclusion in the workplace through the platform of conferences and events. Within this I run a mentoring programme for underrepresented groups in the events industry.

Did you ever sit down and plan your career?

No, never. I did a HND in travel and tourism management but didn’t feel that a broader travel and tourism degree was for me, so I moved into events where I managed a prestigious pharmaceutical account for a business travel agency and looked after their small meetings and conferences. From there, I worked in other more mainstream events agencies and venues and worked my way up.

In between, I studied for my MSc in events management through a distance learning programme for four years. I had a lot of highs and lows with this as I had been out of education for 15 years, but I had all those years of practical event experience to help me.

Have you faced any challenges along the way?

Always! I am very ambitious but have felt at every point and in every organisation throughout my career that there was a ceiling I would inevitably reach. When I was ready to move up, but the opportunities weren’t presenting themselves, I found it very frustrating.

After being in one organisation for 10 years working in different roles, I was made redundant. This spurred me on to set up my own business and enabled me to do things the way I want to do them. It also allowed me to get involved with so many different projects with meaning and impact. I can choose who I work with and the hours I need to work to get everything done, too.

Coming from a large cosmopolitan city of London, I moved to Bedford when I got married and found the area had very few opportunities for the those working in events. It led me to stick with one job that I did have for stability whilst my daughter was at school. Now she is 17 and more independent, it is time for me to do something for myself and take on a new and exciting challenge with the business. Plus, I am training her up to be an event manager too!

What has been your biggest achievement to date?

My first big achievement is that I was able to successfully gain a high qualification when I reached 40. Second is having the opportunity to own a business and produce my very own event called This Is Us Conference which focuses on Diversity and Inclusion in the workplace.

For the first two years the conference was solely discussing LGBTQ+ in the workplace, but this year I have expanded to also include BAME and women, and will be holding the event virtually.

What one thing do you believe has been a major factor in you achieving success?

Drive and ambition are major factors. I am very driven and when I want something, I tend to just go for it and keep on plugging away until something falls into place.

I have also been fortunate enough to have the immense support of my family, including my in-laws who used to look after my daughter when I was at work. God bless the grandparents!

My mum, husband and daughter are also very supportive and share my highs and lows, my tears and my laughter. Two people who are also speakers at my event, Jacqui Gavin and Gamiel Yafai, believed in me three years ago when I had the idea of producing This Is Us Conference and have encouraged, mentored and supported me throughout. I cannot forget my close friend who is from the LGBTQ+ community who inspired me to create the event in the first place.

How do you feel about mentoring? Have you mentored anyone or are you someone’s mentee?

I would recommend mentoring to anyone at any stage in their career. I have been part of a mentoring programme for female business leaders run by Santander, and the support has been extremely beneficial. Mentoring has taught me to break down my challenges into more bite sized chunks and has made me think like a business leader and not as an event manager.

I also used to mentor undergraduates at a previous workplace. The events and accounts I managed were very prestigious and my standards are very high, so I am sure they learnt a lot from working with me.

Mentoring helps people develop as individuals and gain so many new skills. I am currently developing a mentoring programme, which will be a cohort of 12 people – six who are at early stages of their career who will be mentored by more senior events professionals, and six who are senior level who will be mentored by people outside of the events industry to create that diverse thinking.

If you could change one thing to accelerate the pace of change for Gender Equality, what would it be?

I would say employers need to look at the wider skill set that a person has to offer, rather than focusing on anything else.

If you could give one piece of advice to your younger self what would it be?

I would say take more risks and be a bit bolder.

What is your next challenge and what are you hoping to achieve in the future?

I have a few challenges that I am working on. A big one is working with an organisation that has successfully managed a leadership programme in another city and bringing this to Milton Keynes. I also aim to raise awareness of Diversity and Inclusion in the workplace in smaller towns and cities outside of London, as well as to develop the exhibition side to my business, as that is where I have gained a lot of experience in my career.

Finally, I want to own my own exhibition or trade show and focus on helping other companies with their presence at international exhibitions and shows, when the skies open up again.

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