Join us each month for a series highlighting the unique career journey of employees.
This month, we talk to the National Event Lead, Abby Cooley.
1. When did you start with Centric? Tell me about your career path.
My love of theatre started early in my childhood, which led to me attending Ohio Northern University and receiving my degree in International Theatre Production. Once I graduated, I worked mainly in opera and ballet for two years, I traveled a lot and it started to wear me down. I realized I wanted a home base.
I didn’t find my way to Centric until a few years later and that meant a tour of the restaurant world in the meantime. My opportunity with Centric came about in June of 2010. They were hiring for a part-time HR assistant and I raised my hand.
2. If you had to pinpoint a definitive moment in your career, what would that be?
A definitive moment for me would most likely be when I rethought what life on the road would mean for me.
I had to sit down and really think about what was important to me. And it turns out that what I really wanted seemed to be in total opposition of what I had been working towards almost my entire life. I wanted to be close to family and friends. I wanted to celebrate the milestones and have my own home for the first time.
If I could have two moments, the second would probably include starting at Centric the summer of 2010. This helped to really start building the life I had envisioned for myself a few years prior.
3. How does your current role fit into your career path/goals?
How lucky did I get?! Take a girl whose previous career, while short, was built around logistics, making sure people were in the right places and that the show goes off without a hitch. I now get to take those same principals and apply them to my job here at Centric.
As the event lead, I drive our two annual meetings and our annual holiday party. These events are a huge part of our culture and anytime you take people away from their families and clients you want to make sure that the time spent away is valuable to them. We strive to make sure these occasions are time well spent, which means we run a tight ship behind the scenes. A perfect opportunity for a former stage manager to flex those muscles.
4. What are some unique, funny or interesting stories you can share about your career journey?
The first holiday party I got to help plan was the 2011 New Orleans trip. Leann Ulrich (our benefits manager) was still doing the bulk of the planning but I had started to transition some of those responsibilities from her. She was not able to join us that year, so I was “in charge”. Yikes!
She had done such a terrific job coordinating everything, including an extra volunteer day. I did not want to disappoint her! Thankfully, everything went off without a hitch! The volunteer day was amazing, we had a very warm welcome from the hotel upon our return. We also had a fun Friday evening open house and the party on Saturday was nothing less than energizing.
So, I am getting on the last bus from the Saturday night party, heading to the hotel, when there was a coup. The people on the bus did not want to go back to the hotel, they wanted to explore NOLA (I mean, who wouldn’t). But the bus HAD to drop us off where they picked us up (a contract/safety thing).
Guess who had to tell our excited employees that they had not succeeded in commandeering the bus? This girl. There was some final bargaining, but I stayed strong. I secretly wanted to crumble.
I am pretty sure that set up my reputation as a stickler for the rules, which still exists today.
5. What motivates your career and drives you to keep going?
The people are the most motivating factor in my job. I love these opportunities to get our folks together, especially since it is such an important part of our culture. Another exciting driver is our growth now. Not only is my team growing, which means more awesome people to work with on creating these events but the firm, in general, is growing exponentially.
When I get to meet someone new to Centric at the summer meeting and see their face when they feel the palpable energy of our company-wide team in one room, it’s so worth it.
6. Please describe consulting at Centric. What is this job like?
I am certainly not the typical consultant. I have the ability to work from home 80% of the time with 20% travel during the year for our events. With the implementation of Microsoft Office 365 and Teams, my recent day includes a lot more collaboration with my internal Shared Services team — which I love. It has led to a lot more organic brainstorming rather than the boring old conference call. A lot of inspiration for these events can come from a random thought shared.
Day to day there is communication going out about upcoming events and strategy planning meetings for upcoming events. I work closely with our learning manager, talent management lead, and our shared services director. There is always the task to follow up on guest lists, speakers and venue details happening behind the scenes.
7. What did your recruiting process look like? Did you find Centric, or did we find you?
I found Centric through a babysitting job. That led to many kitchen table discussions of my future goals and how I was hoping to get there. When the HR assistant position opened, the news was passed along to me, and I submitted my resume. I luckily received the opportunity for an in-person interview with the talent manager lead at that time. I heard back about a month later and I was been offered the job.
8. Is your practice currently hiring? Or, is the company currently hiring for roles like yours? If so, what positions are open?
Unfortunately, the internal events team at Centric is not growing at the moment. We have built a pretty great team combining resources and expertise from across our team.
I know that many of our operating groups are always looking for great new talent. Apply to open positions here!
9. What mix of skills, personality, and values do you find most important for a consulting role like yours?
I think with any role being open is key. Being willing to listen and learn from others in the room. Weighing it against what your priorities are and then coming up with a plan of action that moves everyone’s goals forward.
Flexibility is also important in this role. New ideas and information are always coming to the surface, sometimes hours before the meeting starts. If it is important to the people in the room, then we need to do what we can to make it happen.
Trust is important in any role. When you trust the people on your team to do their best, then the results reflect that.
10. What tips would you share with future Centric recruits?
Jump in! Get involved where you can. We continue to build a great place to work the more we introduce new ideas and work together.
11. Given that Centric values work-life balance, please share some of your hobbies or special interests outside of work.
Some of my favorite things to do are to read and travel. I was recently in New Orleans, which is one of my favorite cities. And last year, I visited Ireland with my husband and I would recommend that trip to anyone!