Francesca is the Corporate Sales Business Executive at Alton Towers Resort. Although known for being Britain’s most-loved theme park, Alton Towers is also the perfect venue for businesses looking to add a little magic to their corporate events. Francesca can help you with large residential conferences, spectacular dinners or smaller business meetings to marquee events or park buyouts. With such a wide range of event venues Francesca will make sure it’ll be a day you and your delegates will never forget.

As Francesca was shortlisted for our Rising Star of the Year Award (The Midlands) we caught up with her and asked about her experiences so far.

Forward Ladies: Tell us a bit about your career journey to date?

FP: After leaving university with and English Literature and History degree, I wanted to work in the tourism industry. I was lucky enough to be employed by Experience Nottinghamshire – the tourism board and conference bureau for the city and county. My role covered both leisure and business tourism and I was promoted after 6 months to Conference Sales Executive.

Whilst working there, I was awarded the Nottinghamshire Roosevelt Travelling Scholarship. This enabled me to go travelling around the States for three months investigating business tourism and meeting with industry professionals. Unfortunately, it also meant I had to leave my job as the company couldn’t support me in the venture.

When I returned I quickly got back into work and did a few months at Capital FM Arena and National Ice Centre, before being approached by BioCity to be there Conference and Events Manager. After working for BioCity for 6 months, I again received a promotion and become the Head of The Meeting Space, which was the conferencing and catering brand for all UK offices.

Unfortunately I was made redundant, but pretty soon after I became the Sales and Marketing Manager for Nottingham Conference Centre. I wasn’t there for long though as I soon moved on to my current role at Alton Towers Resort.

Although my career has been relatively short, I have learnt and grown a lot in a short space of time and travelled up the career ladder quickly.

Forward Ladies: What are the top 3 challenges you’ve faced as a leader and how have you overcome them?

FP: 1. Having to make redundancies – it’s never easy to make another member of your team redundant, especially when you have a personal relationship alongside your working one. But as a leader, you have to do what the company asks of you and ensure you keep a clear, level head, and help that individual in finding a new opportunity.

  1. Being made redundant personally and having to share this with the team was the hardest thing I’ve had to do. It was made worse by having to keep it secret from my team until the time was right. Sitting them all down together in a room and giving them the news was heartbreaking, but you have to show strength in the face of adversity and prove you are a leader by putting them first.
  2. Low budgets and high expectations – having targets to achieve which seem completely unrealistic is hard, but pulling together and working as a team is the only way to overcome that. When I worked at BioCity I would have to do every aspect of the conference – the sale, the marketing, the event delivery, the washing of pots, the portering. It’s exhausting! But if you pull your sleeves up and show your team you’re willing to do it, they’ll appreciate and respect your enthusiasm and hard work and follow suit.

Forward Ladies: How do you bounce back from rejection and the challenges?

FP: If you break up with a boyfriend, you deal with feelings of rejection, fear of not being good enough, and having to comprehend a life without them moving forward. Everything has changed and all you’re faced with is uncertainty and the challenge of adjusting your life accordingly.

It’s the same with business. Sometimes, it’s just not the right fit. Business is just another relationship in your life that you have to work hard at to get right. You’ll be faced with rejection and challenges, but it’s a learning curve and opportunity to grow and understand what is expected of you, and what you want from a company or employer. You bounce back the same way you do in your personal life – adapt, change, learn, and move on.

Forward Ladies: What is the most important lesson you’ve learned in your career to date?

FP: DON’T TAKE THINGS PERSONALLY. Just because you fail to make a sale or you make a spelling error in an email, it doesn’t mean you’re an awful human being. It means you make mistakes sometimes, just like the rest of us.

There’ll always be someone louder than you at a networking event, someone smashing higher targets than you, or someone you need to ask for help with complicated technology. We’re all in it together. It doesn’t necessarily mean you’re rubbish at your job and you need to pack it all in and move on. It just means you’re doing your best.

Forward Ladies: What advice can you offer to women who want a career in your industry?

FP: Listen to the experts. Network with the experts. Spend time with the experts. The events industry may seem huge and glamorous from an outsider’s point of view, but when you get into the circle, everyone knows everyone else. We all appreciate how hard each other works because events is a 24/7 operation.  Also, smile!

Forward Ladies: How do you maintain a work/life balance?

FP: This is something I’ve only recently learnt how to do because I used to be one of those individuals who lived and breathed work. I would never switch off my work mobile, I’d always be replying to emails at night and at the weekends, and I thought if my boss didn’t have a response within half a second then I’d be fired. But it was all self pressure.

I didn’t NEED to work unpaid overtime and I didn’t NEED to devote my whole life to work. I’ve had to teach myself along the way that it’s okay if you leave work on a Friday and you haven’t ticked off everything on your to do list. It’s okay to switch off from work and have your own life. It’s okay to leave emails until the next day. Nothing is that urgent that you have to sacrifice your personal life.

Your company won’t get the best out of you if you’re constantly run down and overworked because you don’t allow yourself that imperative breathing space to just be YOU.

Forward Ladies: How have your found the mentors and sponsors to support you in your career?

FP: If you work hard, people notice (and sometimes) they reward you. I don’t mean with bonus pay or promotions, I mean with their time and expertise.

My mentors have been those who have seen something in me that I haven’t seen myself and given me their valuable help and advice in order to help push my own career. I’ve taken risks (like leaving a secure job for a 3 month scholarship) and I’ve worked hard (juggling a Masters degree and full time job) and I received great support from those around me. You’ll attract like minded people without even realising it.

Forward Ladies: Thank you for your time Francesca, you’ve been great!

Would you like your hard work to be recognised, just like Francesca has been? Then apply for one of our prestigious National Women in Business awards, so we can celebrate your success and inspire other women to do the same. There’s nothing we love more than promoting incredible women in business!