Jane Hemingway looked set for a career in the hotel industry until she had a life-changing work placement. As a student at Oxford Brookes University (which she says is a fantastic institute), Hemingway spent time in the USA at the five-star Willard InterContinental hotel and loved the experience.
Graduating in 2000, she became a postgraduate trainee manager at Marston Hotels' Oxford Belfry property. However, although the hotel had "extremely high standards", Hemingway found it too quiet and moved on after a few months in search of a more energised environment.
In March 2001 she joined the NEC Group in Birmingham as assistant brand manager, and in 2002 was promoted to brand manager, overseeing its new self-service dining concept, Food Bank.
The NEC Group is made up of the National Exhibition Centre, the NEC Arena, the International Convention Centre, Symphony Hall and the National Indoor Arena. In 1999 it helped generate £711m of business and visitor expenditure for the area and supported 22,000 jobs. Hemingway took on her current role in 2004 and is now responsible for the operation and financial performance of four restaurants, four bars, two hand-snack units and two fast-food kiosks.
She loves the busy, buzzy nature of the conferencing business but admits it's not unusual to work 11-hour days when an event is on. And, as most shows last for six to eight days, aspiring conference professionals shouldn't expect weekends off - although Hemingway and her team do get time to regroup after an event has finished.
One of the most challenging, but exciting, aspects of her job is that exhibitors often change things at the last minute. In the case of last year's Motor Show, she had only a day's notice that there would be a two-for-one ticket deal on the Sunday, which didn't leave her long to react and source additional staff.
The NEC Group's interests extend to outside catering with Amadeus, and Hemingway is often called on to lend her managerial expertise to events at locations such as Warwick racecourse and Coventry City Football Club, which keeps her job varied.
And she can never take things for granted at the exhibition centre, not even facilities. "For the Motor Show," says Hemingway, "we built another kitchenette within the halls just to cater for corporate hospitality guests."
She adds: "I really love the exhibition industry and am looking forward to the next challenge. I enjoy the managerial side of the business and I like working in big, busy environments."
September 2000 Joins Marston Hotels
Joins the NEC Group as assistant brand manager
March 2004 Catering manager, halls 4 and 5