Anyone with a Delorean or more than 20 years industry experience can tell you the event planner role looked very different in the ‘80s. This is true for everyone, but especially Koleen Roach, director of meetings and conference management at St. Paul-based Securian Financial Group, who fell into the industry.

Her first job at Dayton-Hudson Corporation was not in event planning. “I was working in the human resources department running all their training and development—basically running all of the programs logistically,” she says.

Roach’s supervisors quickly recognized her knack for organizing and offered her the opportunity to take on more meeting planning responsibilities. The go-getter embraced her new obligations with aplomb. “They didn’t really have an official meeting planner position at that time,” Roach says, “and so I was sort of doing a lot of the stuff in a bubble without an accurate title.”

When she asked her then supervisor, now seasoned mentor, his expectations, she was given only one: remain unflappable at all times. This precious advice saw her through the evolution of the developing industry. “As the meeting planning industry sort of became more refined, I was able to create the position for the first time in the history of the company,” Roach explains.

Eventually, Roach moved on to Securian, which has a corporate culture that includes an emphasis on community involvement. “It’s very important to Securian that we give back to the communities, not only in which we serve, but in which we bring our events,” Roach says.

In 2009, Securian hosted an incentive program in South Africa. Roach arranged for each attendee to be given a backpack, which they filled with school supplies over the course of the trip. Then the group went to Livingston, Zambia to deliver the backpacks. “It was really a beautiful and emotional time,” Roach says.

While her start in corporate event planning may have been ambiguous, she’s here to stay. “It’s an incredible job that is fascinating … I feel incredibly blessed to have this company that I work for,” she says. “It’s an amazing company.”

For Andrea Mokros, Minneapolis-based public relations executive and independent event consultant, the last decade has been a whirlwind. From serving as special assistant to President Obama and director of strategic planning for then-first lady Michelle Obama, to welcoming newcomers to the Bold North as the vice president of communications and events for the Minnesota Super Bowl Host Committee, Mokros shares the key takeaways that inspire her work today. 

 

Choosing a career in the event industry is not for the faint of heart. Let’s face it: Event planning is stressful. The last-minute changes, demands from clients and surmounting urgency of a quickly approaching event can make it difficult to maintain a healthy work-life balance.

As a new mother, I’m right there with you and need just as much help developing a healthy work-life balance. In my experiences working in events, I’ve found the following to be helpful ways to care for my mental health, despite being in a stressful profession:

 

By the time the now-iconic photo of one Fyre Festivalgoer’s pitiful cheese sandwich had gone viral, social media platforms and news outlets were abuzz with shock and bewilderment—questioning how the seemingly star-studded island excursion could have resulted in half-built FEMA-issued tents, cancelled musical acts and stranded attendees.