Sacha Carey, CEM, Director of Exhibitions with the Water Environment Federation sat down with IAEE to talk about life as a Major American Trade Show Organizer and her member experience with IAEE. Sacha has been an IAEE since 1998 and she manages the WEFTEC show.
How did you get your start in the exhibitions industry?
I started out as Director of International Programs, running the international pavilion program and handling international delegations and the International Buyer Program at our annual trade show.
What advice would you give a new IAEE member or person joining the exhibitions community?
I would congratulate them on choosing a great industry full of great people. Except for those of us with family history in the industry, most of us never really planned to end up here. I think that’s changing now, with more schools offering programs of study that include exhibition and event management. My advice to new members would be to take advantage of as much programming as possible and network, network, network. You are sure to learn a lot that you can apply in your own organization.
What is the biggest challenge in running your show? And why?
One of our greatest strengths is also a weakness. There is no single staff person that oversees WEFTEC. This allows technical, conference logistics, exhibition, membership and educational programming staff to all have a voice in designing the event to best serve our registrants, exhibitors and members. It also means we struggle to agree on priorities and achieve consensus at times, and we compete with each other for audience. For example, as the Director of Exhibitions, I want everyone to spend a good majority of time on show floor visiting exhibitors. The Director of Technical Education spends all her time working with the Program Committee, which is made up of members who volunteer hours and hours of their time to select all of the speakers for the technical program. Their goal is to get as many people as possible to attend the sessions.
Tell us a fun fact or story that most people would not know about you.
My parents were both English teachers. They accepted jobs teaching in China in the late 1970s, so we lived in Shanghai for several years when I was a child. I attended public school there, and I became fluent in Mandarin. My experience there prompted me to major in Chinese in college. I spent a year in Taiwan after graduation to further hone my language skills, and my first job was for a venture capital company that specialized in joint ventures between Chinese and American companies. My Chinese is rusty now, but I can still impress people at Chinese restaurants and help out lost tourists.
You have your Certified in Exhibition Management designation. How has it shaped your career?
I earned my CEM in 2009. I moved into the Exhibition Manager position at the Food Processing Suppliers Association in 2005 and I knew there was a lot I still needed to learn. Our show was co-located with PACK EXPO for 13 years, so there were many things that PMMI handled for the combined event. The CEM curriculum helped me fill those gaps, and also introduced me to a multitude of other show managers who shared their knowledge.
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Why do you stay with IAEE year after year?
Expo! Expo!, the CEM program, MATSO Council, Exhibitions Day, CEIR and so many other programs and initiatives have strengthened our industry, served to protect the industry, fostered workforce development and provided me with so many friendships. And IAEE is the one association I can count on to provide timely and relevant content and programming to help me with my show’s objectives.