How I Got Here - Alicia Duncan

Alicia Duncan, general manager at London events venue The Mermaid, has worked at the centre since 2011 and before this held the same position at Novus Leisure for more than seven years. She talked to Event about her original career choice of being a chef, knowing what she is worth and superiors that have helped to enhance her career.

The Mermaid's GM Alicia Duncan shares her career story
The Mermaid's GM Alicia Duncan shares her career story

What do you do and how long have you been in your current role?

General manager of The Mermaid Conference and Events Centre, since November 2011.

Where was your first job? What was the most important thing you learnt there?

Working for a contract catering company within an art center, it started as work experience with school but I stayed on with a weekend and holiday job. I learnt customer service, cooking, cash handling and to be a team leader. I quickly became a supervisor for them and ran shifts. I learnt to sink or swim as on my first solo shift everyone called in sick.

How did you get from there to where you are now?

Asking a lot of questions, acting on my own initiative and dedication. I enjoyed the world of hospitality and originally wanted to be a chef. I dedicated and sacrificed a lot for my career but have always enjoyed it, most of the time anyway.

Looking back, did you expect your career path to take the course it has?

No. I originally wanted to be a chef, and then whilst at school decided I wanted to get into the world of arts studying, theatre studies, English and performing arts.

Would you do anything differently?

Not really. I might have moved on from my previous role sooner in hindsight.

Who has inspired you along the way?

I have worked for some people that I aspired to be but also some who showed me exactly how I didn’t want to be. One particular superior really invested time in developing and enhancing my skills, always challenging me and getting me to think outside the box and believe in what I could achieve. I think they certainly saw something in me that I didn’t know I had, they took a gamble and it paid off.

Have you ever had a job interview that went particularly well or spectacularly wrong?

I had a second interview with the MD of a company; I arrived at the interview to tell them that I couldn’t stay as I had an emergency at work (even though I wasn’t supposed to be at work). To make it worse when we rescheduled and I finally made it, the first question I was asked was how my weekend had been and at work it had been a complete disaster.

Is there a piece of career advice you’ve ever been told that has stuck with you?

Business is business and you have to work hard to get to the top. Whilst you cannot always take everyone with you on that journey, always make time for those around you and bring them along when the time is right.

What career advice would you give to your 21-year-old self?

Do not trust that those who are your superiors will always have your best interests at heart. Most people always look out for number one but you do not have to be the same. If you know your worth and believe in yourself then demand the rewards that go with it.

How do you wind down and relax after a hectic day?

By going home and having dinner with my son and just being a mum. But the truth is if it’s been that bad hitting the pub with my colleagues is always the best solution.

Want to share your career story with us as part of the Women in Events campaignEmail news editor Samantha Edwards to feature in a future How I Got Here.

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