How I Got Here: Gemma Turner

Gemma Turner is events director at sports and entertainment marketing agency CSM Sports & Entertainment, a division of Chime Communications. She talked to Event about giving up a career in teaching, her time at the Millennium Dome and how important it has been not to pigeon hole her role and experience.

Gemma Turner speaks to Event for the Women in Events campaign
Gemma Turner speaks to Event for the Women in Events campaign

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

I have recently taken up the position of events director with CSM Sports & Entertainment. Prior to this I was senior venue and operations manager working for RPM, and I managed the Sky at The O2 project. I worked at the company for almost a year.

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

I actually trained as a primary school teacher but felt while studying that it just wasn’t right for me, so when I left university I took a break from the teaching world and worked at the Millennium Dome. I was based in Sky Scape venue and in the central arena. We staged the Bollywood Awards, The International Film Awards, and the main aerial performance, among other shows. This is where I first felt the buzz for live events and knew this is where I wanted to go in my career. 

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

After the Dome I started work at the Barbican Centre in London and worked my way up to house manager. I then took a side step over to the Barbican Exhibition Halls as event manager. After ten years I decided to take the plunge and do something different, which fortunately led me to become operations manager for London 2012 Olympic and Paralympic Games. I looked after Lord’s Cricket Ground for the archery, and it was the best job I have ever had. I would encourage anyone to work for the Games if given the chance.  

This then led me to take up a position at RPM. I managed the relationship between the agency, AEG and Sky and planned and organised various activations and events in Sky Studios and Sky Backstage at the O2. I’ve literally come full circle ending back under the big tent.

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

Not at all, I fully intended to be a teacher, but your goals and passions can so easily change over time. I never dreamed I would work on an Olympic Games, and I have no regrets whatsoever as every choice I’ve made has led me onto an exciting new path. Every job, course and experience will teach you such valuable lessons that you will take with you through your career and life in general.

Would you do anything differently?

That’s a tough one as you just never know how different things may be if you’d made opposing choices, but I believe that each role has taught me so much that I’ve been able to take on the next job. I did always want to work in television production so perhaps I would have pursued that more had I not listened to the people who said it was too hard to get into, but who knows what opportunities will present themselves in the future.

Who has inspired you along the way?

I’ve been really lucky to have worked for some extremely inspirational managers in my career, both men and women. My manager during the Olympics probably taught me the most and gave me the belief in myself that had perhaps dissipated after spending so long in one venue previously. He pushed me out of my comfort zone, and at the time I didn’t like him for that. But I quickly realised it developed me as a manager to get to the next level and built my confidence to believe I could do anything I set out to achieve.

Strong women in business such as Karren Brady have accomplished so much and I admire her dedication and success, but I also have great appreciation for all women succeeding in just about any field. Kris Hallenga for her incredible charity CoppaFeel, and my good friend Toni Cornhill for starting up her own soft play business Cheeky Tots while being a full-time mum. I applaud anyone who is passionate for what they do and who gives 100% to strive to reach their goals.

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

Actually no. I’ve only ever not been offered a job because I had no experience of working with politicians. So all in all I’ve been quite lucky, I guess all the others have gone quite well.

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

Focus on your career path and understand that the journey from where you are to where you want to be can’t always be as quickly travelled as the crow flies. Patience and resilience is needed to become a successful leader.

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

Research, explore and experience as much as you can. Don’t pigeon hole yourself and embrace the diversity of the working world. Follow your instinct when you find something you want to get out of bed for in the morning and don’t let anyone tell you what you want to do is impossible.

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

After a busy day I like to expend some of the built-up energy by running or cycling it out the system. I also love nothing more than going out for a nice meal with friends, getting lost in a great movie or just put my feet up and have a good cuppa.

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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