Meet Mary Connell, winner of bucket list trip to Ireland

Mary started in the Business Events industry almost 30 years ago, working initially in Sales Administration before an opening became available for a Meeting & Trade Show Coordinator. She actively campaigned for the job, enlisting support from colleagues who knew the hiring manager. Although not his first choice, she was so passionate about the opportunity that she was offered the job.

She has had many unofficial mentors throughout her life and career but calls out her mother, at 95, as her primary inspiration to keep moving forward in spite of obstacles and setbacks.  Mary’s Mom reads 2-3 books a week and does the NY Times crossword puzzle in pen. What a legend!

Professionally, she says she has learned so much from colleagues, vendor partners and corporate and industry leaders. She also finds inspiration from junior members of her team; their fresh perspective bringing renewed enthusiasm!  She spent about 3 years as a CSM at a conference center in New York, the back-of-house experience giving her a deeper understanding of the business model and heightening her appreciation of the hard and mostly thankless work that takes place behind the scenes to create a successful client experience.  When she returned to the corporate side, she was a much better client. 

Mary is an avid believer in lifelong learning and took advantage of a very generous tuition reimbursement program and a time in her career when she was not traveling extensively to return to school. She loved the experience overall, but felt very old when she realized a classmate was the son of a couple she went to high school with.

Mary joined SITE this year with some very specific objectives in mind. Her company is broadening how they think about employee incentives and are increasingly recognizing the importance of rewards in building company culture and increasing employee engagement and productivity. “I want to be sure I’m learning everything that’s new in this space. SITE is a well-regarded organization to join in order to reintroduce myself to the world of incentive travel. I look forward to having the opportunity to network with like-minded professionals and develop new relationships”, she said.

Post-Covid, Mary looks forward to immersing herself more and more in the world of incentives and will rely on SITE colleagues to help her navigate the way forward. In the immediate term, she thinks domestic will be the norm for incentives, but there will be pent-up demand for international destinations. “Honestly, it will heavily depend upon how effective we are as a global community in vaccinating the world’s population”, she commented.

We asked Mary about a particularly memorable incentive trip and she recalled how an endangered sea mammal beached itself at their incentive resort on Kauai to rest for a few days. “We asked our guests to be very quiet so as not to stress it.  It was about 25 yards from where we were to set up fireworks for our final night event. Fortunately, he rolled back into the sea a few hours before dinner. And cue the fireworks…”

Like many of us, Mary’s priorities when it comes to relaxation change somewhat as a result of the pandemic. Now, she says, she appreciates even more the time spent with family and friends. She’s also thrilled to be fully vaxxed and says it feels like freedom!  She took up hiking this year, but also enjoys cycling, golf, sailing, beach, spa… 

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She’ll have ample opportunity to indulge in some, or even all, of these pursuits when she takes her bucket list trip to Ireland, a country she has legacy connections with as a proud member of the Connell clan!

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Meet Mary Connell, winner of bucket list trip to Ireland