Jennifer Tosich, discusses how her career aspirations in event management and PR resulted in taking home the 2018 Best Organised Event award as an executive assistant at Virgin Australia.
With this edition’s focus on the event management aspect of the EA role, there was no one better to speak to than Jennifer Tosich. With an incredible portfolio of events in her resume, Jennifer is living proof that EAs are not only great at their day-to-day role, but are also stand-out event organisers.
Jennifer had an unconventional start to her career in the executive support profession; her early plans more similar to a budding journalist or marketeer than an EA. After a year spent travelling aligned her focus, Jennifer decided to pursue an education in the world of PR, events and journalism.
“I went to a business college. That was a year-long course that focused on the PR and journalism side of things, which really suited me in terms of the way I studied and learnt,” Jennifer explains, “then I started an internship at a small agency, doing PR there.”
Ready to jump into a career in communications, Jennifer’s first job sent her down an unexpected but promising path. It was when she was working as both an EA and PR Consultant at a small health-based agency in Balmain, Sydney, Jennifer discovered that the support position gave her access to every part of the business and gave her the opportunity to ‘get her hands dirty’.
“I think being in a small company to start with was really great because you were exposed to everything.”
Five years later, Jennifer was working as an EA to the CEO of global corporate communications company, Weber Shandwick & Jack Morton.
“Being an EA was just a natural step in my career development. I was there for two years and I learned so much. It was a global agency, so you had so much more exposure to brands, clients and meatier work.”
“I got the two year itch and a role came up at Coca-Cola Amatil in their corporate comms team. I went there and loved it! It was in a public affairs space in a big company, which I think is the best place to work in (especially as an EA) because
you are across the whole business, you work
side-by-side with the CEO and know everything that’s happening—as opposed to just being stuck in the marketing or sales area where you’re not across it all.”
It was at Coca-Cola Amatil where the event management aspect of the role started to form for Jennifer. “That’s when the events side of things really came into it. I was doing all the internal events, financial results, Christmas parties, all that sort of stuff.”
But, coming from a background in the bubbly world of communications, Coca-Cola Amatil’s stricter corporate environment was a bit hard to adjust to.
“It was very corporate, like working in a bank. It was a culture shock, but a really great learning experience as well. There are always lessons to be learned when you are exposed to new company cultures.”
After two years at Coca-Cola Amatil, a role at Virgin Australia caught Jennifer’s eye—and the rest was history. The team, energy and work as EA to the Chief Experience Officer at Virgin Australia fit Jennifer’s professional profile like a glove.
“I really do feel like I have the world’s best job! I’m lucky to do international events, I get to travel with the CEO and meet high-profile people. It’s a really fun environment, but it’s really hard work. It’s 24/7 working in the public affairs space for an airline, but I’m really grateful and I feel like I’m in the small minority of people that really do love their job.”
Now a senior-level EA and bona fide event manager, Jennifer has managed, coordinated and organised events of all shapes and sizes, but her crowning ‘event-achievement’ (at the time of our conversation) was organising an exclusive cocktail party for VIPs arriving on Virgin Australia’s inaugural flight from Melbourne to Hong Kong.
With elements both in Australia and Hong Kong, a guest list that would make any event organiser break into a sweat, and a three month lead time, the pressure was on.
“We found out that we were launching our inaugural flight from Melbourne to Hong Kong. The inaugural is where we have the whole business class cabin booked out with our CEO, politicians and high-profile international media.”
“We knew that we would be doing a press conference that morning before the flight took off, so my involvement in that was organising the press conference from scratch. There are so many logistical challenges when working with an airport—security and things like that.”
“We had Richard Branson pop up and surprise the media, so we knew that was going to be our moment. I managed the logistics for that. I was also looking after everyone’s travel and accommodation, the more ‘adminy’ sort of stuff.”
“Then it was how we engaged with our Hong Kong side, who we were going to use over there. I reached out to a few hotels. We obviously wanted a really luxury experience that was also on brand.”
“It was all a fly-in-fly-out kind of thing. It’s two days, people don’t want to have to get in cars and travel. We decided on The Peninsula Hotel, which is an amazing venue.”
“My inbox never got back to normal after that. There were daily emails from so many people! We were just trying to work out how to bring the event to life. Any VIP cocktail event needs to stand out from the rest, the entertainment is important and is what would give us the wow-factor. It was tying it all together, knowing we had a tight time frame. I actually wasn’t on the inaugural flight, I flew in the day before to be there when they arrived and to do the bump-in.”
After climbing over language barriers with her counterparts in Hong Kong, dealing with delayed flights, mustering media and coordinating culinary celebrities, Jennifer was able to reflect on an incredibly successful event.
“We were on the front pages of papers the next morning in Hong Kong. I got a personal email from our CEO saying how wonderful it was. Richard Branson gave feedback to my boss saying how wonderful it was.”
Now, with more events in the pipeline and a high-level CEO to support, Jennifer looks forward to a long future at Virgin Australia.
“I wouldn’t ever want to leave Virgin. It’s such an amazing company. I’m lucky to have an amazing boss. I get the experience working with the executive team and having that exposure to what’s going on in the business, yet I get to do all this really fun stuff.”
Reading this far, it might be easy to think that Jennifer has been lucky to find a role that fits so well. But, as Jennifer says, it’s more about elbow grease and determination than good fortune.
“I don’t want to say I’ve been lucky in my career, it all comes down to hard work and taking chances. In this day and age it’s quite common to chop and change jobs. This is my longest and I’ve been here for four years. I think you shouldn’t be scared of change, it’s going to challenge you and help you develop your career.”
Virgin Australia is one of Australia’s largest airlines. Initially offering seven return flights a day between Brisbane and Sydney back in 2000, the airline now services all major Australian cities, and over 50 destinations both overseas and domestic. www.virginaustralia.com