Christie Springer – Chicago Hospitality Professional of the Month (August 2017)August 28th, 2017 | hereschicago
First and foremost, can you tell us your current position, company and describe what you do?
I’m incredibly happy to be part of the Sodexo team, exclusive Catering and Events partner of the landmark Museum of Science and Industry. I primarily work with the corporate and convention markets, with some social in the mix – groups up to 12,000! My role spans the sales process from full scale event planning through day-of execution. Key elements include all Catering, Event Design and Logistics and Museum Experiences. I’m fortunate that I can utilize my accumulated skills to create world-class events for our clients. Any time I can combine history, architecture, science, food, drinks, décor, entertainment and more into one event…I know I’ve landed in the right place!
What aspects of hospitality do you incorporate in your business today?
Hospitality begins the moment I walk through the door each morning, starting with our internal clients at MSI. Essentially in this biz, we are always “on”, as opportunities come from all angles. I approach my day with a keen awareness that many everyday interactions have the potential to introduce me to new contacts or even potential clients. It’s not just about answering the phone with a smile or shaking hands while making eye contact. It’s about developing connections with the people around you by being genuinely open.
Where did your hospitality career begin and when was that “aha” moment when you knew you were supposed to be in hospitality as a career?
In the early days, hospitality was a smaller portion of my job; it included internal & external corporate events and tradeshow planning. It wasn’t my main focus, but one I thoroughly enjoyed and found that I was good at. Later, my passion for the Floral industry took hold. Yes – I was actually the Bride that said “I can do this”…and I did!! I hit up my wedding florist for a job which morphed from Event Floral Sales to Wedding Coordinating at a small venue. As so many of us in this industry do, I eventually crossed into other segments including the DMC world, restaurants and cultural destinations.
How many years have you been in the hospitality business?
Nearly 18 years across multiple segments
Why do you feel you were chosen to be hospitality professional of the month? What would your friends say about you if they were nominating you?
I was so thrilled when Mr. Grillo presented this to me. My first thought was that he must be scraping the barrel (haha!). As I reflected on the Movers & Shakers of our amazing industry, I was very humbled to be considered among those ranks. The word passionate can be so over-used, but it’s the best way I can describe my joy of and dedication to this industry. I believe that, along with surrounding myself with other passionate professionals, has led me to the successes I’ve shared.
What qualities to you feel a person needs to excel as hospitality professional?
You have to truly love working with people and helping to create experiences that make them shine. Really, everything we do in our industry is to make others feel or look good. A healthy sense of humor and love of wine certainly helps too!
What kinds of things really make you laugh?
Seeing other people laugh is one of my favorite feelings in the world. Laughter really is contagious and when I’m surrounded by it, I can pay it forward. And if that doesn’t work, I just trip over something and make myself laugh.
What’s your favorite place in the entire world?
My mom and dad’s front porch.
What’s your biggest goal in life right now?
Nothing lofty – I just want to continue to enjoy my life and my career. I’m on the path I want to be on.
What is your favorite way to spend a Saturday?
Lazy morning drinking coffee with my cats while reading for a few hours. Later some sunshine and herb gardening followed by Jeff making dinner while I drink wine and listen to albums (on vinyl that is).
Do you have any pet peeves?
Ummm….yeah but my fingers will get tired of typing.
What were you like as a kid?
I was mostly described as a tom boy, as I loved playing football, climbing trees and terrorizing my little brothers. As I got a little older I became more girly and found my love of theatre and dances. I was always an A student…mainly because I liked showing off. J
What type of events you plan?
Because the spaces at MSI are so varied, we can accommodate anything from small daytime meetings to full Museum buyouts. So I get to work on a wide range of events including product launches, galas, awards presentations, weddings, fundraisers, client appreciation events, university graduations, high school proms, opening/closing receptions, holiday parties, conferences, and so forth. The variety is incredible and I’m always learning something new.
What type of music do you love?
I truly have a very vast and eclectic taste in music. Different genres and eras offer something integral to my place and feelings at any given moment. Music is essential to my happiness. Give me Classic Rock, 80’s Hair bands, Reggae, Rat Pack, Baroque Opera, Country Gold, Traditional Irish, Show Tunes, Bluegrass, Blues, Gospel, Heavy Metal, Classical, Folk, Roots, Bubblegum Oldies, Psychedelic, Big Band, Rap…to name a few.
What do you love about planning events in Chicago?
That they’re in Chicago. I LOVE my city and continue to happily call Chicago home for many of the same reasons that make Event Planning in our city so desirable and rewarding. Chicago boasts the best of the best in Culture and Leisure: Restaurants, Museums, Theatres, Parks, Clubs, Attractions, Tours, Shopping, Boating and a multitude of other great experiences.
What is your favorite restaurant or bar (Personally)?
Oh so many and always evolving! My go-to favorite is still the Kit Kat Lounge.
Have you ever sung karaoke? If so, what song?
Ahhhh, yes. I’m really bad at it but love it anyway. My stand by is “Devil Went Down to Georgia”
What does it take to be a successful even planner?
A lot of success in this industry is the result of paying your proverbial dues. I’m a firm believer in learning from the ground up – grunt work first to gain a foundation. Serve food, tie highboys, advance the motor coach… All these things create the experience one needs to truly become a valuable and reliable planner.
What are you passionate about?
Traveling, dining, music, animals, my convertible and studying ancient civilizations.
What do you recommend for others who want to get into the hospitality profession?
First – check out the resources on the Here’s Chicago website – get to know some of the players. Then sign up for newsletters and start attending networking events to meet people and ask questions. There are multiple industry organizations, hotel groups, restaurant groups, publications, etc. that offer complimentary events. We love to talk about the industry and many of us have moved between multiple segments…so there is a wealth of knowledge at any given networking event. Another invaluable reference is ChooseChicago.com
Do you have any Association affiliations?
MPI-CAC, former co-chair of the Holiday Party Committee and Annual Awards Gala Committee
NACE – Marketing / PR Chair
Are you a Cubs or Sox fan?
Oh boy…I’m admitting it. I’m really not much of a baseball fan, but I do love attending games for the sunshine, beer and camaraderie. I’m really a Chicago fan so am happy when Cubs or Sox win!
What’s your go-to meal when you’re home alone?
A huge spoon of peanut butter and a glass of fruity red wine. Kind of an adult PB&J.
Which book(s) have you read multiple times?
Gone With the Wind and Fingerprints of the Gods
What’s on your bucket list?
More traveling! Egypt, the Greek Islands, New Zealand, Iceland, St. Petersburg, Scotland, Peru, Vietnam, Jordan, South Africa, Prague, Budapest, Vienna, Costa Rica…and so much more!
What’s the most embarrassing moment you’ve had?
Right…like I’m going to admit it here?! Well ok…I was at my desk in a broom closet of an office I shared with three other colleagues. I was sitting in a typical office chair with wheels, typing away. The blue screen of death came on and in my frustration, I pushed back from the desk rather emphatically, and while rolling backwards, the chair tipped over, I landed on my back (in a skirt!) with my legs stuck in the legs of the chair so I looked like a tipped over turtle.
What was your First concert?
Rick Springfield, Ciao Tour, 1985!
If you had to go back to school or learn a new skill, what would you want to learn?
I’d learn more languages – perhaps Russian and French.
What are your thoughts about Hereschicago.com?
I’ve been attending HeresChicago.com events for over 10 years, and I’ve used the website repeatedly as an invaluable industry resource. Jim’s expansion of HC over the years has continuously aided and improved my venue and supplier knowledge. HC has its finger on the pulse of the industry trends – the people, places and products that we interact with, not to mention just keeping up with everything going on around town! Thinking back on all the various events and opportunities to learn and network, it’s clear how much I attribute to HC. Jim’s vision, growth and response to evolving industry needs is truly impressive; I’m glad I’m along for the ride.