Straight from a CSEP: Gwendolyn McNutt, CSEP


Originally posted on Experience ILEA on Thursday, May 10, 2018

A CSEP (Certified Special Events Professional) designation reflects the caliber and skills of industry experts worldwide. The program was developed to not only elevate industry standards, but also to advance the careers of practitioners in a competitive events landscape. As part of our Straight from a CSEP series, we started asking current CSEPs about the long-term career benefits of their designations. Keep reading to find out how ILEA member Gwendolyn McNutt has taken advantage of her CSEP as an events professional.

ILEA: What are your specific roles and responsibilities as regional external affairs manager at Comcast?

Gwendolyn McNutt (GM): As regional external affairs manager, I help to lead community impact programs and events for the greater Chicago region, which includes Illinois, Northwest Indiana and Southwest Michigan. I manage a number of events each year; however, two key events include our annual volunteer day of service (Comcast Cares Day) featuring more than 6,500 volunteers and 75 project locations, and our annual Leaders and Achievers Scholarship Luncheon, honoring graduating high school seniors for their academic, community service and leadership achievements with a one-time $1,000 scholarship. The 2018 luncheon will be held in June and honor 175 scholarship recipients. In addition, I also participate in sponsorship planning and negotiation, program marketing, partnership and relationship management, and budget management.

ILEA: How do you use your CSEP designation in your current role at Comcast?

GM: I’m very confident that I use my CSEP designation in some way each day in my current role. Because the designation requires me to stay abreast of industry trends and maintain my professional development through continuous education, I am constantly learning new skills and knowledge to take back to my job and demonstrate what I’ve learned to my employer. In addition, I am able to create new protocol or processes and implement them into my events. It is also demonstrated by the professional network I have developed through my CSEP contacts and vendors that support my current event schedule.

ILEA: Can you give a specific example of how your CSEP designation has advanced your career?

GM: I absolutely believe that the CSEP designation makes you more marketable as an event professional. It helps to increase and validate your skills and competency, as well as brings you into a broader network of like-minded professionals.

Earning my CSEP has helped me demonstrate to others that I have a commitment to the events industry. The CSEP helped me to significantly boost my industry knowledge, and I was able to put those skills to use immediately. After taking the CSEP exam, I was able to continually demonstrate to my employer and colleagues that I have a broad understanding of the events industry. In addition, it has also provided me with access to new professional colleagues and more tools, resources and educational opportunities.

ILEA: What factors motivated you to apply for your CSEP?

GM: When I decided to join a professional association, I looked for one that could not only offer networking, but also provide professional development opportunities. Since I knew at some point I wanted to obtain a certification, I also researched which exam would be the most appropriate one for me to pursue. My motivation to sit for the exam was a combination of professional development, advancing my industry knowledge and continuing education. I have continued to maintain my certification because it not only adds legitimacy to our field, but it also encourages me to stay abreast of industry trends.

ILEA: For those professionals who are considering applying, please talk about the doors that this designation can open/opportunities it can create.

GM: By taking the CSEP exam, you are joining a select group of individuals who have demonstrated that they are competent and skilled event professionals, with a broad understanding of the industry as a whole. It has provided me with an additional professional edge, connected me with industry resources and opened doors to better employment opportunities. Earning my CSEP has also helped me to stay on top of industry trends and maintain my professional development through constant review and education.

ILEA: What is the one piece of advice you would suggest to someone who is pursuing this designation?

GM: The best piece of advice that I could offer to someone pursuing the CSEP is to stop stalling and take the exam! And don’t let fear of the unknown stop you from getting your CSEP designation. Sitting for the CSEP exam was one of the most challenging, but also one of the most rewarding and gratifying things I’ve ever done. It also gave me the opportunity to expand my professional network and meet some wonderful event industry professionals, with whom I have been able to build and maintain lasting relationships. Certification not only advances the industry, but it also encourages and recognizes your professional achievement.

Gwendolyn McNutt, is a Certified Special Events Professional (CSEP) with over 25 years of experience. She holds both bachelor’s and master’s degrees in communication, and her experience includes successful meeting and event planning of events for up to 7,000 attendees in both corporate and nonprofit sectors. In addition, she has served in several capacities for the ILEA, including the Greater Chicago Board of Directors, international board committees and as ILEA International Conference Education Committee Chair in 2007. She is currently serving as a director on the ILEA International Board of Governors.

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