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Alumni Spotlight: Kayla Baker

Alumni Spotlight Kayla Baker

Kayla finished her degree in the Fall of 2018.

To Kayla, it doesn't feel like it was that long ago that she was part of the COMM Week 2018 Task Force. Two years later, she was asked to be a featured speaker.

Kayla Baker finished her degree with an emphasis in Entertainment in the Fall of 2018 and walked in May 2019. She currently works as a lifestyle coordinator for First Service Residential Property Management. As a local girl from Lake Forest, Kayla was glad that COMM Week 2020 was able to pivot virtually instead of cancel due to the Coronavirus pandemic. It's the first time in COMM Week's 42 year history that the long running event wasn't held in person. Kayla happily contributed her own instructional video in order to help the COMM Week 2020 task force as well as current students. She was a perfect candidate to be featured in this edition of Alumni Spotlight Q&A.

As a lifestyle coordinator, for those who may not know what that is, how would you kind of describe to people what your job is like and what you do on a daily basis?

Yeah. I would say the difference kind of between the terms event coordinator and lifestyle coordinator is though my job is to put on events, it's a little bit more than that because I work for a property management company. We are in charge of the lifestyle that these residents are experiencing. As I'm putting on events for these communities such as concerts, pool events, casino nights, barbecue cook outs, it is creating a lifestyle and the culture of our company, and it's just a little bit more than just hosting events. We want to make sure that our residents are happy, that they live and feel connected with the community.

When COMM week asked you to come back and speak to share your professional experiences, how would you describe your reaction? Did you ever think that you'd be coming back so quickly after leaving school?

I was so beyond excited when I got the message on LinkedIn just because I have personally worked for COMM week. Part of my heart is with COMM week, so I was so excited. I feel very connected and close with COMM week since I worked it, so I was so beyond honored and excited and I'm so bummed that we had to do it virtually, but I'm still very blessed and excited.

I was surprised at how quickly I climbed out of graduating. I did an internship because it's required to graduate, and within a couple of weeks of working there they asked me to work part-time because they saw how much I contributed to the company. Within that, I graduated and I stayed with the company. It was Till Dawn Group. They are an event planning company and they do all different types of events from birthday parties, music events, weddings, college events, corporate events, etc. It was a really great experience. I got to do a lot of hands on, lots of different kinds of events, all very unique and different.

With my skills and my leadership and my loyalty to the company, they gave me kind of created their own position for me. I had marketing skills, I had event planning skills, I had sales skills. I kind of wore a bunch of different hats within the company. The title became operations manager, and so I was there for about almost two years. As I enjoyed and I loved what I did, I was also kind of seeing what else is out there because it is a small company and I felt like I'm already at the operations manager, I'm kind of ready for something bigger.

Because I started off as as an intern, it's a small company. It was the perfect first steps to kind of getting into bigger companies, bigger corporations, kind of the grown up world. When I first started applying places and doing interviews, I was definitely very intimidated cause I was shooting my shot with like Irvine company. I was doing Disneyland. I was applying for really big companies and so it was a big step. Three interviews later and a lot of practice and a lot of studying, I am very thankful that I gained a very good job with First Service Residential. Yeah. I didn't expect that to happen so quick, but I am very excited and I was very happy to talk about it at COMM week.

First time in the 42 year history that COMM week has gone virtual. What were your thoughts on COMM week going virtual for the first time in its history and how would you kind of describe the experience of contributing a video to participate virtually?

Yeah. I was definitely bummed obviously. I mean, this pandemic is no fun and we're all adjusting to different changes right now. I was very interested to see how they were going to go about doing it virtual. I'm very glad that they didn't just cancel it. Obviously, it's a bummer cause I would've been so excited to go back on campus and I would have loved to have more of that connection, the face to face interaction with anyone that wanted to come speak to me after and networking as well, but I think that COMM week did a very good job of promoting the virtual COMM week.

I love how they did it live. They made it very exciting. Obviously, I feel like it's definitely harder to get people to join cause I feel like everyone's kind of going through a lot right now. When I experienced COMM week two years ago, we were on campus and we were letting everyone know that would pass by around us and it was very obvious of what COMM week was. I was very curious to see how it was going to go this year, but I think you guys did a very good job.

What advice would you give to students who were interested in getting a position in the event planning industry?

The first one is definitely just network and knowledge. Network by joining clubs and getting involved and knowing your professors cause your professors know people. Unfortunately as they say, it's all about connections. That's not necessarily always true, but it's definitely a factor. The more people you meet, the more you learn from them, the more you have opportunity, always the chance for more opportunities, so definitely networking, getting involved, and then knowledge is just doing internships, joining a club, applying for a position within that club or organization because then you gain leadership skills and you gain all these other skills that will prepare you for the real world.

My second piece of advice was prepare for your interviews. I know a lot of people that just try to go in there and wing it, and some people can do that. They totally can and they just have the natural skill, but what has really, really benefited me with my journey to find what a corporate adult job was preparing for my interviews.

I would literally, like a homework assignment, I would go to the website. I would copy and paste their mission statement, what they're looking for, information about the company, do all the research I can about the company, printout the job description and all of the qualifications that they're looking for it. I'd print that out. I do like highlighting of certain buzzwords and things that I know that I have experience in. I also have a template of situations already lined up when they ask me, give me a time where you handled a hard client or a hard situation or give me an example of great customer service. It's really good to have all of these questions in your back pocket and know what you're going to say and make sure you say it in a way that the company will hear you and see the benefit in you. Definitely just preparing for your interviews, literally like you're preparing for a test because it has changed so much for me.