14 Career Lessons with Marcella Seegoolam

14 Career Lessons with Marcella Seegoolam

Successful careers come in all shapes and sizes – something Total Management Group’s head of global events Marcella Seegoolam knows only too well. While her job has taken her to the south of France and New York, and seen her put together events for A listers from Alicia Keys to Samuel L. Jackson, the lessons she’s learned along the way are something we can all benefit from…

In any career, a strong work ethic is crucial. My mother, who is of Persian heritage, is very traditional and strongly believes in higher education, while my father was completely self-made. Born in Mauritius, he left the island in his late teens to pursue the dream of a better life in the UK, working to build his own small business so he could continue to travel the world. They let me follow my own path but taught me hard work was everything.
Deep down you know what’s right for you and what isn’t. I started my career working for a car manufacturer. The salary was good but I quickly realised it was all sales and no soul, and was numbing my creative drive and aspirations. After three years, I resigned, moved to Manchester and helped out a couple of friends who were opening a boutique. I helped with the marketing, PR and store launch; it was my first taste of planning and piecing together an event and later that year I enrolled at Greenwich University to study event management.
In this digital world, picking up the phone can make a difference. The summer after my second year at university, I was researching companies I’d like to work for and called Total Management Group (TMG), the first name on my list. I firmly believe taking the time to track down the right person and make that call made all the difference in getting a one-month internship at the company I still work for today.  
Don’t let your preconceived ideas hold you back. From being a student four years older than the rest of my university class, to reporting to someone two years younger than me, I never let my pride get the better of me.

At TMG, three out of five of the leadership team are women, including our CEO, and I’m a woman of colour, which is something I'm really proud of.

Whatever your industry, creative thinking is crucial. Anyone who’s been involved in a start-up will know it requires wearing multiple hats, that the initial lack of structure and constant change isn't for the faint hearted. As a perfectionist, some moments felt frustrating but I had to learn to step back from a situation and realise not everything runs perfectly all the time. Instead, it’s about learning from these moments, finding a solution and accepting that sometimes your best is enough. 
Don’t overlook the opportunities that working for a small business can offer. When you work for a growing company, the level of involvement is second to none. Your ability to work so closely with senior management provides invaluable experience, and the opportunity to progress quickly is there if you want it. But you’ll only get out of it what you put in, or at least, that’s the ethos instilled in you at TMG. I’ve been allowed to work on a range of projects and hone skills that were outside of my remit, whether it was helping create a bespoke hospitality village at one of the world’s biggest music festivals, working with clients in Cannes during the film festival or supporting the launch of our New York office.

Try not to be overly influenced by the glitz and glamour of any particular industry. It’s certainly not a word I’d use to describe this job. As event organisers, we’re the masters of behind-the-scenes – so anyone thinking I look as preened as J-Lo in The Wedding Planner can think again. The reality is that, you have to get a bit messy to make something really magical and all jobs involve some tedious tasks. If the reward outweighs the graft, you’re probably in the right place.
Remember to stop and celebrate your achievements. Landing Alicia Keys to perform at an intimate dinner on a rooftop overlooking the NYC skyline was worth the drama of getting our team to hand lift her baby grand piano up five flights of stairs in an old Brooklyn warehouse. There was also the time we converted an old airplane hangar on the outskirts of Amsterdam into an intimate party location, while also hiding the surprise performer of the night – Rita Ora – in a traditional canal boat, which doubled up as her green room. And the time we threw a party on a luxury yacht for a private client. It was one of my first international events: we had 24 hours to get to the South of France and set up a Tim Burton inspired Alice In Wonderland theme – all with a production team who barely spoke any English. DJ Cassidy had under 30 minutes to rehearse, and we were trying to stop anyone finding out there was a party with guests like Magic Johnson, Samuel L Jackson and Joan Collins just metres away.

If you can, always have a backup plan for your backup plan. That said, sometimes no amount of planning or rehearsal can prepare you for the unexpected.

If you can, always have a backup plan for your backup plan. That said, sometimes no amount of planning or rehearsal can prepare you for the unexpected. When it does happen, ownership and teamwork are crucial. It’s how you handle a problem that your client remembers.
Success tends to come with compromise. Ask my friends and family… I’m the one surgically attached to my phone. I have found ways to switch off but I don’t fixate on the concept. The nature of what I do means I have to be accessible to my clients and my team. Being a part of senior management also adds an extra layer of responsibility. I’ve invested in regular hypnotherapy sessions because my mind is my biggest asset. Keeping it healthy enables you to make better decisions at home and at work, which will have a positive impact on your day to day life.

Good values in the business you work for are key. Things like the coronavirus crisis teach you the importance of hard work. It’s been so crucial to ensure communication, productivity, motivation and creativity remain really high right now. Thankfully, the family values at the core of TMG have helped keep the heart of the company alive and make it worthwhile.
Being part of a diverse workforce benefits everyone. It also sends a really strong message – not just to the rest of your team, but to other companies and competitors. At TMG, three out of five of the leadership team are women, including our CEO. Furthermore, a mix of cultures and backgrounds offers different perspectives, which is reflected in our work, and benefits the whole company.
It really is possible for women to have whichever slice of the pie they want. If you look around you, there are so many women out there to admire. I’ve been incredibly fortunate to be surrounded by all types of women from different walks of life, many of whom are making serious strides in their field. My girlfriends are a huge part of my life and I look up to them immensely, mainly to make sure I’ve got my hands on the wheel. And I’d be doing TMG a disservice if I didn’t say I really admire my CEO and MD, too. They really represent a true partnership.
Always think about the lasting impression you’re making. I hope the people I’ve worked with will remember me as someone who was kind and had integrity. You don’t need to put others down to raise yourself up. It is possible to shine a light on other people’s work without dimming your own. Remember, you’re only as good as the people around you, so if you see someone falling, try to help them up.


Visit Total-Management.com or follow @MarcellaMJS

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