BABE #248: ALANNA HURLBERT - Senior Event Coordinator, JAX Chamber
As the senior events coordinator for the JAX Chamber, Alanna oversees event coordination at all levels, from budgeting, branding and creative brainstorming to securing locations and speakers, creating disaster plans, and every other spontaneous role that pops up when she least expects it. When she’s not running events or volunteering with other local organizations she’s passionate about, she can be found teaching dance classes to Jacksonville’s youth. Her commitment to serving our community is something to aspire to, and we’re excited to see what’s next on her agenda.
Hometown: Jacksonville, North Carolina
Current city: Jacksonville, Florida
Alma mater: N/A
Degree: Future business management grad with a minor in leadership
Very first job: Nail salon receptionist
Hustle: Senior Event Coordinator, JAX Chamber; Dance Instructor
Babe you admire and why?
The babe who taught me to embrace the imbalanced and messy parts of life: Rachel Hollis. I admire her multidisciplinary mindset most. She knows self-care is important, but is able to switch gears to grind when there’s a deadline or goal in sight. She’s also insanely glamourous, but embodies beast mode when it’s time to work out in the gym. Rachel, if you’re reading this: thank you.
How do you spend your free time?
Spending time with my fiancé (cue wedding bells), listening to Eric Thomas lectures and obviously watching reruns of “The Office.”
Current power anthem?
“Moon / Sun,” by Trevor Hall.
What would you eat for your very last meal?
Buffalo boneless wings, and don’t skimp me on the ranch, please and thank you.
What’s something you want to learn?
Two words: Public. Speaking. My hands got sweaty just thinking about it.
If you could have coffee with anyone in the world, who would it be?
Easy! Alan Watts. There’s no limit to what we’d discuss. I’d kill to pick his brain over a cup of joe.
What’s something most don’t know about you?
Sugar-overload coffee aside, I actually hate sweets. I literally never ate my birthday cake as a kid and still don’t plan to.
Tell us about your hustle.
Event planning is often a misunderstood field—we don’t just plan parties. Yes, my job at the JAX Chamber includes everything from travel to cocktail receptions, but there are also detailed budgets, disaster plans and event branding in the mix, too. Our events are anywhere from corporate, purely social or somewhere in-between. My job includes coordinating every single detail of the event: the big-picture things like program development, speaker selection, meeting location and the logistics and production pieces, but also down to the minuscule stuff like how many trash cans we’ll need at an event. I’m basically prepared for anything.
What does your typical workday look like?
All the hats! I have the project manager hat, where I’m responsible for all of the nitty-gritty details, the execution of those details and monitoring all processes involved. Then there’s the hat of a creative director (my personal fave) where I come up with unique creative concepts from decor, entertainment, collateral, vendors, etc. Next we have the budget and sponsorship officer hat (my number-one job) where I meet/exceed sponsorship goals and make sure I’m hovering over our numbers so we stay within our assigned budget. (Not to forget the marketing hat, the customer service hat—the list goes on.)
Tell us about your role as a dance teacher.
I haven’t been out of a dance studio since I first started at the age of 3. I never had the dream of growing up and becoming a professional dancer, but I wanted to be on the other side of the equation, pouring into the hearts of the younger generation. I wanted to remind these girls you can do and be whoever you want to be before the world tells you differently. When I teach, I’m aware the student is the brave one in the room, who doesn’t know what’s coming next and yet decides to commit to the experience. It’s inspiring to see my students flaunt their quirks and embrace challenges without fear. Surrounding myself with this childlike energy reminds me it’s OK to not always be in control and to freely be myself, both in what I create and how I present myself as a woman. Dance is definitely an under-appreciated art and it’s almost impossible to make a living at it, so I’d love to see more people gain a sense of respect towards those who are doing it, because those who are make the choice to be here. I choose to be here (despite the cruddy paychecks and jam-packed schedule) and we make time for the things we value. Teaching is a practice of bonding with people. I’m here to train and develop pupils in all styles of dance, while building genuine and loving connections with my students, in a positive classroom environment which supports their learning and improvement—while having a few giggles along the way.
What’s been your biggest career milestone to date?
Two promotions in two years. And here’s why: I’m honestly proud of the hard work I’ve put in over the years. I came into this position with no connections, little college and less than a year of real work experience. All I had was the determination to succeed and a smile to show the hard work wasn’t killing me. But it was worth it, because as I grew personally, so did my title, my responsibilities and connections. I never would’ve guessed, especially the day I started, that I’d be in the position I am today. My confidence grew as my fears shrunk, and now I play a vital role in a company that took a chance on a girl who had everything to learn. Never give in to the imposter syndrome.
How has being a woman affected your professional experience?
Young professionals like myself deal with the double-whammy of being a woman and being “young.” A lot of people sleep on us and underestimate our potential. Let’s use it as hustle fuel to continue to show up, show out and shut down! A woman like this can’t be ignored in the industry.
What’s one of the biggest obstacles you’ve faced in your work? How’d you overcome it?
There was a time where the responsibilities of a three-person department rested solely on my shoulders. I was in uncharted territory, but I couldn’t back down because I knew I was juggling the expectations of coworkers, sponsors, vendors and event attendees. I remember working overtime to teach myself the things I didn’t know. This came at a time when I had not yet found my voice, nor the confidence to speak up and be heard. In short, my lack of experience was showing. I felt silenced by my own fears, and I struggled to be an effective communicator, even with the heightened responsibilities. But I didn’t let this get the best of me. I stepped up to the plate and I didn’t just manage expectations of our department, I maintained them. I adapted to the circumstance and overcame the fears of what my peers thought of me. I embraced the unknown and uncomfortable parts of a role I was thrown into and I made a success of a trying situation. During the toughest time in my career, I became an indispensable asset to my company and gained the respect of those who thought I wouldn’t pull through.
Are you involved with any other careers, side projects or organizations?
Indeed! Volunteerism is at the top of my to-do list because giving back to the community is extremely fulfilling. I’ve had the pleasure of working with two organizations for the past two years, giving back through service and dance. One organization, Empowerment Resources, hosts the “Journey into Womanhood” (JIW) program, which is a 25-week rites of passage program that seeks to address issues young girls often face, such as low self-esteem, addiction, trauma, poor decision-making, etc. and seeks to address those issues. They pair each girl with an accomplished female leader who provides social, academic and emotional support. I had the pleasure to mentor two young girls, and served as talent director for their graduation banquet from the program. The second organization, DNA Unique, is an all-girls sleepover hosted by Police Athletic League of Jacksonville (JaxPAL) in partnership with Generation W to host a night of WOWsdom for the girls! Again, I served as talent director where I choreographed the opening dance number for the volunteers. I spent the remainder of the night serving as a chaperone and helped mold spirits of power and love in the hearts of 200 girls. If there is anything my time with these organizations has taught me, it’s that if service is beneath you, then leadership is beyond you.
Career and/or life advice for other babes?
We often spend so much time thinking about ourselves and our own hustles that we often forget life is so much sweeter when we die to ourselves and put others first. Hold the door without expecting a thank you, leave a colleague a note of encouragement, buy someone a coffee—step outside of yourself and be a team player because we rise by lifting others. And, drink water!
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