Industry Profile: SIA Assoc. Director of Trade Mktg & Member Svcs Mary Cecile “MC” Neville
07 Jul, 2009
Shay: So tell us about yourself?
MC: I’m never good at this part… I’m 37, grew up in Annapolis, MD, went to college in PA, lived in CO for two years, then ended up back here in DC. I love traveling, dinner with friends, eating great food, dry-aged rib eye steaks, red wine, chocolate, skiing, tennis, sailing, shopping, trash tabloids, Paris and black labs. I drive a Prius – trying to do a little to save the polar bears.
Shay: What is your job title?
MC: Associate Director Trade Marketing & Member Services
Shay: Did your parents question your job choice?
MC: Never – they think it’s excellent, plus it’s a great excuse for them to go skiing every year.
Shay: What was your first set up?
MC: Red Hart skis and hammy down blue ski boots. Favorite ski outfit growing up – first pair of Spyder stretch race pants, followed by raspberry CB down jacket and CB “powder pants”
Shay: What is your current set up?
MC: Nordica Speed Machines from a couple years ago – need to get some new skis for 2010. But have also been skiing on the Dynastar Powder Legends and Volkl Attivas. Nordica Speed Machine boots – clothing by Burton, helmet Smith.
Shay: What was your first job?
MC: First job ever was lifeguarding. First job in the snow sports industry was “Rental Technician” at the Telluride Sports Peaks location and Ski Instructor in Telluride, CO.
Shay: What’s a great day of skiing to you?
MC: A bluebird day after about a foot of fresh snow the night before, get out on the hill around 9:30, ski the back area, and stop around 3:30 for Blue Moons. Of course a dump of about 3 feet is pretty great too.
Shay: Who are your influences?
MC: My parents and close friends. My parents are in their seventies and are still incredibly active; skiing, sailing, traveling, going out with friends, etc… They live life to love it and get the most of it from each other and their friends. My father retired the first moment he could to sail boats (three trips cross-Atlantic, a bunch to Bermuda, the Caribbean, up and down the east coast, Great Lakes and Canada), he’s 77 and we all still go out to UT and CO every year to ski (he is still wearing his down CB puffy jacket from about 1984, it’s indestructible) – so their philosophy was always work to live, not live to work which I have grown into for myself. My close friends because we all seem to love huge amounts of laughter, great food and great wine.
Shay: How long have you been skiing?
MC: Since I was 3. I grew up in Annapolis, MD and our neighbors, the Orndorffs, had three kids and asked us to go up to Mount Snow, VT with them for a week and stay at the Red Cricket Inn. We did it for years and then moved on to long weekends at Killington, VT.
Their youngest son and I were in the Pumpkin Patch at Mount Snow. All three of the Orndorff kids got into the snow sports/surf industries living in Vail and Hawaii. We’re all snow sports case studies – getting kids started at an early age turns them into lifers!
I thank my parents every winter for getting me into skiing so young – and putting me in ski school for lessons every winter until about 15/16.
After Mount Snow, we would also head up to NH and VT – ski at the Dartmouth Skiway, Stowe, Smuggler’s, Killington, Waterville Valley, Loon, Hunter Mtn, etc… the Northeast Corridor. My first time out west was when I was 6 we went to Winter Park and stayed at the Timberline Lodge, followed by each year going up to New England, then a week out west. A friend of mine in school from 6th-8th grade – his mother taught skiing each weekend up at Roundtop, PA – she would take about 8 of us up there a bunch of weekends during the year and we would ski from morning until about 10P at night non-stop.
The Red Cricket Inn and Timberline Lodge were total 70s style, group movies in the great room, game room for the kids, communal hot tubs etc.
Shay: How many days do you get to ski a year?
MC: Only about 10-12 – usually out west, with a SIA Staff Ski Day in PA mixed in each year.
Shay: How did you get your start in the industry, what opened up more opportunities for you?
MC: When I was in college I had two cousins that went out west post-graduation, one to Aspen and one to Breck. I always wanted to do the same, so the fall after I graduated I went out to Telluride, CO for six months which turned into two years. It was fantastic – I worked it the rental shop, taught skiing and worked at the Telluride Golf Course in the summer as “cart barn” girl with a friend.
After my parents told me they fully supported my living in Telluride, but suggested I start paying my own health/car insurance, I figured it was a good time to head back to DC… I got a job at an association and worked there for two years, making some lifelong friends.
Then one day a woman I worked with who didn’t ski, but knew how much I loved it told me about an association here in DC for skiing. I tracked down SIA online and then sent in a blind resume, cheesily going on about how skiing was my passion, blah blah… A month and a half later, the Membership/Sales Director called and offered me an interview. My first day at SIA was the Fall Board Meeting Dinner of 1998…. That was a funny and interesting night being thrown into the industry, I met my closest friend here at SIA, Henry Cho (SIA’s Database Manager), when I walked into the Board dinner, he came right over and asked if I wanted to play pool with him and Chris (Chris Semon, SIA’s Sales Director), he had been hired about five months before and we’re both still at SIA, almost 11 years later.
Shay: What is your role at SIA as the associate director of Trade marketing and member services?
MC: To market/promote the brands of SIA and the SIA Snow Show to the industry trade. I work closely with our marketing and web agencies to develop/execute new marketing/web strategies for SIA; our programs, products, benefits and membership.
For the SIA Show, it’s a similar – concept, develop and execute marketing strategies to meet all of our objectives – one of the top – get people to the Show! I also work on maintaining a consistent voice for SIA.
Shay: What is trade marketing?
MC: Marketing/promoting/messaging the SIA brand (SIA and the Show) to the industry trade; SIA members, industry retailers, reps, organizations, partners.
Shay: What are the benefits of becoming a SIA member?
MC: The first benefit is the support to the industry. As a non-profit, member-owned association, the members are the voice of SIA. We are directed by the standing Board of Directors, Trade Show Committee, Retailer Advisory Committee and other industry partner organizations.
Membership dues go directly to fund SIA’s research, consumer/trade marketing initiatives, programs and to run SIA. Without our members, SIA would not be around.
The tangible benefits are exhibiting at the SIA Snow Show, the largest snow sports trade show globally, access to exclusive research for free and/or at significantly lower prices, competitive discounts with FedEx, YRC, our new program with CLEAR, government affairs representation, listings in the SIA Directory and on and on…. Learn more here.
Shay: What is the SIA Show like for you?
MC: It’s crazy busy, but always fun. The Show is a group effort for the SIA Staff, everyone comes together to help out in any way that’s needed. There’s always a lot of adrenaline because this is our largest event and we’re all on stage so it’s exciting. We might be doing set-up/break-down jobs, helping out in the Market Segment Exhibits in the lobby, working with exhibitors, registration, the Show Daily, Show photo shoot, etc… then my friend, Henry Cho, and I always do a floor stroll – walk around the Show floor, talk to exhibitors, retailers, reps, Board Members etc…
Shay: What are some changes/additions to the SIA Show?
MC: The opportunity that Denver offers SIA and the industry cannot be compared to Vegas. For the first time we are surrounded by a community who carries a strong passion for the industry – they ski, ride, snowshoe, cross country, wear the styles, work in the industry etc… The social outlets in the Denver city centre totally vary from high end restaurant to the club/lounge, wine/champagne bar, live music, strip clubs, diners, pool halls and lots of Starbucks to give attendees any type of after hours they’re looking for.
Our partnership with WWSRA and their Rocky Mountain Demo and Cross Country Ski Areas Association offers the on-snow experience that we’ve never been able to have – retailers, brands, reps and the media will be able to ski, ride and slide together at Winter Park Resort and Devil’s Thumb Ranch – all Snow Show attendees get free access to the On-Snow Demo/Free Ride Fest.
We’ve also partnered with Colorado Ski Country USA to give all Show retailers three free days of skiing at CSCUSA resorts that can be used before or after the Snow Show. We’re bringing back the Snow Fashion Show and with the X Games going on at the same time, we’re working with them to have live feeds at the Show. Our Education dept is also working on pulling together a new seminar series with potential for a keynote. Working with the Colorado Convention Center has opened up a dialogue for us to negotiate additional discounts and savings for our exhibitors with electrical labor, move-in days and more. New updates, details and info will continue to be added to siasnowshow.com from now until January 28, 2010!
Shay: What are you thoughts on the current state of the industry?
MC: It’s been a tough and bizarre year, something the industry hasn’t seen before or at least in very long time. In the past, our research has shown snow sports to be fairly “recession proof” across the board, but this year was different – there was no way of ignoring the economy – it’s affected everyone personally, professionally and in our communities.
Shay: In what ways does SIA use social media?
MC: We are using social media as an additional marketing channel connecting the SIA/industry community.
Facebook and Twitter are our anchors and we’ve recently set up a YouTube Group page and will be asking the industry to send in videos to post from the Show (SIA.09) and then to post for this year’s Show. We have MySpace and Imeem pages – but just have pages, not much interaction.
Yes social media is the all-talked about thing now, but it is a great way to connect with the industry on a different level than through the SIA site, htmls/emails, newsletters, meetings, the Show, etc…
Shay: Do you see social media as an important future in marketing?
MC: I think it’s important in the present and future, but you can’t look at it as replacing traditional marketing – it’s just another channel and vehicle to communicate/market/promote.
Shay: What do you think the industry should do to welcome and bring in new snowboarders?
MC: I’ve grown up as a skier and am only a “remedial” snowboarder (I definitely would like to become better, but always seem to just ski when I head out b/c of the limited time), but I remember when snowboarding came around – they did an incredible job tapping into a traditional sport and really putting it on the forefront – they’re great with the direct, authentic connection to kids, people in their 20s and now older. In all, I think it really comes back to kids – making that connection early whether it’s through their parents, friends, schools, other interests – as you can see from the family friends I learned to ski with – get kids into the industry and you’ve got them for life.
Shay: What other jobs/companies have you worked at?
MC: General lifeguarding/bar
Telluride Ski & Golf
American Society for Engineering Education (DC)
Past Mia (excellent Italian restaurant in DC, part-time waitress – was terrible at it, only a side job)
Shay: What’s your average day like at work?
MC: Busy, but fun – the casual dress, atmosphere etc… is excellent. David Ingemie, SIA’s President, is truly great to work for/with (I’m not just saying this b/c he’s the president), he’s been an amazing mentor, boss, president, colleague and always offers up fun/jokes in the office. Debbie, SIA’s Trade Show Director, is fantastic – she’s incredible at her job and has an amazing talent for staying cool as a cucumber during our most stressful time- trade show and she knows every single thing about me after 10 years and counting. Henry Cho (Database Manager), Chris Semon (Sales Director), Maggie Bittner (Trade Show and Meetings Manager) and I have been at SIA for a while now and have some funny times and memories – along with our reps, Dave Wray (west coast), Ed Wray (east coast) and Reddy Kennedy (rockies/central). There are a lot of us at SIA who have been here for 8 or more years – it’s a really great place to work; the staff, the industry.
Shay: What are some memorable experiences from working in the industry?
MC: The Show. Funny moments that are just better if you were there
Shay: How is working for SIA (any cool work events, work environment, job perks)?
MC: The top is being able to live in DC, but stay connected with the industry, access to skiing/riding, wearing jeans to work in DC…The Show, industry meetings – they’re always work – but always fun.
Shay: What education/experience did you have before getting the job?
MC: Undergraduate degree – Gettysburg College
Telluride Ski & Golf Company via ski instructor and cart barn girl at the golf course
Telluride Sport – “rental technician”
Shay: What’s the best perk you’ve gotten from your job?
MC: Free skiing.
Shay: Any disadvantages of your job?
MC: Not getting to ski/ride more.
Shay: Since you started in the industry, what’s been the biggest change?
MC: Industry-wide consolidation
Jeans, tanks, flip flops/sandals in the office
Shay: What’s the busiest time of year for you?
MC: For the last four years it’s been 365. When I first started, there was always some down time just after the Show for a couple months – now it’s non-stop – especially this year with the Show moving to Denver (Snow Show – Jan 28-31/On-Snow Feb1-2)– work started just as hard and now harder Jan 31, 2009.
Shay: Education vs Experience…which do you think is more important?
MC: Trick question? A mix of both
Shay: What advice would you give to people wanting to work in the industry?
MC: To just remember why we’re all here – for our passion and love of the sport.
MC: SIA and the industry are incredible places work for and in – I feel quite lucky to have had the job, experiences and friends from it all.
*Pictures courtesy of Mary Cecile “MC” Neville