In this Employee Spotlight, we sat down with Shallan Miller and talked about all things event marketing, her path back to this role after the Covid-19 pandemic and her perspective on the importance of cultivating resilience, communication skills, and keeping an open mind.
Meet Shallan Miller
Shallan is a Senior Marketing Events Manager at Cloudera. She manages a wide range of internal and external events. “You name it, I’ve worked on it.”
“Planning an event is a lot more than meets the eye.” Shallan shared.
The process typically starts with discovery calls – lots of them. It is critical, however, to understand the scope, audience size, and budget. Next, we choose the location, source venues, partner with hotels and identify all vendors. Then, there is a lot of planning and collaboration with a wide range of internal stakeholders such as creative brand team, sales, product marketing, field marketing, demand gen, partner marketing, field enablement, web, corporate social responsibility, executives, and more. Last but not least, we have the days leading up to the event (which are typically the most intense), the actual on-site execution and of course, post-event reporting.
“This was just a high-level overview!” Shallan said. “There is even more detail behind the scenes to make even the smallest event possible. We touch almost every area of the business to transform ideas into successful experiences.”
Shallan is part of a small but mighty events team. The group started from the ground up following the Covid pandemic and after the lifting of the necessary restrictions. After the team’s creation, they set out to build a best-in-class events machine. “Several of us hail from very large companies with extremely high standards. We wanted to set that same high bar here at Cloudera,” she said. “This is one of the best events teams I’ve worked on – we set ambitious goals and all support each other to achieve them. Everyone brings a unique set of talents to the group and I’m really proud to be part of it.”
This is no small praise. It’s not a secret that every year event coordination and event planning make top ten lists for most stressful jobs. In addition to pent-up demand for events in a post-pandemic world and rising costs to produce them, event marketing teams have to do more with less year after year. For this team, it means thinking creatively in a high-pressure environment to make the experience feel like events prior to the pandemic. “This cannot be done without an outstanding team that works well together,” Shallan added.
Navigating the pandemic with events on hold, Shallan found Cloudera as life returned to normal.
Before Cloudera, Shallan worked in events for over 18 years – 13 years at UnitedHealth Group, the largest healthcare company in the US. “When the pandemic hit events came to a screeching halt,” she reflected. Given the situation, the UnitedHealth Group asked Shallan to use her logistics skills to lead the Covid-19 testing sites across California. In this role, Shallan led 88 event coordinators as they facilitated Covid testing across the state. After six months in this role, Shallan realized it wasn’t what she was passionate about so she left the company and started working full-time building her new home. She didn’t escape logistics though! “I went about building our house in the same way I project manage events. I realized however that construction was VERY different than events and Covid restrictions made everything harder”. Quickly, Shallan realized that once corporate events started up again, she wanted to return to event planning!”
“Soon after deciding to rejoin the workforce I interviewed with Cloudera and immediately loved his vision. I was inspired by how he wanted to build his team and what events he wanted to bring to life. I was intrigued to be a part of it. It’s been a little over a year and a half since then and it’s been quite the journey!”
Origin story: While working across industries, event marketing became her passion.
Shallan grew up in a small town in Minnesota and after college moved closer to Minneapolis. She got her start in property management as an office manager, where she started coordinating corporate events. “There was no one else to do it so I just learned how to plan and execute them,” she said. After acquiring some experience, she transitioned into the retail industry and worked for Macy’s corporate, running their events. During the 2008 Recession, Shallan transitioned into the healthcare industry and started as an event coordinator, working her way up to Director of events at Optum. In this role she planned everything from sales kick-offs, third party events, executive summits, incentive trips, sports sponsorship events, industry conferences, roadshows, etc.
“The event industry quickly became my passion,” she said. “During the pandemic, I had to do some soul-searching and really consider another line of work. At the time we didn’t know how long it would take for events to come back or if it would ever be the same.” Fortunately, it did come back, and in a big way! “This type of work is really where my heart is,” she exclaimed. “I love bringing ideas to life and observing the attendee experience. There is a lot of joy that comes with that. When attendees come up and thank me for a great event and share what they learned, I know I’ve done my job right.”
Lessons learned: It’s about staying nimble, finding your voice, and open lines of communication.
When reflecting on her years in event marketing a few things stood out for Shallan:
Being Flexible: “You have to be okay with ambiguity,” she said. “It’s critical because in the events world, details are constantly changing and you have to be able to adapt.”
Finding Your Voice: “It’s really important to speak up so your voice is heard with authenticity,” she said. “For example, when planning an event, a stakeholder may have an idea they want to implement, but from my experience I may think it will not work. It is up to me to share that perspective and rationale clearly. However, it is also important to keep an open mind. Sometimes, introducing new event concepts that maybe you didn’t think of is exactly how you find new best practices”.
Staying Communicative: “Last but not least, keeping lines of communication open is key,” she adds. “Especially when coordinating with others, you have to ensure all the dots are connected.”
In her time off Shallan and her husband love to travel, keep busy with friends and family and fine-tune their new house. Of course, there is always the next series of Cloudera events to think about too. “I just came back from Evolve London which concluded our spring events calendar and we are already ramping up planning for the fall and winter. There’s never a dull moment, but I wouldn’t have it any other way.”
We thank you Shallan for contributing to Cloudera and sharing your story!