When Diane Gillespie started a tour guide job in college, she didn't realize she would discover her tourism niche.
Gillespie has been with the Jefferson City Convention and Visitors Bureau since January 2013, helping bring events and visitors to the community. Most recently, she helped organize solar eclipse events, which she said was one of her proudest moments.
Before becoming executive director of the Jefferson City CVB, she worked for 18 years at the Springfield Convention and Visitors Bureau — five years as director of sales and 13 years as sales manager.
She became interested in tourism while attending Missouri State University — then Southwest Missouri State University — working as a tour guide at Fantastic Caverns.
"Just by chance, I kind of fell into it, and I decided I really liked (tourism). So from there, I was able to get on with the Springfield CVB when it was created, and here I am," she said.
When Gillespie is not working at the CVB, she spends time outdoors with her husband, Kelly, and daughter, Sarah. She and Kelly have been renovating an old home in Jefferson City, which she said is a hobby they both enjoy.
When Sarah was a child, Gillespie used to take her to work, which gave her daughter experiences that will help her when she enters the workforce, she said.
"When women have their babies and they're working, you feel guilty when you have to drop them off at day care and you go to your job," Gillespie said. "On the other hand, with my job, I took her with me a lot of times, so she was exposed to many elements she might have never been exposed to. And I think, for her, she saw me in a professional position and became my second little mini me, working trade shows with me and getting exposure."
Q. Who has invested in you and your career?
A. "I would have to say my family. They have always supported me in my different positions and have had an understanding when I have to go work an event or travel, and they have always been my biggest cheerleaders."
Q. What choices have you made to invest in yourself and your own success?
A. "I have always been honest with my clients and I build relationships with them, so I become invested in their organizations and want to bring them into the community and want them to be successful and show them what we have to offer."
Q. Of what professional achievement are you most proud?
A. "The success of the eclipse event. That was just a hard event for everyone to wrap their arms around. It was the biggest event I've been involved with and just seeing how the whole community came together to make it happen, with our mission being we wanted our visitors to have a great experience when they came to Jefferson City and to have a safe event. We were able to accomplish that with the help of so many people stepping up and make this happen."
Q. What do you think are the biggest issues facing women in the workforce?
A. "I think women still have struggles with the salaries, competing with men. I still think there are those positions that you have your 'good ol' boys' type thing, but I've just tried to put myself at the table and engage and just be active and plug away at what I'm doing."
Q. What drives you most in life and in your career?
A. "Seeing the successes and the impacts we have on the community — that keeps me wanting to do more and not give up. I enjoy what I do, and I love tourism. It's great to be able to go out and serve the community."
Q. What advice would you give to a woman entering the workforce?
A. "Be yourself, and remember what your values are that you were raised by. If I say something, I carry through with it; and working with different groups that want to bring events to Jefferson City, I don't ever promise anything that we cannot fulfill — and if we can't meet their requirements, make other options and carry through with those. One of my major traits is I can always figure out a way to make it work. And it might not start out with how they had requested it, but in the long run, it will work out and it will be OK."
More 17 in '17 from #jcmo Inside Business :
Diane Gillespie: Basking in eclipse glow, CVB director strives to promote community