When Carleigh Dworetzky first began her career in the hospitality industry, she had no idea her career would undergo such an impressive transformation, taking her to a career in food and beverage and then landing her as the Convention Strategy Manager at Destination DC. Read on to learn about Carleigh’s interesting career journey, and how she went from having dreams of becoming an executive chef to working in convention strategy for the United State’s beautiful capital city.
“I originally began my career as a chef, after attending Johnson & Wales University for culinary arts. I worked just about every position within a kitchen at my first two hotels while I was in college. After graduation, I received an amazing opportunity to join Marriott International’s management development program,” Carleigh shares, “A few days before my start date, I connected with my director and learned I was expected to wear a suit, and not a chef jacket. It was then that I learned I would be working in the food and beverage division and not specifically within the kitchen. Eager for a new opportunity and excited to work for a company I studied closely in college, I decided to focus on this new division. Moving to the food and beverage division allowed me to learn the front of house aspect of all food and beverage outlets, along with banquets.”
Several years later, Carleigh was able to put her new skills to the test, when she uprooted and moved to Washington, DC to continue her career in food and beverage. “I worked within a hotel that had underutilized private dining space within their restaurant. Knowing how prosperous this space could be, I made it my personal goal to sell this space and drive revenue. After successfully building relationships with clients within the area, I was given the opportunity to join the catering team at a local hotel and sell events full-time without focusing on managing a restaurant division.”
Carleigh’s success selling private event spaces helped her land her new role with Washington’s DMO. Carleigh shares, “Over the years, I sold hundreds of events from weddings to tradeshows. At the beginning of 2017, my passion for our city led me to DC’s official destination marketing organization, Destination DC, where I currently focus on convention strategy. As a newly created position within Destination DC, this has provided an opportunity to strengthen and grow our strategic efforts within convention sales and revenue; it has allowed me to solely focus on strategy.”
How did Carleigh handle such a drastic change in her career vision, going from chef to convention strategy? She shares, “Surprisingly, during my culinary school days, my goal was always to be an executive chef at my own restaurant. Over the years, my career took many interesting turns that I had trouble accepting and understanding at the beginning. Overtime, I learned that regardless of the role I was in, I was setting myself up for success if my passions and goals aligned with those of the company I was representing. Although I may not be that chef I always thought I would be, I am living my dreams and wake up everyday excited for my job and the potential impact it has on the city and beyond.”
So, what does Carleigh enjoy about her current role? She answers, “Promoting the nation’s capital allows me to witness and understand the overall economic impact that tourism has on our community. Over 75,000 jobs are generated yearly from visitor spending in Washington, DC and I could not be prouder to know that our work is impacting those in our community.” That is surely something many event and MICE industry professionals can get behind.
Like many successful professionals, Carleigh has turned to mentors to help her navigate new territory in her career. Carleigh shares, “I have had several mentors throughout my career that possess strengths and expertise in various areas. My mentor circle ranges from previous college professors to my first catering director that took a chance in hiring a restaurant manager to book and sell weddings. My current leadership team at Destination DC has been crucial in mentoring me as I continue to develop my new role. Whenever I am faced with a challenge or need advice, my mentors are the first people I reach out to for unbiased guidance.”
Carleigh’s commitment to and passion for her role hasn’t gone unrecognized. During Destination International’s Annual Conference in July, Carleigh was recognized as being a member of the 2018 30 Under 30 class as a leader in destination management.
Convention Strategy Manager, Destination DC
As the Convention Strategy Manager at Destination DC, Carleigh Dworetzky is responsible for analyzing convention based business for the nation’s capital. As a primary focus, Carleigh works to maximize the function space within the Walter E. Washington Convention Center by closely monitoring the trends of group based business. The position of Convention Strategy Manager was added to Destination DC at the beginning of 2017 and has filled a void within reporting, analytics, and other revenue based operations for the convention sales team. Since the creation of this position, Destination DC has developed an abundance of reporting that has brought a new level of analytics that allows the team to amplify their convention based business.
Carleigh is a graduate of Johnson & Wales University in North Miami, Florida. Her experience spans over a decade and includes a portfolio of reputable hotels, including Loew’s Hotels, Marriott International, and The Ritz-Carlton. At The Ronald Reagan Building and International Trade Center, Carleigh was responsible for working with the building’s top tiered clients. Her experience includes elite events with world leaders and programming with President Donald Trump and former President, Barak Obama. In 2018, she was recognized as Destination International Foundation’s 30 under 30 class of 2018.
As an active member within industry related associations, Carleigh serves on the board of the National Association of Catering and Events within the greater Washington DC chapter and is dedicated to a vast array of community service based projects.