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Our CTSM community overflows with stories... moments of triumph, exercises in resilience, and nods of understanding. We're a collection of specialists across the industry who are incredibly proud of what we do, what we create, and the CTSM tribe we've become part of.

Tammy Straw, CTSMEven though I'm the only one in my company engrossed in tradeshow planning and execution, I am not alone.
Tammy Straw, CTSM
Marketing and Business Development Manager
ENTEK International LLC
Portland, Oregon

All of the things I've learned throughout the program have really come together by creating my CTSM portfolio. For me it was unexpected to see how much of the coursework I unknowingly applied to my tradeshow program, and referring to specific courses throughout the portfolio really brought that to my attention.

The single most important thing I've learned is that I am not alone. Even though I'm the only one in my company engrossed in tradeshow planning and execution, there are so many other people in the world doing the same thing. It has been wonderful meeting some and learning about their industries at various EXHIBITOR events. I am so thankful I had the support of my company throughout the journey to certification.

Unbeknownst to me, my CTSM journey officially began in October of 2015. I knew the director of sales and marketing was going to retire in early 2016 and I would become the marketing manager, so I was looking for tradeshow resources when I came across EXHIBITORFastTrak. It wasn't exactly local, but San Diego was in my time zone and a short plane ride away and the topics were exactly what I was looking for to prepare me for the next step. I enjoyed the sessions and learned a lot, connected with another attendee who I'm still in touch with today, and had a great time at the Padres game with her and Tradeshow Bob. As far as I knew that would be the last of my tradeshow courses.

And then.. I received an email from Sue Haasis telling me that for completing my overall evaluation form in San Diego, I was chosen as the winner of a Passport for any upcoming conferences. Once I figured out what a Passport was my wheels started spinning. I immediately prepared a budget for completion of my certification for my boss' review, pointing out that I could get 13 classes out of the way for FREE and 5 more on the eTrak program at a discount without travel expenses. I love a deal! He approved my plan and I was on my way.

I really enjoyed EXHIBITORLIVE 2016 and soaked in the information. By the time I left EXHIBITORLIVE 2017, all but one of my required classes were complete. The thought of preparing for a huge exam or writing a very specific profile paralyzed me, and for a few months I did nothing. I seriously considered withdrawing from the program and chalking up what I had learned as tools for tradeshows. After all, it had already proved useful in my job and that was good enough for me. Or was it? I did feel accountable to my company for the expenses paid to that point, and it's not in my Type A personality to walk away from something I had committed to.

I had just taken Preparing, Developing, and Submitting a Quality CTSM Portfolio in February and after a few pep talks with myself I began writing. After sections 1 and 2 were written I developed writer's block and decided that the rest were too difficult to continue with. But rather than quitting, I decided that taking the exam would be easier than writing the portfolio, so in August 2017 I registered for the exam in November.

A lot of time and energy went into preparing for the exam and I felt certain I would ace it because without a doubt I knew everything that I had been studying. Reality set in when I couldn't answer question 1 or several more on the first page. I didn't know what I hadn't been studying! The exam took me much longer than I thought it would, there were many questions I did not recall ever seeing, and in the end there were a total of 30 that I made educated guesses in answering. Leaving the exam I felt defeated; as if I had been run over by a truck. I was frantically calculating the percentages of how many questions I could miss and still pass. I was only hoping for passing at that point. Thankfully I only had to wait 13 days for the result: 85%. Hooray - I passed!!!

The very next thought was "oh no - now back to writing the portfolio!!" I used the enthusiasm I had from passing the exam to register for my portfolio within one week of getting my passing score. I knew if I didn't commit myself to a firm date, even if it was 365 days away, I would not make progress on the portfolio.

Moving into 2018 I was increasingly busy planning NPE and only found time to write part of section 3. I needed a hard deadline and time away to focus on the portfolio, so in April I signed up for the Portfolio Power Writing Weekend in San Diego. Boy am I glad I attended. Jan, Jana and the other attendees in my workshop were very supportive and our discussions were productive. It was extremely helpful to receive immediate feedback from the advisors as I went. Because I was away from home and the office with minimal distractions, I was able to keep the momentum going and plow through writing the rest of the sections, all the way through my conclusion that weekend!!

San Diego... where my CTSM journey began, and where it all came together!


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