June 21, 2022 | By Joyce DiMascio

It may surprise you that the new general manager of Brisbane Convention and Exhibition Centre (BCEC), Kym Guesdon, describes herself as a homebody.

Relaxing around home stitching is her much-loved pastime.

And by stitching, we’re not talking about mending socks, we’re talking about epic cross stitch works that take years and years to complete. Her current work-in-progress is a masterpiece 1200cm2. An extraordinary work that demonstrates her great stitching skills and her tenacity and patience – qualities that are essential when you are running one of the nation’s biggest convention and exhibition facilities.

Guesdon has a transition handover from Bob O’Keeffe AM who’s been at the helm of BCEC for decades – since the centre opened, in fact. O’Keeffe’s responsibilities have expanded as he moves into a newly created role of CEO of BCEC and chief operating officer of venues for ASM Global in the Asia Pacific.

BCEC has had a solid and stable leadership team. Guesdon has worked at the venue for over two decades, most recently heading HR for the centre and the wider ASM family.

She spoke with micenet about joining the growing team of women leading major venues in ASM Global as well as other venues around the region and her approach to leadership in what she sees as a period of “normalisation” for BCEC.

She was overwhelmed with the response to the announcement of her appointment, she says.

“I didn’t realise what a big thing it was until it happened. I just didn’t realise that my appointment would be such a big thing,” she says.

She feels well prepared for the challenges that come along when you are managing a big venue. She’s been in the business for 27 years.

“The past two and a half years for all of us in the venue management industry has been so difficult. So, I feel like I’m ready for hard stuff. We’ve been ‘doing hard’ for a long time.

Her background is in people and culture and she believes this allows her to approach her new role through a people-centric lens.

“I like to keep it simple. The business is people-centric – it doesn’t matter whether you’re a client or a customer or a team member. It’s all about the people and I know everybody says that, but I guess that’s the lens that I bring to the role. I think it’s the right time for that.”

Both she and her husband joined the BCEC for its pre-opening but she hasn’t always worked in HR.

“I spent 11 years working for [a] forex company. I actually fell into a temp HR role a long time ago and loved it so much that I went back to university and furthered my education in it.”

She agrees that her career trajectory shows individuals can come from many disciplines and then have a long and distinguished career in venues. It’s a message the industry needs to get across in order to attract the workforce it needs for the future, she says.

“The opportunities are here – it’s becoming such a huge industry that we need to encourage people to join us.”

She is measured in describing her style of leadership and clearly likes to position herself “with the team” rather than above the team. She calls it working on the same level and being on the same playing field.

Asked about what changes could be expected at BCEC under her leadership, Guesdon says the centre has spent two years going through incredible change and she’s not expecting any major changes in direction.

“Over the past 18 months, we unpacked the things we do and redesigned our work so that we could become more efficient and a lot more flexible. So, we’ve had a lot of change already.

“To quote my colleague, Alison Gardner, we’re in a period of ‘normalisation’ now, which I expect will continue through to end-of-year.

“Bob and I are very committed to having a very smooth transition period. And I’m so lucky that he’s standing alongside me, being my mentor, while he’s taking on his new role with ASM Global.”

Read part two of our interview with Kym Guesdon tomorrow.