Renee Cash, an avid reader of Smart Meetings, credits the magazine with helping her get into grad school for hospitality and event management. When writing application essays and prepping for her interviews, the director of protocol & senior special events manager for the Department of the Navy’s Commander Navy Installations Command says she sought inspiration and wisdom from articles in the magazine.

“Also, as a good luck charm for my interviews, I tucked a copy of your fantastic magazine in my handbag to carry with me and add a bit of confidence,” Cash says.

She was accepted by two top-notch schools in Washington, D.C.—The George Washington University School of Business Master of Tourism Administration program and Georgetown University’s Master’s in Hospitality Management program. She decided to enroll in the prestigious George Washington University program and began classes as a part-time student on August 31. Cash will continue to work full-time as a civil servant while she pursues her Master’s (and perhaps even a PhD.) at the school.

A big believer in professional development, Cash holds a Bachelor of Science degree from University of Maryland University College, a professional certificate in event management from The George Washington University School of Business, and a professional certificate as a protocol officer and international protocol consultant from The Protocol School of Washington. She is also in the process of becoming a Certified Meeting Professional.

A Love of Helping Otherssmart meetings

Cash, who lives in Upper Marlboro, Maryland, knew early on that she wanted to work in a field that was customer service-oriented. Recognizing that some of the most in-demand career opportunities were in the hospitality industry, she decided to pursue the field.

“I strongly believe that the hospitality industry is a very stable industry in which to build a future. It’s an industry that is flourishing, and many experts project that the hospitality industry will continue to grow rapidly,” Cash says. “I believe getting a Master’s Degree in Hospitality is heading me in the right direction.”

As part of her job Cash routinely executes a myriad of special events, including bilateral and multilateral conferences and briefings. She says she thrives on variety, and likes the fact that in her chosen field no two days are ever the same, and that there is never a dull moment.

“This industry allows me to meet and work with people from different walks of life, and allows me to express my creativity when planning meetings and events. It gives me the opportunity to let my own personality and unique style shine through,” she says.

Cash, who has worked as director of protocol and senior special events manager for the Department of Defense for almost a decade, adores her job. “When people hear the word ‘protocol,’ there is a misconception that I just deal with diplomatic formality, precedence and etiquette,” she says. She points out that her responsibilities are multi-faceted. In addition to ensuring that place settings at formal dinners are correct and that everyone is dressed appropriately, she must be well-versed in foreign country customs and traditions. She is called upon to suggest, purchase and maintain records of appropriate official gifts to be given by the Commander to foreign dignitaries. As a special assistant to the Admiral, she provides crucial behind-the-scenes support that enables him to create and solidify important relationships around the world.

As might be expected, her position requires keen diplomacy skills. “It’s my responsibility to ensure that we don’t do something unintentionally offensive when meeting with various dignitaries,” she says. “When the Admiral travels abroad, I provide details about what foods may be served, what greetings and toasts are appropriate, and I apprise him about the receipt of business cards. Exchanging business cards is very precise and formal in certain countries such as Japan.”

When distinguished guests come to Washington to visit the Admiral, Cash greets and escorts them to his office. She carefully prepares for these encounters. “Well in advance of the meeting, I read all of their biographies and the news from their country, city or state,” she says.

Cash has an impressive background, working previously as special events coordinator at The John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts and artistic coordinator for the National Symphony Orchestra. In the former position, Cash coordinated and/or supervised more than 800 events per year—from  donor cultivation events to major fundraising galas—managing logistics, budgets, vendor contracts, security and event risk management. In the latter position, she developed a deep understanding of Washington’s social and political milieu, and what was required to execute events for world renowned artists, Fortune 500 businesses and high net worth donors and guests.

The Future Looks Bright

Cash recently attended a Smart Meetings event in Tysons Corner, Virginia, where she personally met members of the Smart Meetings team, including CEO Marin Bright. “For many years I heard very successful people say that you should find something you are passionate about and pursue it,” Cash says. “I absolutely love that I have your magazine as a constant reference and reminder to keep striving to pursue my passion.”

Cash is excited about what the future holds for her, saying, “Ms. Bright has provided me the tools and the foundation to build a very ‘bright’ and promising future in a career field that I am so passionate about being a part of.”