Catrina Pengelley

👩Little bit about me: 

Born and raised in Vancouver, BC, I have been blessed to grow up surrounded by a booming Tourism & Hospitality Industry. This led me on a path that allowed me to unravel a whole world that one would never experience in a run-of-the-mill office job.

Across my 12 years working through all aspects of hospitality and completing a BA in International Hotel Management with Royal Roads University, I have not only had the opportunity to develop myself as a professional, but also as a person. I have become an energetic, passion-driven, hotel nerd who loves going through the stepping stones of creating a career in the world of hospitality. I have had the opportunity to work in some truly beautiful places such as Vancouver, Canada, The Rocky Mountains in Canada and London, England. 

Over the last year I have not only survived through the pandemic, but I have also thrived through dedication, perseverance and resilience. I took my redundancy as an opportunity and did everything possible to create a positive situation for myself. My blog, personal brand and company have taken me through the last 12 months, and allowed me to learn more about myself and taught me how to fight through tough times💪

Join me in recollecting my journey over the last 10 months while I tell you the story of discovering The Nerdy Hotelier, my brand and blog, as well as becoming self-employed and consulting in multiple industries across the world💻💼🌍

I hope that by reading this you can take away thoughts and ideas on how to create your own personal brand, build your network and turn a tragedy into an opportunity💪🎊

My Journey to Discovering ‘The Nerdy Hotelier’

Reading time:10-15min

 Let’s jump into it !

In June 2020 I was made redundant from my dream job in Hotel Sales🙇 It was difficult to grasp and fully understand. I had lost my job in hospitality, and due to Covid, there wasn’t a single job for me to apply for. I know many people across the world have experienced this moment over the last year, but no matter how many of us go through it, it doesn’t make it any easier. 


“Well, if I can’t work, what else am I supposed to do?” – I thought to myself🤔 I am sure there are many people who would see my situation and take it as a reason for a well-deserved break or an excuse to let go and relax. However, I knew that as more and more people became redundant and were entering the job seeking market, my chance to find a role after all this, was going to be getting smaller and smaller.

So, I did what I could to keep busy. Don’t get me wrong, I definitely took the time to relax, but I made sure that at least 4 days a week, I was sitting at my kitchen table (my future desk!) from 9am – 5pm. This gave me the opportunity to really think: What is it that I wanted to do? Where does my passion lay? What could I be doing to set myself apart from the hundreds of people that are also looking for work? The last question was the one that started putting things into motion. Where things started turning around, even if I didn’t know it yet💫

I started off with the simple, more obvious tasks. I ensured my CV was ready to send off in an instant. I dove deep into my LinkedIn profile to ensure it was the best it could possibly be. Finally, I spent my days finding and building my network. Listening to industry podcasts, webinars, videos and started using these professionals I was listening to, as a way to grow and expand my network👥


Every person I heard speak got a personalised LinkedIn connection request from me. They give you 300 characters, so why not use it!? I got to know the people I was connecting with, told them my story and learned from their advice.

A large topic that came up in conversations was my overwhelming passion for hospitality, and specifically hotels. I was told by many to think about how I could ‘sell’ myself using this passion and really showing the industry WHY I stand out from others.

It took some time to think about this question. How am I really going to share my passion for hotels with this wide and diverse industry, when so many like me feel the same way?


The answer that came out of a lot of thinking in the shower, mulling over it as I fell asleep and through the ideas of others, was a blog💻

💡Genius I know! For some reason it just took me 3 months to get there! It allowed me to get creative, something that I had been missing while being out of work. It created a space for me to visualise and share my passion for the industry with the wider hospitality world. This is where The Nerdy Hotelier was born💥

It was fun to play around with website development, colours, fonts and create imagery on Canva and other graphic design tools. But now that I had a platform to shout out my excitement and nerdiness for hotels🤓🏨 I needed to make sure that the work and effort I put in was working for me, and doing what I originally planned, finding a job in hospitality!


Through all my continued networking, and the new connections that I was gaining through my blog, I started to diversify my skills. I was out of work, which meant that I had all the time in the world! For those of you that might be in that situation, the best advice I can give you is to take any opportunity. Paid, un-paid, volunteer, courses, educational webinars. Do it!💪


One of the best opportunities I accepted was to learn to host, run and produce online events. I got the training for free, but in return I needed to give them my time and help run a conference. Free training and free hands-on experience sounded perfect to me! I went into this opportunity with 110% and I am very pleased to say that since then, I have been hired as a consultant by the company who ran the conference, and contract for multiple ad hoc online conferences and events each month. All of them paid! 🎉🎊

The 2 weeks of time that I gave up for free, returned to me as multiple paid roles over the last 6 months. I have set up a consultancy company since then and am constantly getting referrals from these companies and organisations. 


Another opportunity that I took on was assisting a charity event. Through one of the podcasts I was listening to, I met a fabulous industry professional who was looking to create a virtual event to support the UK hospitality industry which had been affected by Covid through a hospitality charity. 


Of course, I was delighted to help, and joined the committee of highly respected hospitality professionals in creating this event and gave it, again, 110%. As amazing as the event was and the funds we raised to support the industry were fantastic, what was most important to me were the connections that I made in the industry. Through this group of hospitality folk, I have since been offered 5 full time, paid, positions in multiple roles and cities across the UK. None of which fit what I was looking for or that I could fulfil, but the point I am trying to get across is, networking works 💯❗

So, all this nonsense about me, job offers and my work. What does that have to do with personal branding you ask? Well personal branding isn’t just pictures and fancy fonts. Even though your online presence is important, it’s not just about that. It’s something that you bring forward in any form of interaction. It’s your passion, your personality and your professionalism. It’s how you want the industry to see you and respect you. 


Of course, we want to express that through LinkedIn, Facebook, Twitter & Instagram, where hiring managers will likely go after viewing your CV. Through images, articles, blogs, videos or any other creative way you can think of. But it’s also thinking deeper than that, and ensuring that you as a person, represent and match that brand that you have created and have been showcasing to the world.

So where to get started?

It’s not easy I know, but my best suggestion for you is to start thinking about what you are truly passionate about and tie it back into the role you are looking for. Now, what I mean is — If you are passionate about cats, but want to work as a bartender, don’t go starting a video series about cats, because as interesting as those videos may be, it’s not going to be what gets you a job. 


However, if one of your passions is travelling, and you want to get into a destination marketing, airline or other tourism role, a blog or series about your bucket list destinations would definitely get the attention of the right people!👀

And remember! As this is all to get a job (or even if it’s not!) this content is representing you to every person that will hire you in the future. It needs to be personal, yet professional. Now I know that it sounds hard but think about what they will want to see. They won’t want to see swear words, pictures of you drinking with your buddies, or your political views on covid. But what they will want to see is you expressing your passions professionally, and hearing you speak about why this topic is important to you personally.


After identifying your passion, just get started! I still make changes to my blog website on a daily basis! If you wait until everything is perfect, you will never get to share your passion with the world! Get something nice set up and get your first bit of content out there. Details, images, stories — they can come as you go!🙆

Finally, share this passion and content with your industry! Hopefully while you are doing the few steps above, you will simultaneously be starting to network. Find these podcasts, webinars and videos and start connecting with people! Then once you have something to share, get it out there to your network!🗣


If you are not comfortable sharing on LinkedIn, have a few friends (from different walks of life) proofread posts or articles for you before you share. Then after sharing, ask them to give it a like or a comment to get it out to the wider industry. 


Use the “feature” section of your LinkedIn profile to showcase these fabulous things so that when a hiring manager reaches your profile, there are key posts for them to look at, learn about and engage with.

If you want, feel free to connect with me on LinkedIn. I take pride in my profile and the content that I post. Take a look at what I share, what I create and how I brand myself on my profile… and steal it! I know it’s hard to think about all these things by yourself, that’s why getting started by looking at what someone else is doing is a great first step.


A final note, be confident, do your best and understand that no matter what happens, you persevered and became a better person by creating a professional brand and image of yourself during, what some of us will say, has been the toughest 2 years for the world.


Take care. 


#TheNerdyHotelier #GetNerdyWithMe #CatPengelley

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