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New friends, safe spaces — and a touch of jealousy

By Brock Huffstutler

December 12, 2023

Giovanni Femia (left), Stefani Donabedian (center) and more attendees from ARA's Region One at the 2023 Women in Rental and YPN conferences, Clearwater Beach, Fla.

Giovanni Femia (left), Stefani Donabedian (center) and more attendees from ARA’s Region One at the 2023 Women in Rental and YPN conferences, Clearwater Beach, Fla. (Photo courtesy of Stefani Donabedian)

The American Rental Association (ARA) recently held its annual Women in Rental and Young Professional Network (YPN) conferences in Clearwater Beach, Fla. Women in Rental took place from Oct. 23-24, and the YPN Conference followed from Oct. 25-26. Both conferences were sold out, and attendees spent two days focused on networking and professional development with their rental peers.

See what some of the attendees who traveled from the Northeast — ARA’s Region One — had to say about the events.

Giovanni Femia, Alta Equipment Co., is getting ‘extremely jealous’

Femia, regional sales manager with Alta Equipment Co., Albany, N.Y., who also serves as ARA of New York president, attended the YPN Conference and says, “It was a great event with a great setting, speaker and group of people,” adding that he chose to make the trip “to continue to grow my rental community network.”

The conference’s closing reception — in the form of a cruise along the Clearwater Beach coast — was one of Femia’s favorite parts of the event. “The sunset boat ride was absolutely amazing,” he says.

Femia also took away some helpful, timely points from the YPN keynote speaker, James Taylor, and his presentation, “Supercreativity™: Augmenting Human Creativity in the Age of Artificial Intelligence.”

“Artificial intelligence [AI] is a real up-and-coming thing,” Femia says. “James was able to spotlight a bunch of keys area that will affect the industry.”

While Femia had a great time at the conference, his experience was also a bittersweet one as his eligibility to take part in the 40-and-under group is about to sunset. “I think the YPN is amazing, but I’m getting towards the end of my journey with YPN and I’m extremely jealous,” he says.

Stefani Donabedian, Decanted Wine Truck, found a ‘safe space’
Networking opportunities were plentiful at the conferences.

Networking opportunities were plentiful at the conferences.

Donabedian, vice president of Decanted Wine Truck, Hudson, Mass., and current president of the ARA of Massachusetts, participated in both the YPN and Women in Rental conferences.

“Both conferences consistently impress, but this year’s format was particularly commendable for female young professionals,” she says. “The subject matters discussed were notably diverse, not only from each other but also from past themes. The welcoming and closing receptions were lively and visually delightful.”

Donabedian says different factors motivated her to attend both conferences. “Women in Rental was a magnet for me because of the empowering ambiance created by like-minded women. Their passion for the rental industry and support of each other are what make the conference a safe space. Meanwhile, YPN caught my attention with its topic of using AI for organizational growth. Moreover, it’s inspiring to mingle with motivated young professionals,” she says.

As for the keynote speakers, Donabedian says her takeaway from Taylor’s AI-focused presentation was the “pivotal idea that while AI may displace certain roles within the next decade, it won’t be AI alone replacing them but rather individuals adept at merging their creativity with AI. He equipped us with strategies to hone our creative faculties, ensuring we thrive in the AI-driven future.”

Sara Ross, who delivered her program, “Activate Your Aliveness Factor,” in front of the Women in Rental group, “illuminated the concept of the ‘leftover you’ and emphasized the importance of personal care in order to be a great leader,” Donabedian says.

“Beyond the sessions, the value of rekindling past relationships and forging new ones is immeasurable,” Donabedian says of the benefit she receives from taking part in events like these.

Judy Fishgold, Altra Rental & Supply, is ‘enjoying new friends’

Women in Rental Conference attendee Fishgold, vice president of Altra Rental & Supply, Ontario, N.Y., and ARA of New York vice president, was “very impressed with the entire conference. From registration to our final evening dinner cruise, it was perfectly curated to relax, bond, enjoy and learn.”

Krista Benson, ECP-ST, New Paltz Equipment Rental, New Paltz, N.Y. (right) with industry peers at the YPN Conference.

Krista Benson, ECP-ST, New Paltz Equipment Rental, New Paltz, N.Y. (right) with industry peers at the YPN Conference.

The reputation ARA has earned as a vehicle for quality educational seminars and networking opportunities had much to do with Fishgold’s decision to attend. “I have learned so much over the years from attending The ARA Show™, Leadership Conference and now the Women in Rental Conference,” she says. “Sharing challenges, ideas and solutions with a group of women in rental with common goals sounded very inspiring to me.”

Fishgold singles out Ross’ presentation as a highlight of the conference.

“She [Ross] has an amazing energy and was great at getting thought-provoking discussions initiated at our tables,” Fishgold says. “She really hit the heart of the matter regarding self-care, and you could truly see so many attendees moved by it, including myself. Self-care enhances all roles in your life. Whether it is family, professional or personal, everyone deserves the best version of you.”

Fishgold says her experience at the conference reflected the value she receives by being a member of ARA’s Women in Rental group.

“The camaraderie and spirit of this amazing group of women truly resonated with us all,” she says. “Being a member of Women in Rental enhances our journey in the rental industry and supports professional development, friendships and benevolence. I am very proud and grateful to be associated with this organization and enjoying my new friends. I look forward to attending next year!”