Finding One’s Way With the Head and the Heart


Surya Moreira received some of the best advice of her career while she was studying for the LSATs. Fresh out of college and working in hospitality and marketing for the high-profile law firm Brown Rudnick, she was considering becoming a lawyer when a managing partner said: “There are more ways to make money and be happy.” 

“He ended up being completely right,” the now-senior events marketing manager for Lightning AI says, for the record. 

A law firm may seem an unusual place to jumpstart one’s career in events. But within the profession, it’s not so uncommon to pivot and land gracefully. As the saying goes, many are drawn to the field for the opportunity to do something they love and never work a day in their lives. 

Opting out of law school set a sort of precedent for Moreira’s career. Every role she has pursued since has allowed her to learn—and advance—by doing. 

After Brown-Rudnick, for instance, she moved on to e-commerce giant Wayfair to work on a small team poised for growth. She recalls first being approached by a headhunter and thinking:

“I’m not going to sell furniture – I don’t know what I’m doing here!” 

Nevertheless, she took the position. If there was any lingering doubt about the life decision she’d made in her previous role, it vanished in the process of growing Wayfair’s recruiting events arm from a small-scale initiative into a global force. 

“That’s when I fell in love with events,” she says definitively. “Because there are so many details that come along with it, and you really have to have the patience and energy to enjoy it.” 

The pandemic years that followed were a test of dedication, but they also “ignited” Moreria’s creative spark just as she was embarking on a new path in AI technology. 

“I think that’s one of the best things about events,” she explains. “You’re working with multiple industries, so you’re always learning something new.

At DataRails, she quickly found her footing in the financial services space by navigating old and new terrains with flair. She recalls how at last year’s Association for Financial Professionals  (AFP) conference in Philadelphia, her team wore branded shirts with Excel-centric slogans like “Same sheet, different day.” Prepared with a heavy stack to hand out as swag, the tees became an unofficial uniform by the second day of the conference, effectively transforming a major chunk of attendees into brand ambassadors.  

She also made inroads in the digital space at DataRails, launching a Slack networking group for financial professionals that has since grown to include over 300 members from around the world. Aside from its organic value, Moreira notes how the community space was the perfect venue for promoting online and offline events. 

In her new role at Lightning AI—a platform that streamlines the lifecycle of machine learning development to facilitate widespread adoption—Moreira is responsible for building an event presence from the ground up. Having found a sweet spot in AI, she’s primed for the challenge—or, more accurately, the opportunity. 

“Because AI is relatively new to a lot of people, it creates an exciting environment and conversations,” she says. “People really want to learn more.”

Curious-minded and proactive, she should find herself among kindred spirits. 

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