Director of Operations, Aquaventure Waterpark
Atlantis the Palm, Aquaventure Waterpark
Dubai - UAE
Featured in "World Waterpark Magazine," March 2018
WHAT IS YOUR EDUCATION AND PROFESSIONAL EXPERIENCE?
I started out in the industry in 1998 as a lifeguard at Wet’N Wild Emerald Pointe in Greensboro, N.C. I spent two summers guarding, then moved on to the leadership team as a supervisor. In 2005, I was promoted to Aquatics Manager. In 2009, I moved to Concord, N.C. to do pre-opening and opening of Great Wolf Lodge Concord. That September, I was offered the opportunity of a lifetime to move to the Middle East and become the Operations Manager at Aquaventure Waterpark, which is located at Atlantis the Palm, Dubai. In 2014, I was promoted to Director of Operations and have been working on this amazing manmade island ever since!
WHAT CERTIFICATION OR LICENSING DO YOU HAVE?
I have my EMT-B license. I am a Certified Pool Operator and an Ellis & Associates Instructor Trainer.
WHAT HONORS, AWARDS OR SPECIAL RECOGNITION HAVE YOU ACHIEVED?
While working at Atlantis, I have been Director of the Quarter twice and am currently up for Director of Year! I have also just been named Head Chairman for the UAE Lifeguard Competition Committee. I have served on faculty at the annual International Aquatic Safety School from 2014- 2016. In 2017, I was on faculty for the first annual IASS-East and will serve as Director in 2018.
WHAT MADE YOU GO INTO THIS FIELD?
I had fun lifeguarding, but when the park made the change over to Ellis & Associates and I was chosen as one of the first to be instructors at the park that clinched this career for me. I loved teaching and being part of the process that resulted in the elimination of drownings.
WHAT ASPECT OF THE WATERPARK INDUSTRY DO YOU LIKE BEST?
It’s never boring. Everyday has a new adventure, a new lesson in life or just a new experience in general.
WHO HAS MOST INSPIRED YOU IN YOUR CAREER?
I have to give credit to four individuals that along the way have really inspired me to become the operator I am today: Tony Brancazio, Damian Dondero, Mike Bengtson and Scott Deisley. They all played a role in mentoring me and really motivating me to go above and beyond not only what is expected out of me, but what can be done every day to make the job fun, safe, memorable and impactful in a positive way for my colleagues, my guest and myself.
WHAT HAS BEEN THE GREATEST CHALLENGE IN YOUR WATERPARK CAREER?
When I moved to Dubai, I had to really understand and embrace the day to day cultural challenges that I would face while interacting with guest and colleagues from all over the world. It has been something that has made me more empathetic and sympathetic as a person and as a leader.
HOW DO YOU KEEP FOCUSED AND MOTIVATED?
Whenever I have a day or a moment where I feel defeated, I turn to the team and just look at what they do to ensure guest are safe and happy, and that brings everything back into focus for me.
WHAT ADVICE WOULD YOU GIVE SOMEONE WHO IS INTERESTED IN WORKING IN THE WATERPARK INDUSTRY?
Take advantage of getting to know people, steal ideas and make work fun and have a purpose for what you do.
WHAT BOOKS OR PUBLICATIONS DO YOU RELY ON MOST FOR INSPIRATION OR MOTIVATION?
To be honest, I read when I am on vacation and usually it’s a good mystery book. I look toward people for inspiration and motivation. When people are passionate about something, and they show it without fear or regret, it makes me want to do more myself.
WHAT IS YOUR FAVORITE PART OF YOUR JOB?
Driving onto the island each morning and seeing Burj Al Arab on my left and Atlantis right ahead. It makes me appreciate the opportunities I have been given in this industry.
WHAT CAREER OR BUSINESS WOULD YOU CONSIDER IF YOU WERE STARTING ALL OVER AGAIN?
My senior year of high school I wanted to be a night club owner and did that as a senior project.
HOW DID YOU FIRST GET INVOLVED WITH THE WWA?
My first involvement with WWA was volunteering at the WWA Symposium in 2008. Once I moved to Dubai, I was privileged enough to not only host WWA at my facility but also speak.
WHAT IS SOMETHING INTERESTING ABOUT YOU THAT FEW KNOW OR WOULD GUESS?
I hate swimming. Ironic, I know! Don’t get me wrong, I’ll swim when I am teaching and making rescues, but just for fun, no way!