Monday, October 13, 2008

Inside the Institute for Emerging Leaders

My colleague Heidi Aulakh, manager of membership marketing here at IAAPA, asked me to post this entry featuring a personal perspective on the association's Institute for Emerging Leaders.

At IAAPA Attractions Expo 2007 we launched a new program for the future leaders of the attractions industry: the Institute for Emerging Leaders. This educational program is geared specifically for the mid-level “high flyers” of the industry—middle managers or supervisors looking to move up in their organization and further develop their careers. Think driven, motivated, hard-working individuals who are always looking to learn more, do more, and are dedicated to their work and the industry.

The 2007 class included people from Hersheypark, Gillian’s Wonderland Pier, and Hopi Hari. In preparing to do the marketing for the program, I corresponded with one of last year’s participants, Mark Rees, park services manager at Blackpool Pleasure Beach. Here’s what he had to say about the program:

Heidi: Tell me a little bit about yourself … what do you do as park services manager at Pleasure Beach?
Mark: The Park Services Department is responsible for a lot of operational activities such as cleanliness, security, first aid, car parking, etc. Also, whilst I am not directly in charge of ride operations, I do cover that role when the rides manager is off. I started working for the Pleasure Beach whilst I was still at college, and I am still here 14 years later! In that time I have done just about every operational task that there is to do.

Heidi: What made you decide to go to the Institute for Emerging Leaders last year? What did you learn?
Mark: My director suggested the program to me when I took on my current role last August, and he showed the program to me. What interested me most was the fact that the program identified and covered all of the key disciplines involved in running a successful amusement park, from operations to finance to marketing, plus it tied in neatly with the Expo that was running at the same time. Of course the fact that it meant me going to Orlando—and away from the British weather—played its part!

The program was structured in such a way that we covered each of the key areas first, then finished things off with a case study, involving the Expo, which really brought everything together. I think the greatest lesson I learned was to appreciate each of the parts that contribute to the whole—we were all specialists in one discipline or another, and it is easy to fall into the trap of thinking that your discipline is the most important. The program showed me how everything fits together. Since then I have tried to consider the needs of the company rather than just the needs of my department.

Heidi: What advice do you have for those considering attending this year?
Mark: I would advise the 2008 attendees to go into the program with an open mind, try to see the value the different disciplines bring to the business, and, most importantly of all, do as much networking as humanly possible! After all, this generation of emerging leaders may well be the next generation of leaders.

The Institute takes place during IAAPA Attractions Expo 2008, Sunday-Tuesday, Nov. 16-18, which allows those involved the best opportunity to participate in the program and see the industry in action.

If you want more information, feel free to send an e-mail to our education manager, a high-flyer herself, Linda Gerson at

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