I soon realised I loved the industry and there was nothing else that could give me the variety, challenge and satisfaction’
1. Please give a brief overview of your career history – where you started, how you progressed, the companies you have worked for etc
I started my career at Chessington World of Adventures whilst I was studying for my A-levels in
2001. It started off as a part time summer job working within Rides & Attractions operating various
rides across the resort.
I was enjoying the work so much that I decided against a career in I.T, something I had planned to
pursue having opted against university, in favour of trialling the following year at Chessington World
of Adventures to see what happened. I was promoted to a Summer Part-Time Team Leader role and
from there progressed every year within the largest department at the resort until I reached the role
of Area Team Leader which was one of the assistant managers for the department and a member of
the park management team.
At this point I decided that a career in the leisure industry was obviously the right path for me to
follow as I had enjoyed it so far so why not try and progress!
After gaining experience in various operations such as Car Parking, Ride & Attractions and Park
Cleaning I moved to the London Eye as Ride Department Manager in 2005. At the London Eye I was
responsible for the Health & Safety of the ride and the team who worked outside meeting and
greeting the guests. I then progressed within the Operations Team learning a variety of different
skills and roles and gaining a huge amount of experience before taking on my current role as Head of
Operations for Madame Tussauds Hollywood.
2. Have you always wanted to work within hospitality, leisure, travel and tourism and why? If not, how did you end up where you are now?
My first real job was Chessington World of Adventures and this started my career within the leisure industry,
Chessington World of Adventures taught me everything I needed to know about Operations but it was only when I joined the London Eye that I started to learn about business and how to make a leisure attraction a success.
I fell into my role at Chessington World of Adventures and as I continued to develop. I soon realised I enjoyed the industry and if I enjoyed it why should I not stay within the business - Merlin was and still is the most successful leisure and attraction operator within Europe.
3. What sort of qualifications and training have you had and what else would you like to do?
I have mostly on the job experience and training, climbing roller coasters and managing the operation of the Worlds Largest Cantilevered Observation Wheel is not something you learn at school! I hold A-level qualifications in Business Studies, Information Technology and Craft Design and Technology which gave me such a fantastic start to developing myself as a Manager within such a fast paced industry. Although I do not think you need to have qualifications to be successful within the leisure industry many of my team are now choosing to complete a CAM, Certificate of Attraction Management. This is a nationally accredited qualification in which the Merlin Entertainments Group invests the time and resources to allow up to 70 employees to attend the externally based and managed qualification.
I have internal qualifications relevant to the Merlin Entertainments Group but last year I realised that
I wanted qualifications that are relevant outside of the Group and so I studied for my IOSH, Institute
of Safety and Health, a qualification in Health & Safety and also a PRINCE2, a qualification in Project
Management. Both of these qualifications were supported by the business and have given me a huge
insight and knowledge into these areas and will helped me with the opening of Madame Tussauds
Hollywood - 1 August 2009.
4. What are the top 5 activities you would typically carry out on a daily basis?
Managing the business safely and ensuring the safety of our staff and guests are always our highest priority.
Managing my direct team and ensuring they are happy and feel supported in their role and are constantly being developed.
Developing the guest experience by constantly challenging my team and the operation to ensure we deliver excellent customer service and the incentive for our guests to return.
Reviewing and questioning various procedures and practices around the business to ensure that we are operating at cost and as time efficiently as possible.
Interacting with guests and staff to ensure everyone has a fantastic day and that both the guests and staff have a day to remember.
5. What do you most enjoy about your job?
I enjoy the fact millions of people each year pay to visit my attraction to have a great experience and that I get paid to work there and enjoy the same experiences as they do
6. What would you say is the biggest challenge you face on a daily basis?
At the London Eye one of the biggest challenges is ensuring we are delivering amazing customer service whilst ensuring that high volumes of guests visit the attraction each day. On average this is 16,000 a day but it has reached 22,560 - that is nearly half the capacity of Florida’s largest theme park which is an amazing achievement considering they reside on 107 acres and the London Eye resides on about 5 acres!
7. What would you say is your biggest achievement to date?
It has to be accepting the role of Head of Operations for Madame Tussauds Hollywood. The attraction will be the fourth Madame Tussauds attraction in the USA and the ninth attraction globally. It will be the 20th year of Madame Tussauds Attractions and 200 years of Madame Tussauds as a brand. Madame Tussauds Hollywood resides next to the World Famous Graumans Chinese Theatre and the star lined streets lead directly into the attraction. The attraction launch and its future success will drive the Madame Tussauds brand into the USA and the new and emerging arkets in the Far East and Asia.
Moving my entire life to sunny California and taking on this role has to be the most exciting and
biggest achievement in my career so far!
8. Who has been your greatest influence/role model in your career and why?
I have some very good friends within the group who I have worked closely with and learned from greatly, they also tell me exactly what I am doing right and wrong and pull me back down to earth when I need it!
My three good friends within the business (Dave Fisher & Craig Prentice – London Eye and James Paulding – Alton Towers Resort) have always been around to support me through my career and offer me support and advice when ever I need it. I hope these three as well as many other good friends continue their careers within the Merlin Entertainments Group so that I can rely on them for guidance and support in the future ahead.
My first manager at the London Eye (Danny Price, Head of Operations) has helped mould me into the manager I am today, he has always been more than honest and blunt with me and always gave me the freedom to succeed within the attraction. I had my first interview with him on a bench for 45 minutes and this set the standard for our working relationship and ensured that he got the best out of me even if I didn’t think it was at the time!
9. Where do you see yourself in 5 years time?
The role I am in now reports directly into the Director of Madame Tussauds – Las Vegas and Hollywood and so ideally I want that role next, either that or playing part in the opening of new Merlin Entertainments Group attractions around the world.
With Merlin Entertainments Group aggressive expansion plans, at a rate of five midway attractions
each year (e.g. LEGOLAND Discovery Centres, Madame Tussauds, SEA LIFE, Dungeons and
Observation wheels or structures like the London Eye), will give me plenty of opportunity to move
around the business once I have ensured the success of Hollywood.
10. Do you have a favourite tale or most memorable moment from your career? If so, please tell us about it!
Part of my role at Chessington World of Adventures involved climbing roller coasters if they ever stopped temporarily and speaking to guests. The qualification for this enabled me to be one of a select few people able to climb to the middle of the London Eye. It really is an amazing view looking out across the London Skyline at 75m with just a safety harness stopping you from falling!
‘Picking up a Merlin group award for biggest growth symbolised the success following the hard years’
Also being able to say I am in my current position at the age of 26 having the opportunity to open up
Madame Tussauds Hollywood and start building a life in California will always be the most memorable moment in my career.
11. What piece of advice would you offer someone who wants to work within our industries
Be honest with everyone around you and work hard for what you want to achieve. Guests visiting our attractions need to have a fantastic experience and if they do not, quite simply they will not return!
Offering and developing the guests experience will always continue to drive the business and anyone
who wants to be successful in the leisure industry forward.
The leisure industry is always something that will spark a conversation and friends and families will always be more interested to hear about your job at a leisure attraction like a theme park than someone else who works in a 9-5 Monday to Friday job!
12. What would you say are the essential person characteristics for your job e.g. enthusiastic, team worker, proactive etc?
You have to be enthusiastic, passionate and hard working in the job you are doing. One day you will be meeting a VIP guest and the next day you might be helping the maintenance team to paint a fence so it’s not always glamorous!
I have learnt you will never be a millionaire working in the leisure industry but as long as you enjoy the job you do, why do you need anything else?
If there’s anything else you’d like to tell us about your job or career
I would not leave the industry I work in because I love what I do and work with the greatest friends I
will ever have!
Millions of people visit Merlin Entertainments Group attractions every year and I can say I am lucky
enough to work for an extremely successful business that delivers those experiences!
‘I can’t see what other industry could ever match it!’