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Denise Beckson is Director of Operations and Human Resources at Morey’s Piers Beachfront Waterparks & Resorts in Wildwood, New Jersey. She has served on numerous IAAPA committees and regularly participates in IAAPA U.S. Advocacy Days in Washington, DC. Beckson credits her involvement with IAAPA as tool in building her network.

"I've built my network of colleagues organically over time. I’ve found the best way to connect and grow my network is through member volunteerism with organizations such as IAAPA," she says. "Through committees, task forces, focus groups, etc., I have met and worked with women from all over the world who are facing similar business issues. It always amazes me that we may have cultural and geographical differences, but the challenges in our work environments remain very similar. It’s a wonderful feeling to know you can pick up the phone or shoot an e-mail to 'your crew' and get genuinely helpful ideas and input in response. Our industry is truly one of sharing and collaboration."

 
 

Thoughts on Women in the Industry

What is the most pressing issue facing women in the workplace today, and how can the attractions industry influence positive change?
Work/life balance is the most pressing issue facing people in the workplace today, man or woman. However, since gender roles traditionally have dictated the female or wife in the relationship manages the children and household, it can be particularly difficult for women to balance the needs at home and at work. The work environment is no longer confined to time in the office or at the facility. With technology such as smartphones, work needs and requirements have infiltrated our personal time. We must find ways to ensure we are keeping a balance, so we are successful in all areas of our lives. Organization, prioritization, and strategic planning are all methods for trying to ensure that core business and personal goals are being met. The attractions industry can influence positive change by first recognizing the issue and responding by developing flexible work options that are mutually beneficial to the employee and the business.
 
How have you seen the industry evolve in regard to gender roles?

There are many women involved in our industry in seasonal positions and in entry-level managerial positions. The number of women involved in advanced executive positions decreases by comparison. I believe this is related to the work/life balance issue. With more responsibility comes increased difficulty in balancing all aspects of one’s life. I believe our industry values women in the workplace and diversity, in general. I have always found the industry to recognize hard work, dedication, and quality, regardless of gender. We must continue to find ways to emphasize the rewarding careers we offer while developing systems and practices that allow our colleagues to meet and fulfill their personal goals.

What is one piece of advice you’d like to convey to women starting their attractions careers?


My advice to women starting out their attraction careers is to make their own niche. Work hard at your job, but always look for the holes—the areas and items that don't necessarily have a home—and make them yours. Don't passively wait for assignments; take initiative and assign projects to yourself or ask if you can pursue a task in an area you want to learn more about. Be willing to learn, think outside of what your current role is, and think about where you want your career to go. Look for tasks and opportunities that will help you build the skills you may eventually need.

Creating Careers of Distinction

How do you invest in yourself as a leader?
I try to invest in those around me. The stronger the team, the more we achieve. Conferences, expos, seminars, webinars, books, and visits to other facilities are all important aspects of leadership development. I look for opportunities for myself and the team that works with me to grow and push outside the comfort zone. Communication is an important tool to use in fine-tuning one’s leadership skills. I need to know how the team responds to my tactics and direction so I can adapt my style to their personalities and preferences.


What is your most cherished work principle?

I have two main work principles I subscribe to; they are related to safety and planning.
Safety is the core of our industry. When it comes to safety and training employees, I try to instill a culture of: “100% right, 100% of the time.” Safety cannot take a break, it cannot be graded on a curve, and it cannot be anything less than executing on what has been trained, every time—whether the first day of operation or the last, from a rainy day to the busiest day.
The second principle is: failing to plan, is planning to fail. I believe in starting with the end in mind and being outcome driven, but firmly believe that getting the best outcome frequently depends on having a well thought out direction on how to get there, what obstacles you may face, and visualization of success.

What do you consider your most significant career accomplishment?

As I began to think about this question, I contemplated recognition bestowed from colleagues and organizations: awards, appointments, leadership positions, etc. However, when I thought about what I value most, it's clearly the people I've had the opportunity to touch, guide, assist, and learn from that are most meaningful to me. When you realize and recognize that you are in the unique position to shape the lives of others, particularly young people, there is no greater thrill or responsibility.
 

What has had the greatest impact on your career?

My involvement in the global attractions industry has had the greatest impact on my career. Visiting other parks and speaking with colleagues across the globe has provided me by far with the greatest insights and ideas on how to improve myself and my business. I am so indebted to IAAPA for bringing us all together on different continents multiple times throughout the year.


What has been the greatest challenge of your career?

The greatest challenge is to get the "aces in their places". Selecting and hiring the right person for the right job allows the business to succeed, grow and reinvest. The good news is, it's an ongoing challenge so you have lots of chances to work on it!

Hiring is hard, there is no silver bullet, magic test, or personality assessment that can ensure you always get the right person for the job. But, I have learned to hire slowly and carefully leading to a better batting average/success rate. The converse is also true.... the wrong person in the job is a detriment to morale, productivity, and the success of the team; the longer you let that fester, the more infectious it becomes. Take your time with the selection and don't wait too long to purge once you know it's not a good fit.


What was the greatest piece of career advice you ever received?
My mom is probably my biggest cheerleader and advice-giver. I've learned so many valuable lessons from her over the years. From a young age she instilled that I could be whatever I wanted to be. All I had to do was set my mind to it and work hard to achieve it: to follow my dreams.

She also told me "the mom sets the tone". By that, she meant if the mother in a family was having a bad day, before you know it the whole family is cranky and having a bad day. She said, if you are having a bad day, pretend you aren't. It seems simple but isn’t easy to put in practice. This advice translates to the workplace. The leader sets the tone and if you move towards challenges with positive and enthusiastic determination, the team will follow. If you complain and criticize… the team will follow.

The Future of the Industry

Why did you join and choose to stay in the attractions business?
I began my amusement park employment at 14 years old, working in admissions. I loved that first summer so much; I decided to return for another, and then another … it was my job through high school, college, teaching, and graduate school and then it became my full-time career. It had a magnetic hold over me! I continued to be drawn into the industry even as I studied other subjects and worked in other fields.
The attractions industry shaped the person I have become. It provided leadership opportunities at a young age. It required me to be accountable and responsible. It also helped my public communication skills. This industry is never stagnant; I am always learning—that's one of the main reasons I continue to stay. I continue to grow my knowledge base and expand my horizons.
While I did not think my first summer job would lead to my lifelong career, I can't imagine it any other way; I feel blessed to have had this opportunity.


What makes you most passionate about the industry?
I love our industry—from the rides, slides, entertainment, and education to the games, food, and animal encounters, and to my teammates, guests and all those who I have the pleasure of connecting with each day. We are blessed to be in such a dynamic, diverse, global industry. I love what I do!

What is your vision for the industry in the next 20 years?
My vision for the next 20 years is for the attractions industry to remain a relevant activity for the family to enjoy together. The world is a fast-moving and ever-changing place and the industry needs to adapt and change along with it. We need to continue to look for new ways to build family memories and create experiences. We need to integrate with the world around us while at the same time providing a respite from the stress and grind of daily life.

 
 
​​Know a professional we should talk to? E-mail Prasana William, IAAPA manager, digital content and strategy.

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