Tina Schwartz is Business and Finance Manager for the American Amusement Machine Association. "Our industry is filled with strong women who are willing to share their experience and knowledge," she says. "We are a community of sharing, despite the fact that many are direct competitors. Take advantage of that unique opportunity."

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?
One of the most pressing issues facing women in the workplace today, in my opinion, is a work-life balance. As nurturers, we tend to want to "fix" every situation and struggle with turning anyone or anything away. Whether it's taking on those extra projects when we are already swamped, or simply answering that e-mail that, in our mind, just could not wait until Monday, we feel the need to do it all.

As we are working harder than ever, it is more important to take time for some family time and fun. After all, isn't that what our industry is all about? Through networking and sharing, we can thrive to enjoy the very experiences we help create.

How have you seen the industry evolve in regard to gender roles?

In my 18-plus years in the industry, I have seen a significant increase in the number of women in leadership roles. [AAMA’s] board of directors certainly reflects that evolution. I am proud to say that AAMA, which was founded in 1981, just recently voted in our first female president, Holly Hampton of Bay Tek Games. We have really come away from the "Good 'Ole Boys" network of yesterday.

How have you built your network of women in the industry?
I believe it is important to surround yourself with people who support you and your accomplishments, while also challenging you to step out of your comfort zone and ultimately live at your highest level. Early on, I tried to identify some key individuals and engaged them for guidance as I navigated through challenges. Today, I rely on some of my original mentors and continue to build that network as we welcome new members to the industry. They come with fresh ideas and a collaborative spirit, which satisfies my desire to be challenged.

What is one piece of advice you’d like to convey to women starting their attractions careers?
I would tell women coming into the industry to take advantage of the many resources our industry has to offer. There are so many educational opportunities available such as industry trade show seminars, stand-alone programs, webinars, and publications. Use them! Reach out to your industry associations. Don't be afraid to ask questions. We are all here to help and should be utilized as resources.

Creating Careers of Distinction

How do you invest in yourself as a leader?
Education is the key to growth, both as a professional and a leader. Today's technology makes it so easy to access knowledge. You no longer have to travel and spend a lot of money to earn an education. Our industry offers so many opportunities. I try to learn something new each day through either a webinar, white paper, or simply a daily positive affirmation email. Never stop learning. Another key factor is listening. In our businesses, if we are able to openly discuss our challenges, it is much easier to overcome them as a team.
What is your most cherished work principle?
I work from a place of integrity, and pride myself on a very strong work ethic. I try to go above and beyond in all that I do. I am a planner to the core and believe that for every problem, there is a solution. You simply have to take a deep breath and break it down. I do not allow defeat, I choose to work through the problem and come up with a resolution or at minimum pinpoint alternative options. I love what I get to do every day.

What do you consider your most significant career accomplishment?
On October 5, 2017, during the AAMA Annual Meeting, I was the very surprised and extremely honored recipient of the 2017 Joseph Robbins Coin-Op Award. This award, named after one of the AAMA founding members, is presented "In recognition for Outstanding Participation, Contributions and Service to the Coin-Operated Amusement Industry." To be recognized for my years of hard work and dedication is absolutely amazing. The realization that I have joined an elite group of award winners who make up AAMA Association history is so humbling.

What has had the greatest impact on your career?

I would credit my industry colleagues for having the greatest impact on my career. Working at the association level has allowed me to take part in conversations that essentially shape our industry. When we sit down in meetings, there is such a plethora of history, knowledge, and experience at the table, and over the years I have benefited from that and have ultimately grown by listening, learning, and contributing. I have really had some impactful and inspirational mentors along the way and for that I am grateful.   
What has been the greatest challenge of your career? 

My greatest challenge has been adapting to change. There have been many changes over my 18-plus years. I have seen 4 individuals as AAMA's chief staffer, each with a definitively different personality and management style.

What was the greatest piece of career advice you ever received?

My second year at AAMA, we welcomed a new admin by the name of Vanessa Cabrera. Vanessa is a skillful negotiator and would repeat the phrase, "All they can say is no." This applies to so many areas in business and in life. Ask for what you want. No one is going to simply hand things to you. That phrase has come in handy plenty over the years and has been instrumental in crafting my own negotiating skills.


The Future of the Industry

Why did you join and choose to stay in the attractions business?
In 1999, Bob Fay presented me with the opportunity to join his team at AAMA as his administrative assistant. While my title has changed, my love for the association and the industry has not wavered. This industry is a family and I am truly thankful for the amazing individuals in my "coin-op" family.

What makes you most passionate about the industry?
In the words of newly appointed AAMA president, Holly Hampton, "What we do is special. We create games. We create millions of smiles around the world." I couldn't agree more. We are creators. We create new technologies, entertainment and games, but what we are truly doing is creating experiences. That's exciting.

What is your vision for the industry in the next 20 years?

Our industry is continuously evolving. The level of investment into the industry is unprecedented. We are seeing a mass exodus from the single-attraction-based location model to multi-attraction entertainment centers. With virtual reality growing and beginning to settle into our space, I see locations continuing to grow and incorporate the latest and greatest in amusements and technologies. With the speed at which we are developing technology, I wouldn't be surprised if in the next 20 years I was able to drive my "Jetson's car" to the amusement park. We'll see.

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


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