Alumni interview: Geert van Heugten

To show the possible future for you as an Attraction and Themepark Management student, we’ve interviewed Geert van Heugten. He is an alumni member of the study and the perfect example of how far you can come with a good plan.

Geert van Heugten, Dutch, living in Amsterdam works currently as Business Development Account Manager with ProSlide Technology Inc. ProSlide is the world’s best water ride manufacturer working from Ottowa, Canada and he is representative for ProSlide in Eastern Europe.

During the day a routine is hard to find. Geert is in constant contact with all kinds of people, projects and teams who (might) want to purchase a ProSlide water ride. His job is to help them in any kind of way to make the best decisions whilst determining what kind of rides they want. Furthermore, he also makes sure ProSlide stays ahead of the competition by offering truly unique rides, of the highest quality and capacity rates helping businesses achieving the most.

Attraction and Theme Park Management opened a world for Geert in such a way, that like-minded people constantly surrounded him. Because of ATPM he started to see visitor attractions and destinations as business models rather than something he likes to visit himself. ATPM has taught him to see how everything in a theme park works together. How a science like Imagineering is applied for a theme park to be successful.

For Geert it was a big transition between the theoretical sides of the study to the practical side of his current job. The business is not made in a chronological way, and sometimes, the business is just not yet ready for his (or our) way of thinking. He says that sometimes we think too radical, or too logical. In real life, things are determined by 1000 different aspects, and yes, most of the time it’s money or either time, that’s the problem.

Geerts personal ambition for his future carreer is either to start his own business or to become a chief executive. In the meanwhile, he does not have to remain in The Netherlands. Geert would love to go abroad, for a major amount of time. He does wish to remain in the theme park business, preferably, on the commercial side (marketing, sales, operations, general management).

The thing he loved the most about the study were the fieldtrips! The best thing of being in theme park management is that everyone LOVES theme parks, he says. So, they used to get a car, bus, train or anything and ended up in theme parks, water parks, zoos or a combination of them, spending days and days having fun!

Even though Geert loved the study is was not what he expected beforehand. In the beginning he wanted to be a concept developer. And now he is on the “hard” side of the business. How? He discovered that he liked this side more during his internships and other work experience.

For his graduation internship Geert went to Holiday Park Kownaty, which is a destination development project in Poland, near the German border. He was offered this internship on LinkedIn, after posting a request. During his stay Geert developed an HR strategy and planning for them, based upon a qualitative research on the wishes and needs of the German and Polish labor market concerning recruitment, training and rewardance.

To prepare the new student Geert gave some good tips:

  1. Have a plan. Don’t start studying this business without actually having a goal. This business wants specialists, not generalists. And take into account what the market wants, not just what you want!
  1. Be up-to-date! Make sure you know what’s going on, and be the first. Know the competition, means knowing everything there is to know. Be hungry. Go on Blooloop, IAAPA, Google, even Looopings.
  1. Network. Yes, I know it sounds cliché, but this business actually works with networking. It is always easier to do business with somebody you know, than with a stranger. Why? Because in the dynamic and fast moving environment of a theme/water park, things change FAST! So you need to act FAST!
  1. Make yourself valuable, and make sure everyone knows. Let people know what your expertise is by being active online (because that’s where everyone is…). I tend to spend 30 minutes on LinkedIn every day commenting or posting news. Also during the weekends.
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