Up Close: Profile of the Guest Engagement Manager
"What keeps me here is the culture. I am part of something much bigger and we are all working towards a common goal."
To be recognized as a finalist for an International Association of Amusement Parks and Attractions (IAAPA) Brass Ring is no easy feat, never-the-less two years in a row! After all, this organization represents more than 5,300 individuals from more than 100 countries. Thanks to Guest Engagement Manager Lisa Howard, Hersheypark was able to claim bragging rights to just that. She’s been a dedicated team member for more than 10 years, and her passion for the Park and creativity has helped to grow the training and development program into world class. Lisa is constantly challenging herself on ways to make the program better, and how she can help train the more than 1,000 ride operators how to provide the best guest experience possible each summer. Between her busy schedule, we were able to connect with Lisa and find out about her current role, why she enjoys working for Hershey Entertainment & Resorts (HE&R) and more.
Do you have a passion for amusement parks? Think you’d enjoy operating rides and learning from Lisa? She’s looking for eager-to-learn 16 and older individuals to join her team! Applicants just provide the smile and positive attitude and Lisa and her team will provide all the training needed. To apply and be a part of the sweetest team around, visit our website.
Q) Tell us about your career. Where did you go to school? What was your career path prior to joining Hershey?
A) I graduated from Towson University with a degree in Visual Communication with the focus being on Photography and Digital Art. Since the age of 16 I worked in the hospitality industry in one shape or form. I found a love for serving others and creating memories. I spent most of my career prior to Hersheypark working in hotels. I got my first taste of Attraction Operations when I took an opportunity to become the Venue Manager for a 4D motion simulator theater in Inner Harbor. When I started to think long-term career goals I wanted to stay in the operations field. Hershey and Hersheypark was an easy decision. My parents brought my family to Hersheypark every year since I can remember. The memories my family created here made me want to be a part of creating those for others.
Q) Walk us through your career so far at Hershey.
A) I started at HE&R in November 2007 as a Ride Operations Area Manager. I spent the next several years learning the ins and outs of the company, Hersheypark and our culture. In the fall of 2015 I was given the opportunity to focus my efforts on my passion – training and development. With that, my role changed to Ride Operations Manager of Training and Quality Assurance. Very recently in November of 2017 I was honored to be given the title of Guest Engagement Manager; Ride Operations and Guest Services joined to create one team. This role is a branch of that team focusing on training, auditing and engaging our internal and external guests.
Q) Why did you choose to work for Hershey?
A) At first I chose Hershey because of the joy it brought me as a child. I wanted to raise my family in this area and be a part of the team. What keeps me here is the culture. I am part of something much bigger and we are all working towards a common goal. I don’t feel like I come to “work,” this is my family and we support each other in all aspects. When I found out about our support to Milton Hershey School it confirmed my decision to work for this company. Learning about Milton and Catherine’s journey and passion drives my dedication to HE&R. Every day we strive to follow in Milton Hershey’s footsteps, and I believe we are making him proud.
Q) What's your biggest accomplishment since joining the Hershey team?
A) I would like to think my biggest accomplishment is embedding the company culture and values into our part time staff through training. The training programs created have been recognized within and outside our company. The Attractions Department Supervisor Training has been recognized as a finalist for an IAAPA Brass Ring two years in a row. Every year I add to this accomplishment by finding new ways to keep our employees engaged in training. I gauge the success of a training by watching the employees in action, that’s when I know they got it!
Q) What's your favorite ride at Hersheypark?
A) This is a tough one! I love rides, pretty much all rides. If I had to pick, I would say Lightning Racer is my favorite to ride. I love the feel of a wooden coaster, the way you can feel it move and gain speed. If you asked what ride is my favorite to operate I would have to say Monorail. Driving the Monorail while guests take in all that Hershey has to offer is one of my favorites.
Q) What's the most rewarding aspect of your job?
A) The most rewarding aspect of my job comes in a few parts. First, watching our employees enjoy their training and put what they have learned to practice. The second the part is creating memories for our guests. However, the most rewarding aspect of my job is watching the employees create the memories for guests using the skills we trained them in.
Q) What advice would you give someone interested in a career in amusement parks?
A) My first piece of advice is to do what you love. Find a career that when you come to work it feels like you are coming home. I encourage anyone wanting to enter the amusement industry to start entry level. Learning the aspects of the operation and how to provide excellent service to guests. Don’t be afraid to get your hands dirty, learn all you can from the people around you.
Q) What's the best perk of your job?
A) The best perk of my job is that no two days are the same. Every day I get the opportunity to challenge myself and learn something new. I have the privilege of knowledge sharing at several events outside HE&R, and build relationships with others in the Amusement Industry.
Q) What does a typical day consist of?
A) I am not sure that I have a typical day, which is the best part. One day I could be planning our next large training, to climbing a coaster lift, to hanging from the Hersheypark Arena ceiling training in rope rescue, to presenting to industry professionals. During the off season my days are spent planning, developing and collaborating to ensure we are prepared for the upcoming park season. Once the park is open my role shifts to support the operation and our employees.
Q) Tell us something folks might not know about you.
A) I am an artist at heart. I need to be able to creative in my work. My focus in college was Photography. I have had several pieces of my work hang in shows in the Baltimore, D.C., and Harrisburg areas. One of the best experiences I had was when one of my pieces was sold at a show. Thinking that what I created is hanging in someone’s home is very exciting to me. I am blessed that my career allows me to use my creativity every day.