Jessi O’Daniel is the General Manager of Typhoon Texas Austin, one of four parks owned and operated by the Pyek Group. Jessi’s journey in the attractions industry began with Kentucky Kingdom, where over the course of eight years, Jessi took on several leadership and management roles, and until recently was the park’s Vice President of Guest Experience. As the Pyek Group has grown and continues to expand, Jessi began her current role at Typhoon Texas in January 2022. Additionally, Jessi is the chair of IAAPA’s Young Professional Subcommittee and a member of the North America Regional Advisory Committee. In this interview, Jessi discusses what it means to put your stamp on it, the importance of soft skills, and leadership development.
Putting Your Stamp on it
“They’re like, ‘put your stamp on it, make it yours, make Typhoon Texas awesome.’”
In the attractions industry, one of the most valuable initiatives is improving the guest experience. Whether this is through a simple act of moving a food item to a different kitchen or fighting for new assets for your maintenance team to help reduce downtimes, making personal executive decisions to improve the operation can make all the difference for guests, your team, and the overall experience of your park.
When you “put your stamp” on something, it means to make those difficult personal decisions with a fresh set of eyes and the best interest of the operation in mind. By putting yourself in the shoes of the guest, you can personally customize many things about the operation on any level, from hourly employees to general manager. Support will often follow decisions that benefit the guest experience and improve the operation, so it’s important to not be afraid to change something when you look at it with a new pair of eyes.
“There is a lot of benefit to building that team so that it is a unit and everyone is being mindful of everyone else.”
When it comes to building a team, it’s important to make sure that everyone is harmonious in an aspect to where the operations of one team makes a positive impact on the operations of another. The grand operation should be built by bricks of teams that are all intertwined to ensure that they build each other up and don’t damage each other.
The main way to achieve this is to ensure that those teams have soft skills, an ability to communicate and work harmoniously with other teams. For example, when it comes to operations, it’s quite common that maintenance gets mad at operators, and operators get mad at maintenance. Building over these bridges and having people work together, even if it’s as simple as learning names, can make all the difference in the world for operations, and therefore, the guest experience.
“There are so many different lanes and so much opportunity in this industry.”
Helping develop and nurture the next generation of industry professionals is no easy task, and navigating this industry as a young professional is already quite the maze. Some young professionals don’t even know about what lies behind the doors of hourly positions, and helping develop leadership skills for future positions can really change the course of the industry.
People, especially young professionals, often want to break the curve. Unfortunately, young professionals don’t consistently have the guidance to properly do that. By tapering approaches, operations can be reformed and the industry can be reshaped. Sometimes, the first approach doesn’t work, but that doesn’t mean it was a failure. Leadership involves learning from mistakes and constantly improving oneself to be the best professional one can be to therefore light the path for others.
This podcast wouldn’t be possible without the incredible work of our amazing team:
- Scheduling and correspondence by Kristen Karaliunas
- Branding and design by Fabiana Fonseca
- Summary by Mason Nichols
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