TEA Connect Blog

31 August 2018

Lance Cardey: TEA networking opportunities helped a young engineer join the industry

I didn’t know the Themed Entertainment Association (TEA) or the themed entertainment industry existed when I started out after receiving my engineering degree in 2014. But when I found it and realized the career adventure I could have, I jumped at the chance to discover my place in it. It’s been quite the ride ever since. -- Lance Cardey, Program Manager, Universal Studios

This first-hand account by Lance Cardey is part of the "Where are they now?" series of articles about TEA NextGen members building careers in themed entertainment, and how their involvement in TEA helped them achieve their goals. The TEA NextGen Initiative helps students and recent graduates through special programs such as TEA GibGab, training resources such as the TEA NextGen Skills Codex video, webinars, alliances with educational institutions, scholarships to TEA conferences, opportunities to volunteer and more. 

At a TEA GibGab event

I was working for an aircraft parts distributor in Arizona after graduating from Arizona State University. I had left school with no real direction on what I wanted to do with the vast career ahead of me. But for me, typical engineering jobs seemed to be missing something - at the time I didn’t know what - and I had become disillusioned with what the future had in store.

During a trip back home to Santa Clarita, I set up a meeting with Maurice Aboulache at Technifex. Maurice, a family acquaintance, gave me an introduction to his industry and a tour of his company. Seeing the multitude of projects and prototypes in the shop, and learning about the different applications each was being built for, was my first introduction to the themed entertainment industry, and where I discovered how it was different. This was a place where the sciences and arts came together to create experiences, a concept I hadn’t found in the traditional engineering paths. This was a world filled with adventures for those who were up to the challenge, and at the end of the tour I asked how I could figure out if it was right for me. From Maurice, I also learned about the TEA, the TEA NextGen initiative, and the highly competitive nature of the industry. His parting words were, “Give it your best shot and see where it leads.”

Volunteering in 2016 at a TEA SATE conference

I became a TEA NextGen member in November 2015, and my first event was a mixer in Pasadena with the TEA Western North America Division. I was pretty highly motivated - I remember leaving work at noon to drive 400 miles and make the 7pm start time. I had no business cards, no resumes, and no plan other than to meet at least one person and learn what they do. I ended up meeting industry professionals like Melissa Townsend (The Attraction Services Company) and Frank Weigand (TWT Group), who shared some amazing experiences and career lessons.

A month later I attended my first TEA GibGab event in Burbank, where I was able to introduce my skillsets to potential employers. I came away from the event with a couple of job leads, and that really boosted my confidence in my new career direction.

As it turned out, for me the cornerstone was volunteering. I was part of the events crew for the 2016 TEA Summit and TEA Thea Awards Gala. Through my exposure to these events, in the course of providing my services to help keep things running smoothly, I not only learned about cutting edge projects and new attractions, but also built some important relationships. From those beginnings I was able to secure an opportunity with Universal Studios Hollywood managing technical projects.

I’ve continued to be actively involved in TEA, serving the TEA community that gave me my real career start.

The events and opportunities that TEA provides its NextGen members enabled me to get to know this industry and to know that it was right for me. If you are a new NextGen member, my emphatic advice is to strongly devote yourself to getting involved and finding your place here. Go the extra mile - or 400 miles, if necessary - to attend an event that interests you. Don’t be afraid to ask questions of the other TEA members. And look for ways to participate and give back to the community. Give it your best shot and see where it leads.

Posted by Judy Rubin

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