TEA Connect Blog

23 January 2016

From TEA NextGen member to Universal Creative: Danielle Holstine's story

I began to piece together industry puzzles in terms of what roles were available and how attractions, rides, and exhibits were built. My world expanded in what felt like an instant as I realized just how big the industry was and just how little I knew. The Themed Entertainment Association (TEA) and its NextGen initiative have been instrumental in getting me to where I am in my career today.

Danielle Holstine

-- Danielle Holstine, Engineer, Universal Creative


Where are they now?

The TEA NextGen Initiative cultivates new talent in a targeted effort that helps students and recent graduates learn about and build careers within the attractions industry through discounted membership, special programs such as TEA GibGab, training resources such as the TEA NextGen Skills Codex videowebinars, alliances with educational institutions, scholarships to TEA conferences and more. There are many success stories to share, such as this one by Danielle Holstine.

In her own words:

I first joined the TEA in 2010 when I was a graduate student at the Entertainment Technology Center at Carnegie Mellon University. My first TEA event was the 2010 SATE conference on Experience Design, in Orlando. It was a fantastic experience where it was made abundantly clear that the TEA was a resource ready and willing to help students. 

Networking at the TEA SATE 2014 conference

Upon graduating, I moved to Orlando to take a position with a research and development lab in the defense industry. While the position wasn’t in the themed entertainment industry, it certainly put me much closer – geographically speaking – to many of the major players.

Orlando being a primary industry hub, I was now able to attend as many TEA and NextGen events as I could. TEA mixers gave me the opportunity to network and meet people from different companies. In speaking to these folks, I began to piece together industry puzzles in terms of what roles were available and how attractions, rides, and exhibits were built. My world expanded in what felt like an instant as I realized just how big the industry was and just how little I knew.

So I set about learning what I could and taking every opportunity the TEA gave me. I attended a NextGen “speed interviewing” event in August 2013 – a precursor to what is now TEA GibGab. The event was perfect for me because, while I didn’t walk out with a job offer, I did get one-on-one time with 11 very different companies within the industry. Having that time with each company helped me understand what skills are necessary and valued for this industry versus the defense industry. That helped me learn where I needed to grow and how to tailor my pitch for a themed entertainment company.

Throughout all of these events, I made use of a piece of advice given to me by a particularly chatty fellow sitting next to me on an airplane once: Never be afraid to introduce yourself to someone. I tried to remember that at every event I attended. Not only did it allow me to meet some great people, it also opened the door to conversations about what that individual’s job was, what their company did, and hear their perspective on the industry. 

To this day, I try to remember that there’s never anything to lose by a short introduction and there’s always so much to gain.

I exercised that advice once again at SATE 2014. I introduced myself to as many people as I could until I finally found some folks from Universal Creative, one of the companies that I had previously identified as a place I’d love to work. I pitched hard, doing my best to apply all the lessons I had learned. I landed an interview there a few months after SATE and a few months (and several interviews) later, I am now happily employed at Universal Creative.

Without the many events – mixers, speed interviews, meet-and-greets – made available by the TEA and hosted by its member companies, I may never have made the connections that led to my current job. I certainly would not have learned about the industry anywhere near as quickly. 

To any NextGen TEA member looking for a job now: I urge you to make use of the huge resource that is the TEA. Brush up your online presence, your TEA online member profile and your portfolio. Print your business cards and make yourself look professional. Then attend events and know your five-minute pitch – who are you and why can’t that company you want to work for go one second longer without hiring you? I networked like crazy and, with time, it paid off and it certainly can for you, too!

Do you have a NextGen success story that you’d like to share? Did the TEA play a significant role in helping you launch your career? If so, please contact Aimee Roy at [email protected] to find out how you can contribute to our “Where are they now” series.

Posted by Judith Rubin



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