TEA Connect Blog

26 May 2015

TEA MEMBER SPOTLIGHT: Nathan Jones, VP Sales USA & Canada, Vekoma Rides

Nathan Jones, Vekoma

"No better job in the world. No two days are the same. I get to ride roller coasters!"

Nathan Jones, Vice President of Sales, U.S.A. & Canada, Vekoma Rides Manufacturing BV, is a member of the Themed Entertainment Association (TEA) Western North America Division Board.

 

How did you get your start in the industry?

What I viewed as a temporary job turned into a career and now, 18 years later, I still marvel at how there really could not be a better job in the world. 

My first job was as Project Supervisor working for Prime Play/Whitewater when I was 18 years old. I had just returned from backpacking across Australia and still had the travel bug, and the position allowed me to fill up my passport while getting invaluable hands-on experience in the construction of large-scale amusement projects. During my time at Whitewater, I completed my Bachelor’s degree and moved up to Retrofit Sales, Sales Management, and eventually Vice President of Sales and Marketing, recently transitioning into the same position for Vekoma. 

Participating in the creation of some of the most spectacular family attractions around the world is what continues to drive my commitment to the industry. The insight gained from working intimately with Fortune 500 companies about their management styles and gaining an operator’s view of best practices have provided me with a unique perspective to counsel clients with a knowledge that is grounded in the real world.

And, I get to ride roller coasters.

 

Tell us about what you and your company specialize in and what markets you serve. 

Vekoma is the most experienced engineering and manufacturing company in the world when it comes to roller coasters. They have been producing roller coasters for the top parks globally since the 1970s. While its being one of the most sought after ride manufacturers would be enough for many to happily work for Vekoma, what really defines the company are the people.

I did not know what to expect working for a European company while living in Canada but right from the initial meetings with management, staff, and ownership I was made to feel part of a team. The singular purpose of the company is to continue to evolve in a positive direction and it feels good to be a part of that evolution. Henk Roodenburg, our CEO and owner, has a great for Vekoma and for providing a quality product. That’s something the entire company can be proud of, and is inspiring to be around. 

Vekoma brought to market numerous innovations now adopted throughout the industry, such as Suspended Family Coaster, Motorbike Roller Coaster, and restraint systems reproduced around the world. This continuous drive for innovation is the shared passion that the people have for coming up with the “next big thing”!

 

What do you find is unique about working in our industry? What’s special about Themed Entertainment?

There are no two days the same. And while that, in and of itself, can provide its own set of challenges, a high-paced atmosphere can really push you to accomplish outcomes that you didn’t think possible. One day you can be in a design charrette with a client dreaming up the best possible ride attraction for their park and literally drawing, coloring, and sketching out the future of what their customers will experience. The next day you could be on another continent for a ribbon cutting ceremony with a customer whom you’ve spent years with to get to the point where they are now ready to show it off to the world. The dichotomy of working in, literally, a fantasy land for some portions of the job and other times pitted in construction sites with rain water past one’s ankles staring at a 3-week completion deadline is what really defines some of the special aspects of Themed Entertainment for me. 

 

What advice would you give to someone considering working in this industry? 

I would say, “Don’t be intimidated - just jump in!” Being entrenched in this industry we often forget that from an outside perspective these parks, characters, attractions, and experiences are some of the most cherished moments that make up the fabric of people’s favorite memories. A newcomer may at first feel overwhelmed or that they “don’t belong” - but you will never meet a greater group of people willing to mentor and accept people on any level than you will find in this industry.

The other piece of advice is that you don’t have to be an artist or an engineer to join the industry and exercise yourself creatively. There are many roles to be filled in business development or marketing for both operators and suppliers that are in high demand. Follow what you are naturally good at and you will find there is a role within the industry for you somewhere. 

 

How did you find out about TEA and what do you find rewarding about being a member? 

I kept running into people and crossing paths with suppliers, designers, and operators who were part of the Themed Entertainment Association (TEA). I had always known about the TEA and used their resources many times but then I really started digging into what the association was really about. I reached out to David Price, who is President of the Western North America Division which includes my location (the Vancouver area). He urged me to participate and get to know the other members, and I am now active on the Western Division Board. 

The biggest challenge with any nonprofit will be to engage with its members to enthusiastically support its cause. There are some phenomenal people that make up the TEA who are really focused on furthering the cause of the Association. Their enthusiasm is contagious and has assisted me in rallying others to get excited about being part of TEA. TEA’s outstanding events such as the unique GibGab, and the black-tie Thea Awards Gala, keep the membership engaged and are not found anywhere else in the industry. Every interaction I have with fellow members at these and other events continues to impress me with the level of dedication people have to the TEA. 

Posted by Judith Rubin

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