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2020 Boating Industry 40 Under 40

40 young leaders blazing a trail of success in the recreational boating industry

By Adam Quandt

Boating Industry’s annual recognition program of outstanding young leaders in the marine industry highlights a unique group of individuals that stand out from their industry peers.

Selected from over 200 nominations from across the industry, this year’s group features strong young leaders from all segments of the marine industry from boat dealers to manufacturers and everything in between.

The industry professionals on the proceeding pages were selected for their multitude of accomplishments so far, as well as the promise seen in them to continue pushing the industry forward into the future.

A special thank you to this year’s sponsors of the 40 Under 40, Ilmor and United States Warranty Corporation. Both of these industry-leading companies recognize the importance of young leaders in the marine industry and celebrate their continued successes.

Mike Adams
Chief Architect and VP, Cloud Engineering and Delivery, Brunswick Corporation

What first drew you to the marine industry?
After doing some research about Brunswick, while considering an employment opportunity, I recognized several brands that were very prevalent during my childhood. I spent quite a bit of time boating with my uncle at the Jersey Shore when I was younger, where Mercury, Boston Whaler, and Sea Ray boats were mainstays in the intercostal.
What was your first job?
My first job was as a paperboy for the Daily Journal of Vineland, N.J. I had to be 13 or 14 years old.
What accomplishment are you most proud of?
My proudest accomplishment is my family. My wife, Dana, and I have four beautiful children. I have also had many accomplishments throughout my career. The most satisfying had to be my efforts to restart a plant after being decimated by Hurricane Katrina on the Gulf. It wasn’t planned, but taught me a lot about executing under pressure.
Did you have any key mentors or influences in your career?
My parents are the obvious choice, and both played a major part of who I am today.  I have also had both good and not so good managers that have all taught me quite a bit. Ultimately, I would have to say that the person who has been a consistent, positive force and mentor in my career and life has been Dani Brown, current CIO of Brunswick. I worked for and with Dani for nearly 12 years.
What are some of your favorite non-boating hobbies?
I enjoy traveling with the family, all things Disney and spending time watching my children compete in athletics.
Why should young professionals choose a career in the marine industry?
Quite simply, the opportunity to influence change. Young professionals have much to impress upon an industry that is beginning to evolve. There are so many ways people can participate in boating and, oftentimes, young professionals are in the best position to articulate how.

Christopher Allard
CEO, Metal Shark

What first drew you to the marine industry?
I grew up boating and loved the water. This lead me to go to Webb Institute of Naval Architecture, which was my entry point into the industry.
What was your first job?
I was an engineer for American Marine Holdings (Donzi and Proline at the time) in their government services division. I was part of the team that founded Metal Shark for AMH in 2005, then later acquired it.
What accomplishment are you most proud of?
I am most proud of the team we have been able to build.  We truly have a great group of people from executives to the craftspeople.
Did you have any key mentors or influences in your career?
Too many to count. I have tried to learn from all of those I have come into contact with. Two that come to mind would be Bill Hansen and Scott Petterson (Safe Boats) as well as Kommer Damen.
As a young professional, what are the biggest challenges you’ve faced in the marine industry and how did you overcome them?
Learning to lead. It is still a work in process.
What boat did you learn to boat on?
Really a combination of a 13-foot Boston Whaler then later an 18-foot Boston Whaler.
Where is your favorite place to go boating?
Rum Cay, Bahamas.
Who was your hero as a child?
My dad. Still is.
What are some of your favorite non-boating hobbies?
Spearfishing, flying and traveling.
Why should young professionals choose a career in the marine industry?
I almost didn’t choose the marine industry thinking I could be more “successful” in a different field. If you do what you are passionate about, success changes form and occurs a lot easier. 

Amanda Barbara
North Regional Sales Manager, Boats Group

What first drew you to the marine industry?
I was born and raised in the boating industry. My father owned a marina in Lindenhurst, N.Y. called Surfside 3 Marina. From early on, I spent most weekends in the showroom with the sales team, learning how to answer the phones, or being the welcome girl at the boat show. I always joke that I learned how to drive a boat before a car, but docking on the other hand…still questionable.
What was your first job?
I was a sales consultant at a local beverage distributor called Big Geyser. It was the perfect out of college job; taught me how to sell and the importance of customer service.
What accomplishment are you most proud of?
Being promoted to regional sales manager after a year and a half at Boats Group. It was a step forward and a big challenge, but one that I was excited to take on and it has been a fun road so far.
Did you have any key mentors or influences in your career?
Before Boats Group, I worked side by side with my mom in a startup in the publishing space. She has been a major influence in my life as she always pushes me to strive for greatness, to work hard but to always continuing learning. Since Boats Group, I am very fortunate to call my manager, John Souch, one of my biggest mentors. He believes in me and always gives me a voice which I value. He also always stops to teach me. That is something I will be forever grateful for.
As a young professional, what are the biggest challenges you’ve faced in the marine industry and how did you overcome them?
I definitely faced the challenge of being young and female in a predominantly male-dominated field. My professional background is rooted in sales and marketing and my personal in boating. It has been important for me to build trust and rapport with my customer base to help us build a marketing strategy that will lead to success.
What boat did you learn to boat on?
Boston Whaler 21 Dauntless, “Beach Babes” was her name. Great boat.
Why should young professionals choose a career in the marine industry?
I feel blessed to be in an industry that is rooted in passion. Boating is a life style, it’s a state of mind and we are lucky to be surrounded by products that inspire people to work hard to be able to buy one of their own. The marine industry is constantly evolving but also has a great deal of history. Any young professional should dive in quick; they won’t regret it.

Rick Boulay, Jr.
General Manager, Chesapeake Whalertowne

What first drew you to the marine industry?
The marine industry offered an opportunity to blend entrepreneurial spirit, a solid foundation of knowledge and a love of being on the water. I feel privileged to have the opportunity to carry on the legacy of a third-generation business while working alongside my family.
What accomplishment are you most proud of?
Accomplishments are tough to rank, because I value personal and professional successes differently. My wife (Jen) and my two girls are what I am most proud of. From a professional standpoint, I am most proud of seeing Chesapeake Whalertowne named in Boating Industry’s Top 100 for the first time in 2019. It’s an honor and privilege to be named among North America’s top dealers and I felt like being able to celebrate that with our team here at Whalertowne was a significant moment in the history of our company.
As a young professional, what are the biggest challenges you’ve faced in the marine industry and how did you overcome them?
The economic downturn provided the biggest challenge over the last decade. Finding opportunities to maximize efficiency and profitability from a sales and service perspective was essential. In order to be successful through that time we had to be very mindful of inventory position and capitalize on service opportunities (that trended upward) all while retaining our top-level talent.
What boat did you learn to boat on?
A 1993 Boston Whaler 21 Outrage.
Why should young professionals choose a career in the marine industry?
The marine industry offers a wide range of opportunities and there really is an avenue for talented individuals to find their way and create their own success. I think the marine industry rewards effort and persistence as much or more than any other industry.

Lucy Bowie
Owner, Dunbar Yachts LLC

What first drew you to the marine industry?
We set sail cruising when I was in my early 30s. Cruising was a real eye opener, and made us reassess our lifestyle priorities. The biggest attraction of this industry is the ability to broaden people’s horizons, quite literally!
What was your first job?
My first career was as a British attorney, called a Barrister (nothing to do with coffee). I still have my court wig and gown.
What accomplishment are you most proud of?
I love it when people buy their first ever boat. For some, it is such a leap of faith, but it is truly rewarding to be pivotal in the start of their journey into boating.
Did you have any key mentors or influences in your career?
I have found this to be an industry in which people are very generous with their time, wisdom and advice. It would be tough to name just one!
As a young professional, what are the biggest challenges you’ve faced in the marine industry and how did you overcome them?
There is a real labor shortage in the marine industry, and the challenge as a business owner is to attract new talent. Demonstrating a diverse career path is the best way to overcome this.
What boat did you learn to boat on?
I started boating as a child on the canals in England. At that time, we still had a manual lock system and I remember jumping off the boat and pushing the gates and paddles open. Back then some of the locks still had working Shire horses.
Where is your favorite place to go boating?
I love meandering through the marshes in the Golden Isles. It is very pretty and tranquil.
Who was your hero as a child?
She-Ra, the Princess of Power. I always wanted a pair of boots like hers.
What are some of your favorite non-boating hobbies?
Art and design. I find drawing very therapeutic.
Why should young professionals choose a career in the marine industry?
Diversity. No two days are the same in the marine industry. The majority of roles entail using numerous skillsets. You have the ability to flourish in many different areas.

Rob Bowman
President, Bowman Marketing

What first drew you to the marine industry?
Growing up on the west coast of Florida, almost everything we did as kids had something to do with the water. I fished often, even if there wasn’t a boat available, we’d fish for snook off the beach in the summer or walk out on the flats for reds. When I found out there was an opening at MarineMax corporate headquarters right out of college, I jumped at the opportunity to put work together with my favorite hobby.
What was your first job?
I was the digital marketing coordinator at MarineMax under Jeff Scherer. I was responsible for managing the leads coming in from the website, the company eBay store (back then this was a big thing) and helping to generate more leads for the sales team.
Did you have any key mentors or influences in your career?
Definitely. I would say first and foremost my Dad would be my biggest mentor. Glenn Sandridge. Wade Luce. Brett McGill. These are all people that are successful in business and in their personal lives that have continually advised my over the last 20 years. Even some of my clients now, like Jay Hendrix, Peter Schmidt, and Peter Whiting will offer advice along the way on how to manage my business. You can never learn enough from other successful people about how to improve yourself.
As a young professional, what are the biggest challenges you’ve faced in the marine industry and how did you overcome them?
My biggest challenge was being asked to go toe-to-toe with Bob Denison and the Denison Yacht Sales “Marketing Machine.” I’ve got a lot of respect for those guys and what they are able to accomplish. The competition in the yacht brokerage industry is spirited and a lot of fun. I believe this competitive spirit is what drives most of us, even more than any of the financial rewards. As an industry, the biggest challenge I’ve seen was the downturn in 2008. Watching the industry shrink by 60%, good friends losing their jobs, and every day coming to work and wondering if things are going to get worse. There wasn’t much anyone could do to overcome this other than wait it out and focus on what you could control.
Where is your favorite place to go boating?
Bean Point, Anna Maria Island, outgoing tide in April/May when the pass crabs are floating and the tarpon are hungry.
Why should young professionals choose a career in the marine industry?
There is a reason that many people get into the marine industry and never leave. Boating is the single best recreational pastime there is and boating families pass this tradition down to their kids and so on. Once boating is in your blood, it never leaves. So by being involved in the production, sale, service, marketing, finance, insurance, etc. end of the industry, you’re intrinsically involved in fulfilling someone’s dream or passion for being on the water. I could never see myself doing anything else than being in boating.

David Broadbent
Education Director, American Boat & Yacht Council (ABYC)

What first drew you to the marine industry?
Sailing and boating have always been a big part of my life. After college and my Army service, I worked in corporate sales but always felt like something was missing. I started doing some research and realized that there are some great career opportunities doing what I loved. At that point, I quit my job and started working toward my ABYC certifications. 
What was your first job?
I was a sales associate at West Marine, so my dad could get the discount. Even though I took the long way back to the industry, I guess my fate was partially predetermined.
Did you have any key mentors or influences in your career?
When I decided to start a career in the marine industry, I had quit my job and enrolled in the marine systems program at IYRS in Newport, R.I. Ed Sherman, ABYC’s Education VP at the time, came and spoke to my class and showed how many different career paths there are in this industry. I had bugged him with standards questions throughout my time as a student, and fortunately left a good enough impression to get hired by ABYC. Ed continues to be a great mentor when he’s not out fly-fishing.
What are some of your favorite non-boating hobbies?
Most of my activities revolve around the water, including ice boating when it freezes. When I’m not on the water I also like to ski and run.
As a young professional, what are the biggest challenges you’ve faced in the marine industry and how did you overcome them?
I would say the biggest challenge is understanding all of the moving parts. The marine industry is its own ecosystem in a sense, so getting to know who is who can be challenging. Fortunately, there is such a wealth of knowledge out there and everyone is more than willing to help guide you, all you need to do is ask.

Colby Chevalier
Director of Product Management, IMTRA Corporation

What first drew you to the marine industry?
I grew up sailing with my family and around other boats living on the water in Marion, Mass. Out of college, I was a crewmember on a boat and became friends with Alex Larsen, who I knew from Tabor Academy. He had started at IMTRA a couple years prior and said they were looking for people interested in the marine industry. I was working in sales at the time for a non-marine company and thought this might be a great opportunity.
What was your first job?
I was a launch driver for a boatyard during my college summers. It was the greatest job! I have to thank my father for suggesting and pushing me to go out and get my license for it. I fought for as many hours on the water as I could and just generally enjoyed being in the yard helping move boats, stack stands or run boats out to their moorings when I wasn’t driving. I remember being so stressed that I wouldn’t remember where boats were located in the mooring field and made a point to quickly memorize each boat and owner name.
As a young professional, what are the biggest challenges you’ve faced in the marine industry and how did you overcome them?
Coming into the marine industry from a larger non-marine company, there were a variety of career paths available depending on your interest and skill set. There are some larger companies in our industry, but most are comprised of small to mid-sized companies where a newcomer must show initiative, add value and ultimately create their own path. I’ve been lucky along the way that IMTRA has been supportive and helped me create this path together.
Who was your hero as a child?
Sonny Crockett (from Miami Vice). He was a cop, lived on his boat AND had a cool go-fast he used to chase bad guys. I was obsessed with this show and am thankful I never picked up his smoking habit...or need for a pet alligator.
Why should young professionals choose a career in the marine industry?
There has never been a better time to enter a trade school that could funnel your interest in boating into a career in the marine industry. It’s a super fun industry with smart people that you’ll enjoy working with. The marine industry in general will need future business leaders to step in where others have set a precedent.

Kirsten Corrsen
Managing Partner, Social Navigator

What first drew you to the marine industry?
Growing up boating, I’ve always had a deep love for the water. It was my internship with the Rhode Island Marine Trades Association that created my passion for the marine industry as a profession.
What was your first job?
My first job was with a start-up paddleboard company on Fire Island, N.Y. We ripped all the seating out of an old pontoon boat and replaced it with homemade wooden boxes that could hold four to five paddleboards. We’d move the pontoon boat from beach to beach depending on where the lesson was each day (if we could get the engine to start).
What accomplishment are you most proud of?
My company recently hosted our first event: the Current Awards. The event was created to bring light to the social media influencers in the marine space. It was hosted on the beach outside of the 2020 Miami International Boat Show. I had never hosted an event before and the industry had never seen an influencer event - I was proud of its success.
As a young professional, what are the biggest challenges you’ve faced in the marine industry and how did you overcome them?
Although I faced many struggles, the primary one was persuading marine companies to join the digital era. Many companies view social media as a millennial network. What they don’t understand is the wide demographic on the digital channel, and realize millennials are their future customers. I overcame this struggle by providing results, showing the numbers, showing an ROI and uncovering a new customer waiting to consume boating content.
What boat did you learn to boat on?
Growing up, my father always had an assortment of boats but the first one that he let me operate myself was a six-foot Zodiac with a 9.9hp Suzuki on back. I learned the basics of operating a boat solo and all the responsibilities that come along with it and eventually upgraded to a 23-foot Grady-White.
Who was your hero as a child?
My parents are my heroes! They instilled the cliche of “work hard, play hard” in me since I was little. My father owned his own business and taught me the importance of hard work and determination. My mother has her master’s in education and worked hard to achieve success. They worked hard and showed me the importance of enjoying life.
Why should young professionals choose a career in the marine industry?
There are so many reasons why young people should get into the industry. Mostly because of the opportunities for growth, friendly environment and opportunity to spend business meetings out on the open water.

Chris Craig
Sales Consultant, Brand Manager – Malibu, Axis, Chris-Craft, Hagadone Marine Group

What first drew you to the marine industry?
I grew up around boats as my family had a passion for waterskiing and my dad is a retired superyacht captain. I love being around the water so naturally I was drawn to the industry.
What was your first job?
Working at a water sports pro shop. Selling wakeboards, water skis, tubes and accessories.
What accomplishment are you most proud of?
Becoming a pro wakeboarder was always a dream of mine from a young age, so I am proud to have achieved that. I am also very proud to be apart of the tremendous amount of growth our company has experienced in the last 10 years. It is really cool to look back at where we came from to where we are now with all the brands we carry and the customers that we get to help out.  
As a young professional, what are the biggest challenges you’ve faced in the marine industry and how did you overcome them?
When starting out at a young age, I think gaining respect from peers that have been in the industry for a long time and the respect from customers. Hard work and sharing my story of how I have always been involved with boats since I was born, which helps validate my knowledge and opinions. I am 34 years old and just completed my 19th boat show.
What boat did you learn to boat on?
We had an old closed-bow Fiberform with a Mercury outboard growing up. It is what I learned to kneeboard, wakeboard and waterski behind.
Why should young professionals choose a career in the marine industry?
One thing I love about the marine industry is the passion that everyone has that works in it. It is a small industry and for the most part, everyone helps each other out. It is also a very customer-service-orientated industry where you grow friendships with your customers over time. I enjoy helping families find the perfect boat to create their memories and not just sell them something for a paycheck. 

John-Michael Donahue
Communications Director, Government Relations, National Marine Manufacturers Association (NMMA)

What first drew you to the marine industry?
Outdoor recreation – primarily boating, camping, and playing golf – was a big part of my childhood. After living in Washington, D.C. for nearly 10 years and working with a wide variety of industries and policy issues, moving to the recreational boating industry was a no-brainer when the opportunity presented itself.
What was your first job?
After graduating college, I worked for a member of Congress from Upstate New York.
As a young professional, what are the biggest challenges you’ve faced in the marine industry and how did you overcome them?
Personally, I wasn’t fully aware of just how big the industry is before I joined NMMA. The topline economic impact numbers are staggering, but I didn’t gain a firm understanding of everything that’s behind those numbers until I started meeting with our members, attending shows and building out our communication pieces. So, getting up to speed on the industry and all the issues that impact us took a little longer than I expected.
Where is your favorite place to go boating?
Lake George in Upstate New York. I spent many weekends in the summer with family and friends on Lake George. It gives me a very nostalgic feeling and I still try to get up there at least once a summer.
What are some of your favorite non-boating hobbies?
I play a lot of golf, but I seem to be getting worse the more I play.
Why should young professionals choose a career in the marine industry?
The short answer is pretty obvious: it’s the recreational boating industry. How could you not want to explore a career path in an industry that provides a happier and healthier life to its consumers? Plus, the people that work in our industry are amazing and inspiring. A big part of my role at NMMA is engaging our members in the advocacy process and I thoroughly enjoy working with every single person I have met.

Keri Doscher
Vice President, Emerald Coast Marine Group

What first drew you to the marine industry?
During my freshman year in college, I was offered the opportunity to work for Chaparral, which was – and continues to be - one of the largest employers in the small, South Georgia town where I was born and raised. Through my years working for Chaparral, I developed a passion for boating and the marine industry. Upon graduating from college, I continued to pursue a career in the marine industry and moved to Destin, Fla., which is known as the sportfishing capital of the world. That’s been 15 years ago, and I’ve never looked back.   
What was your first job?
My first job out of high school was at Chaparral and Robalo Boats serving as a sales assistant.
As a young professional, what are the biggest challenges you’ve faced in the marine industry and how did you overcome them?
The biggest challenge I’ve had to adapt to about the industry is that nothing is permanent; the industry is ever changing. Economies ebb and flow, influencing the way money is spent within the industry. Boating types also change and vary by the season of a boater’s life. Companies are constantly changing and re-inventing themselves, many merging to build larger conglomerates. Employees are constantly honing their skills, moving up within organizations and even changing jerseys. Change is inevitable. To be successful in the marine space, you must be nimble and willing to adapt and embrace change.
What boat did you learn to boat on?
I’m still learning daily! My first experience really began at Chaparral and Robalo Boats. While I began at Chaparral and Robalo as a sales assistant, I was given the opportunity to transition to the marketing department. In doing so, I was directly involved with the coordination and execution of the photo shoot for each brands’ brochure.
What are some of your favorite non-boating hobbies?
Although being a new business owner can be daunting at times, I remind myself often of WHY I’ve taken on the challenges. My husband of 15 years and our 7-year-old son continue to be the driving force behind my desire to run a successful operation. The day-to-day challenge of operating a business while balancing motherhood and being a wife can feel overwhelming at times, but at the end of the day, those relationships are most important to me. When I’m not working, I invest my time celebrating and enjoying family life. We love to spend time together on the water, vacationing, playing Legos, video games and many other fun family activities because we know and appreciate that this time and these moments are precious and fleeting.

Aaron Dumont
Regional Sales Manager, Stingray Boats

What first drew you to the marine industry?
My love of boating. I grew up around boats, so I knew I wanted to somehow pursue a career that kept me around them.
What was your first job?
My first real job was cleaning dishes at a Chinese restaurant. My first boating industry job was shortly after. I was a boat washer at the local MarineMax.
What accomplishment are you most proud of?
I am proud of myself for following my dreams, I have always wanted to do something involving boats. In the six years I was in retail boat sales, I knew I wanted to work for a manufacturer. I had tried with a bunch of different builders, but was always looked over (mainly due to my age). When Stingray gave me the opportunity, I jumped on it. Making the step from retail salesman to RSM I would say is my biggest career accomplishment to date, as well as one of the best decisions I’ve ever made.
As a young professional, what are the biggest challenges you’ve faced in the marine industry and how did you overcome them?
My biggest challenge was my age. I don’t think anyone took me serious at first. I let my experience and knowledge with boating talk for me and I think it eventually overshadowed how young I was.
What boat did you learn to boat on?
That’s a hard one. When I was born, my parents lived on a 1970 42-foot Chris-Craft Commander, so technically that was the boat I learned on. However, the first real boat I could take out by myself was our 11-foot inflatable with a 9.9hp on it that we had for a tender.
Who was your hero as a child?
My father, still my hero to this day. I owe all my boating memories and my passion for it to him and my mother.
What are some of your favorite non-boating hobbies?
I love spending time with my wife, Brittney and our 6-month-old son, Isaac. I have a classic Corvette, so I like tinkering on it as well as cruising around to local car shows. I also am very big into dirt biking and try to ride as much as I can. I strive to balance the two when I’m not traveling for boat shows or work. Though, boating and family still take precedence over both of those.
Why should young professionals choose a career in the marine industry?
You know the old saying “work only becomes work when you stop having fun?” I believe the boating industry is the creator of that saying. Being able to provide families with an object that brings nothing but joy is the best thing in the world.

Chris Gratz
Vice President of Engineering, Pursuit Boats

What first drew you to the marine industry?
I grew up spending time on the water with my family and that instilled my passion for boating.
What was your first job?
My first job was as a detail design engineer for Pursuit.
As a young professional, what are the biggest challenges you’ve faced in the marine industry and how did you overcome them?
I started my career in the marine industry a few years prior to the recession and that certainly presented challenges. Being open to learning new things and thinking in ways that were contrary to convention certainly helped me navigate this time in my career.
What boat did you learn to boat on?
I learned to boat on a Pursuit when I was in third grade. Therefore, my passion and my history go way back with the brand.
Where is your favorite place to go boating?
I love boating in our figurative backyard, the treasure coast. There is nothing like boating close to home.
Who was your hero as a child?
I have always looked up to my parents and I can see now as an adult how they helped to shape and guide me. I see elements in how I work with our Pursuit team from my mother, the teacher, and how I work through design and engineering problems from my father, an engineer.
What are some of your favorite non-boating hobbies?
Surfing, diving and classic cars.
Why should young professionals choose a career in the marine industry?
When asked for guidance, I always reinforce the importance in connecting your professional life to what you are passionate about. It‘s something I am grateful that I did from the onset of my career.

Bryan Greenwood
District Business Manager, Brunswick Corporation – Harris Pontoons

What first drew you to the marine industry?
I grew up in a family of tournament water skiers and my father was a rep in the industry. I was fortunate that he allowed me to tag along often starting at a young age. I started working boat shows with him by my teens and have been hooked on the industry ever since. My grandparents were also extremely influential in my love for boating. 
What was your first job?
At 14 years old, I was teaching water skiing at a summer resort on Lake Wallenpaupack in Pennsylvania.
Did you have any key mentors or influences in your career?
Too many to count, however I would say my father, Bob Greenwood. I learned more from him than any textbook or class. Dave Becker (VP, Brunswick) and Chase White (VP, Brunswick) have helped immensely with my career at Brunswick by giving me the guidance and flexibility to manage and grow my territory. I have also been fortunate to have peers such as Brian Newell, Steve Schwepler and Shawn Crist that have helped me along the way both personally and professionally.
Who was your hero as a child?
My parents have always been my heroes. I continue to try and make them proud. And MacGyver.
What are some of your favorite non-boating hobbies?
I enjoy snow skiing and golf when I can find the time. I am also an active brother in the Waymart Masonic Lodge and an avid fan of really bad sports teams.
Why should young professionals choose a career in the marine industry?
If you are passionate about water sports and boating there is nothing better than working in this industry. It is full of great people and the relationships you form will last a lifetime.

Amy Hall
Sales Executive, Rinker’s Boat World

What first drew you to the marine industry?
A friend called and asked if I wanted a job after college, I accepted without asking questions. Now I can’t see myself doing anything else.
What was your first job?
I followed my big sister and cashiered at a local café.
What accomplishment are you most proud of?
Helping start/run Mainland Street Ministry with my parents.
Did you have any key mentors or influences in your career?
The legend, “Scary” Jerry Rinker!
As a young professional, what are the biggest challenges you’ve faced in the marine industry and how did you overcome them?
It was very intimidating being a female starting off in the industry. Jerry Rinker took me under his wing and pushed me out of my comfort zone.
What boat did you learn to boat on?
Does the Jon boat at our farm count?
Where is your favorite place to go boating?
Anywhere my friends and family are!
Who was your hero as a child?
Hands down Jeremy McGrath.
What are some of your favorite non-boating hobbies?
Riding my Yamaha R6 and competing with my dad shooting targets to see who is paying for dinner.
Why should young professionals choose a career in the marine industry?
Because you get to help families create lasting memories!

Jamie Hallen
Digital Marketing Producer, ICBM Media, Inc./Pull FX representing Yamaha WaterCraft

What first drew you to the marine industry?
As a child, I had some close friends whose families went boating. I developed some of my fondest memories on the water at the local lakes surrounding metro-Atlanta.
What was your first job?
A camp counselor at my high school, mentoring the youth of the local community.
What accomplishment are you most proud of?
After college, I was presented with an opportunity to join a southern rock band. This unexpected adventure lasted five years, experiencing everything from touring Europe to opening up for Lynyrd Skynyrd – my favorite band.
As a young professional, what are the biggest challenges you’ve faced in the marine industry and how did you overcome them?
As a digital marketing producer representing Yamaha WaterCraft, there is a wide array of products to understand including WaveRunners, runabouts, center consoles and wake boats. I overcame the challenge because I genuinely enjoy these products so much at every level. I’m blessed to represent such a well-respected brand. 
What boat did you learn to boat on?
Growing up, my family did not own a boat. My earliest experiences on the water were on a variety of boats, from pontoons to runabouts to personal watercraft. I believe it was the exposure to the diversity of boating at a young age that sparked my enthusiasm for the industry.
Where is your favorite place to go boating?
Allatoona Lake, just north of Atlanta.
Who was your hero as a child?
Walter Payton.
What are some of your favorite non-boating hobbies?
Playing the piano, cooking and jogging.
Why should young professionals choose a career in the marine industry?
It is a very exciting time to work in the marine industry. In my five short years working with Yamaha WaterCraft, I have witnessed some astounding technologies alter the products I work with year over year, making them easier to use and more fun to operate than ever before. This trend will only continue.

Lia Jaros
Workforce Development Coordinator, Marine Trades Association of Maryland (MTAM)

What first drew you to the marine industry?
I grew up on Kent Island in Maryland surrounded by boats and my mother worked in the industry in various capacities since I was young. At first, what drew me was a convenient summer job where I could make a decent amount of money in a short time period. It wasn’t until after I graduated college that I realized the career options it represented. After an attempt at teaching and one at technical writing, finding a position in the marine industry felt like coming home.
What was your first job?
My first job in the industry was washing boats in the summers between my college years. I worked for a company called Ship Shape lugging soap, buckets, brushes, wax, buffers, and extension cords from marina to marina around the eastern shore. Aside from the owner of the company, I was the only female in the lot of summer workers. I was also the smallest, so I was always tasked with cleaning the narrow spaces.
What accomplishment are you most proud of?
I am the youngest person to serve on the Board of Directors for the American Boat and Yacht Council. I was surprised, to say the least, when I was approached to fill a board position, but if an organization as important for our industry as ABYC is thinks my input is worth having, I would call that an accomplishment.
What boat did you learn to boat on?
I’m still in little league when it comes to personal boating. Most of my time on the water is in a kayak or on a stand-up paddleboard.
What are some of your favorite non-boating hobbies?
If I’m not outside hiking, biking, or taking a walk, I’m usually practicing yoga or cooking.
Why should young professionals choose a career in the marine industry?
One reason is that there are so many options. As someone who spends her time listening to the needs of employers, I can tell you that the positions available are across the board. Not only are we desperate as an industry for technicians and mechanics, but there are openings in marketing, sales, marina management, you name it. This is the perfect time to get plugged in and grow your career.
My favorite part about being in the industry is that there really is a sense of community here. For better or for worse, boat people are a kind of people, and it is fun to be one of them.

Dana Koman
Marketing Manager, TACO Marine

What first drew you to the marine industry?
Growing up in the Utah desert, I had only been on a boat a handful of times. It wasn’t until I moved to Martha’s Vineyard to work at a yacht club when I began working in the marine industry. While working at the Edgartown Yacht Club, I was quickly immersed in a niche segment of the marine industry – sailing. I eventually began dating the Sailing Program Director, who is now my husband. As the club’s Junior Sailing Program Administrator, I coordinated its annual Junior Regatta and participated in many other sailing events. Over time, I accumulated a lot of hours on the water and I grew to love everything sailing and boating because of my time at the EYC.
What was your first job?
My first job ever was working at Taco Time (ironically named, no?) when I was 16. Taco Time is a fast food chain in the west. My first job in the marine industry was the Edgartown Yacht Club.
What accomplishment are you most proud of?
I am proud of several accomplishments, but one that truly stands out to me is my decision to completely upend my life when I was 24. I decided to leave my job in government, sell my house and move across the country to a place I had never been because, during that time, I was comfortable and complacent. I chose to take a huge risk that I was not sure would pay off. The choice to leave Utah for adventure was the single best decision of my life. It taught me that there cannot be reward without risk. It taught me to take chances and follow paths that may not have a clear destination. It also taught me to go with the flow. Everything works out one way or another. That choice literally launched my career in the marine industry and changed my life for the better.
Where is your favorite place to go boating?
Living in South Florida, I definitely enjoy the warm waters of Biscayne Bay. However, my favorite place to sail so far is the British Virgin Islands. What an adventure!
Why should young professionals choose a career in the marine industry?
I love working in the marine industry, because it’s still growing and evolving. The marine industry is an exciting career path that is challenging in all the right ways. It is a place for creative thinkers to question the status quo and to push the limits of innovation. Not only that, but I work with some of the most interesting and fun people in the industry who make my job that much more enjoyable. I’m surrounded by peers with a wealth of industry knowledge and I feel like I learn something new every day. There really is never a dull moment when you love what you do, and I love working in the marine industry.

Winona Mack
Digital Marketing Coordinator, Yamaha WaterCraft Group

What first drew you to the marine industry?
This job first introduced me to the marine industry. Prior to this, I had never experienced boating – it was a completely new industry for me. After I started my position at Yamaha, I was able to truly experience and understand the boating lifestyle. My manager really pushed for me to spend time on the water – surfing, wakeboarding, docking and more. I was able to immerse myself in the boating lifestyle. Now I can share that same experience and passion for boating with my family and friends.
What was your first job?
This position was my first “real” job. Previously I completed various internships related to or in the marketing industry, although none of them had ever been as exciting as my current role at Yamaha.
What accomplishment are you most proud of?
I think looking back at my accomplishments here at Yamaha, one of my favorite projects was working on our Owner CRM Lifecycle Program. From beginning to end, I was able to be a major part of this project, from developing the strategy and goals to execution and continuation. Our focus here at Yamaha was creating a program that brought value to our customers, would support them as an owner and give them valuable resources. We were able to create how-to videos, destination stories and much more personalized to their purchase. It was a big undertaking we launched in April last year, and we have seen great results.
Did you have any key mentors or influences in your career?
My manager, Andrew Cullen has been a key influencer and mentor. He is always supporting me, helping me grow and pushing me to be better in marketing, the boating industry but also personally. He gives me the freedom to create and come up with ideas, but also guides me through it.
What are some of your favorite non-boating hobbies?
I enjoy dancing and have recently gotten into yoga. I also love traveling and exploring new countries/cities - recently was able to go to New York and Costa Rica. Other than that, I love hanging out with friends at local restaurants and breweries in the Atlanta area.
Why should young professionals choose a career in the marine industry?
I believe the boating industry has so much growth ahead of it especially in the digital marketing field – it presents the perfect opportunity for young professionals. At the same, it is behind the auto industry and therefore it presents a challenge. An additional bonus is naturally the products involved, because marketing boats is fun. 

Cole Markus
VP of Business Development, Zephyr Boating

What first drew you to the marine industry?
I was first drawn to the marine industry by luck. I grew up in Florida, so I was always surrounded by it at a young age. I got my first real dose of marine life when I went to sleep away camp as a teenager and learned to sail. Sailing quickly became a sport that caught my interest, because I loved the freedom of being out on the water and away from the noise of camp.
What was your first job?
My first formal (tax-paying job), I was a bagel boy at Einstein Bagels. While this was my first formal job, I have been working odd jobs such as snow shoveling, lawn mowing or door-to-door sales from a very young age.
Did you have any key mentors or influences in your career?
The key mentors or influences in my career would be my friends and family. I learn every day from the support network I have built, and my circle of influence has contributed to my success immensely. I would not be where I am today without my family and my inner circle of friends.
As a young professional, what are the biggest challenges you’ve faced in the marine industry and how did you overcome them?
The biggest challenge I have faced in the marine industry would be an age barrier. When I speak to people, they automatically assume that because I’m 25 I have zero experience and I’m incompetent in doing business. This couldn’t be further from the truth and many of my clients/connections will quickly vouch for my business acumen and professional mentality.
Who was your hero as a child?
Batman.
What are some of your favorite non-boating hobbies?
I am an enthusiast of snowboarding and mountain biking in my spare time.
Why should young professionals choose a career in the marine industry?
Young professionals should choose a career in the marine industry, because there are ripe opportunities for picking. The stigma with the industry is that you need to be “older” and possess “large amounts of disposable income” in order to be involved in this industry, but I would argue that anyone can break into this industry. There is diversity within the industry that commands strongly skilled talent in order to fulfill complex businesses. Technology has completely inundated the space and requires hard-working people to help build it. Additionally, there are numerous networking opportunities within this space because it’s an expensive industry. Shaking hands and meeting people with big checkbooks is never a bad business move.

Derek Mattessich
Plant Manager, Regal Boats

What first drew you to the marine industry?
I have always been highly intrigued with boats. Being out on the water is a feeling like none other. Growing up I enjoyed being out on the water every chance I got, even though those days were just in a 12-foot Jon Boat. 
What was your first job?
I worked in construction with my dad most of my childhood. Part-time during school and full-time each summer.
What accomplishment are you most proud of?
I was raised Catholic and as I got older I ventured away from that. Regal is a Christian-based company so I have been around it for many years now. Last year, I restarted my Christian journey and I could not be more proud.
Did you have any key mentors or influences in your career?
My dad. Working in construction with my dad at young ages was not always easy, but it taught me good money management skills and discipline that I have benefited from. My dad was right there with me when I bought my first house and when I bought my first vehicle. He makes himself available for anything I need in life big or small. Setting that example for me has helped out with raising my family and with my journey in leadership. I know that I have to do my best to always make myself available for my family and for my coworkers at work for their challenges big or small. 
Where is your favorite place to go boating?
The Bahamas. It is an unreal feeling coming off the dark blue waters of the Atlantic and hitting that crystal clear Bahamian water.  
Who was your hero as a child?
Peyton Manning; I wanted to be an NFL QB.
What are some of your favorite non-boating hobbies?
Going anywhere with my family and seeing new places. Golf, although I am very bad.
Why should young professionals choose a career in the marine industry?
Almost everyone in the world loves boating, so how fun would it be to be part of the marine industry?!

Charles McCartney
Director of Engineering, Premier Marine

What first drew you to the marine industry?
I was very passionate about stand-up jet ski freestyle and wanted to create a pontoon boat where I could hang out with friends and have my jet skis along to ride. I was looking at Premier’s website to see how they built their boats so strong you could put triple 300hp outboards on them. While I was on the website I saw a careers tab where they were hiring for entry-level assemblers. I decided I would just send an application asking if they needed any engineering help. I got an interview and was hired a week later.
What was your first job?
My grandfather was a tool and die maker so I think I have engineering and machining in my blood. I was always fascinated by the ability to use machines to create new items. My first job was in a machine shop cleaning chips out of CNC machines and changing coolant fluid. It wasn’t glamorous but just being around the machines was exciting for me.
As a young professional, what are the biggest challenges you’ve faced in the marine industry and how did you overcome them?
I think there is always that natural tendency for people to be slightly skeptical of younger professionals because there is the idea that they are less experienced simply due to time in the industry, and in some cases that may be true. However, I strongly believe that drive and perseverance can help you overcome any obstacle. In most cases, if you want something bad enough and are willing to never give up you can achieve it.
Where is your favorite place to go boating?
The land of 10,000 lakes has so many amazing places to choose from, but I’ve narrowed it down to two. The first is Lake Minnetonka. I keep my boat here in the summer and it’s always a great time. Being just west of Minneapolis, it’s quick and easy to navigate to when you want to hangout after work on a hot summer night. There’s one island where hundreds of boats tie up on holiday weekends and everyone is inviting, friendly, and having fun. The second is the Brainerd lakes. About two hours north of Minneapolis, it’s harder to get up there often, but there is something unexplainably unique about being in cabin country. Time slow downs and the good times of summer seem endless.
Why should young professionals choose a career in the marine industry?
The simple answer is it’s just so fun. I can’t imagine there is another industry out there where you can hang out on the water and give people boat rides and get paid for it.

Will Monson
Sales Manager, Moose Landing Marina

What first drew you to the marine industry?
From a young age my family was very much into boating. It became a part of my life and a passion of mine. It seemed natural to work in this industry doing what I love. I’ve always been told that a career/job is much more enjoyable when you are doing what interests you, so here I am. I couldn’t imagine it any other way!
What was your first job?
My first job was working for my family’s business. They sold and serviced medical equipment. Watching my family grow and run a business has allowed me to have a great respect for the trials and tribulations that a small business faces day to day.
What accomplishment are you most proud of?
It would be hard to name just one. However, our marina being named No. 11 of the Top 100 boat dealers was probably my favorite. Watching Moose Landing grow from a small boat dealer to the level it is at today has been really fantastic. The accomplishments along the way however, were not just mine, they were the results of a lot of hard work from a lot of great people. I feel very lucky to be involved in those accomplishments and work with those great people everyday.
Did you have any key mentors or influences in your career?
My parents. Growing up watching them run their own business has made me appreciate the value of hard work. I’ve been told from a young age that you can do anything as long as your willing to put the time and effort in. They also taught me that while there is no replacement for hard work, you have to take time to enjoy life and live experiences. I was extremely lucky to be able, through their efforts experience a great childhood on the water, which I credit for taking me to the industry I am in today. Secondly, Steve Arnold, the owner at Moose Landing Marina and Yarmouth Boat Yard. Steve’s been a wealth of knowledge and a fantastic cheerleader. He’s helped me grow professionally and personally and has been a great mentor. Thankfully he has a lot of patience too!
As a young professional, what are the biggest challenges you’ve faced in the marine industry and how did you overcome them?
A few come to mind, however, none as much as industry/ job experience. Day to day I make decisions that impact the dealership, my customers and myself. Not having the years and years of experience when I started, it was tough to make the correct (or what I thought was the correct) decisions. I can’t help think of how much more painless some days would have been had I known what I know now. Having the chance to learn and consult with veterans of this industry has helped me immensely.
What boat did you learn to boat on?
A 1976 Cobalt 19-foot bowrider. It was my family’s first boat. At first we all had no clue what we were doing, but we learned quick, had a ball, and made a ton of lasting memories!
Why should young professionals choose a career in the marine industry?
Personally, I can’t stomach the idea of sitting in a cubicle. Being out on the water and seeing the smiles that we create, is extremely rewarding. Work goes by much faster when you are doing something you love and who doesn’t love being on the water?

Matt O’Connor
Co-owner, Freedom Boat Club (Greater Boston and Cape Cod, New Jersey, Ohio)

What first drew you to the marine industry? 
I grew up in a small beach town on the south shore of Massachusetts, where being on the water was a way of life. From an early age, I felt drawn to the beauty, mystery, and ferocity of the ocean. My love of spending time at sea, coupled with the fact that I could never go to work everyday in a suit and tie, made working in the marine industry feel like a natural fit.
What was your first job?
My first job on the water was as a deckhand on a whale watching boat. During the 500-plus offshore trips we did, I had the opportunity to see some really awe inspiring things like pods of hundreds of dolphins, massive sunfish, basking sharks, sea turtles and breaching humpback whales, just to name a few. Being able to facilitate these experiences for others and seeing their amazement only deepened my love for the ocean.
What are some of your favorite non-boating hobbies? 
I love to travel. I even have a room with a map of each of the places I’ve been boating across the globe. I’m also a big reader. I’m trying to read two to three books a month.  I’ve also recently started getting into tuna fishing, which has become a bit of an obsession.  I love the challenge. Everything has to work perfectly to land a big fish like that! It’s just as much about the hunt as it is about the trophy for me.
Why should young professionals choose a career in the marine industry? 
I love what I do. It sounds cliché to say that if you love your job, you’ll never work a day in your life, but I find that to be absolutely true. I get to see people at their best, which is when they are unplugged and having fun with family and friends.  I’ve also been lucky enough to see dozens of “firsts” through our clients’ eyes. Whether it’s their first fish, their first time on a boat, first time tubing or wakeboarding, or their first time seeing whales or sharks, this industry provides so many amazing experiences that I’m privileged to witness firsthand.

Drew Orvieto
Senior Manager, Commercial Fast Craft and Engineering, ZF Marine Propulsion Systems

What first drew you to the marine industry?
I grew up in south Florida and was always around the water. We grew up sailing in Miami and later powerboating in Fort Lauderdale. My father and I would regularly attend the major boat shows in the area and I was enamored with the boats and yachts that I saw. I used to read boating magazines by the dozen and would memorize the boat names, manufacturers, and prices. I decided I wanted to design boats so I took a leap of faith, leaving south Florida for the University of Michigan to study naval architecture, and never looked back.
What was your first job?
My first job was actually an internship with Feadship’s De Voogt Naval Architects in Holland. It was an incredible experience that fulfilled a career dream of mine. Working with such world-class professionals was intimidating, but also so inspiring.
What accomplishment are you most proud of?
I am very proud to have recently received a patent for a parametric design methodology for planing hulls that I developed. The project began back in 2011 as part of my Master’s thesis and I had the opportunity to bring it to Sea Ray when I was a naval architect there from 2012-2014. While at Sea Ray, my colleagues and I refined the method and implemented it for conceptual design of new hulls. To know that there are boats on the water today with hulls designed using this methodology is a source of great pride for me.
What boat did you learn to boat on?
Growing up, our family co-owned a 22-foot Catalina sailboat with some friends and eventually upgraded to a 1995 Tiara 3100 Open. With the Catalina, we would typically leave in the morning and sail all day. With the Tiara, we could go and grab lunch and be back at the dock in a few hours. Each boat had their own appeal and suited our family’s lifestyle at the time. I absolutely cherish those memories of boating with my family as a kid.
Why should young professionals choose a career in the marine industry?
It is such a close-knit industry, and marine people typically look out for each other. My feeling is that once you get into it, you almost cannot imagine leaving it. There are countless opportunities too, since so many different niches exist within the industry, whether you’re a designer, engineer, salesperson, craftsperson, or almost anything else. I think it’s so interesting how there is such a blend of different companies as well, ranging from huge multinationals to small family-owned businesses, each with a critical part to play.

Nona Pedersen
General Manager, Propspeed

What first drew you to the marine industry?
I was fresh out of university (college) and looking to start my career in marketing. I did an internship with Propspeed and I immediately fell in love with the industry. I will be honest, I did not know a lot about boating or the marine industry, but after my first boat yard visit, I was hooked! Yes, this industry has its glamorous side (beautiful boats, incredible locations), however it was the people that drew me in.  The people in this industry are truly passionate about what they do, and it is amazing to be able to work with people who genuinely love their jobs.
What was your first job?
Decorating and selling cakes at The Cheesecake Shop (a bakery chain in New Zealand). Nothing glamorous, but it was great fun. Also, it made me become a great baker!
What accomplishment are you most proud of?
Being one of the youngest females in a leadership role in this industry. I am very proud to be appointed as general manager, however I am even more proud of the company that I work for. At Propspeed, our aim is to be known as the company that protects customers’ underwater assets, using the most environmentally-friendly solutions. We not only love boating, we also love the ocean and the marine environment – our purpose is “Better Boats, Better Oceans.” I am proud that we have instilled this in our company culture, and it is something that our entire team embodies.
Did you have any key mentors or influences in your career?
I am surrounded by supportive mentors and influencers in my role. I am very fortunate to have the opportunity to work with, learn and grow from some incredible people in this industry. I started my career working closely alongside Clint Jones, current President of International sales for Propspeed. He taught me everything I know about the industry and has encouraged my involvement and development in it. Clint taught me about the importance of business partnerships. Our group CEO, Barry Woolcott, has been a major influencer and mentor for me over the past six years. He challenges me, gets me out of my comfort zone, while also supporting me to overcome any major obstacles. Gayle Stitchbury, our Head of People and Wellbeing, is a key mentor for me. Gayle helps me reflect and gives me the best constructive feedback to help me be the best version of myself. She always provides me with opportunities to learn and grow – something I am always thankful for.
Where is your favorite place to go boating?
Russell, Bay of Islands, New Zealand. If heaven is on Earth, it is here.
Why should young professionals choose a career in the marine industry?
If you want to do a job you love, a job that makes you excited for Mondays, then join the marine industry. It is an industry driven through passion and surrounded by great people who want the best, not only for their customers, but also for their team. This is an industry that you can grow in, and there are so many opportunities within all areas of it.

Rachel Piacenza
Director of Marketing, Recreational Boating & Fishing Foundation (RBFF)

What first drew you to the marine industry?
My passion for the outdoors, mainly boating and fishing started at a very young age. I caught my first fish at age two and started driving and moving boats around my uncle’s northern Wisconsin fishing resort as a teenager. My first experiences on the water instilled an appreciation for everything on and around it; and it’s an admiration that continues to drive me today. I wanted to be part of something bigger and find a profession that would allow me to give back by motivating others to experience the water as I had in my youth, and that’s why I decided to make a career in this industry.
What was your first job?
My first job was working at a local ice cream store. I got into a rhythm where I could just about guess what flavor each customer would order. Just please don’t order plain vanilla. My first post-college job was working for the Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources in the Fisheries Management division. With a degree in business marketing, coupled with a passion for the outdoors, I was excited to take on the challenge of increasing angler participation in Wisconsin. 
What accomplishment are you most proud of?
Launching our award-winning Women Making Waves marketing campaign, an initiative to bring to light that nearly 45% of new participants to the sport of fishing are female, yet only 19% visually see themselves represented in the sport. Research is the foundation for building our annual campaigns and media plans, and we saw an opportunity to grow fishing and boating nationally among this audience segment. The campaign has evolved to grassroots efforts to engage influencers on the local level to be mentors for the next generation.
Who was your hero as a child?
Someone I’ve admired from a young age is Alicia Keys. She burst onto the scene in the late ‘90s/early ‘00s with her signature piano and braids. I respected her quiet confidence behind the piano, producing, composing and singing her own songs. Having played the piano myself, I wanted to be like her when I grew up, except singing was and is not my forte, so I channeled her independent spirit and carved my own path in the outdoor/marine industry.
Why should young professionals choose a career in the marine industry?
To be able to contribute and give back to the industry that provided so many fond childhood memories is invaluable. Hopefully those reading this have had similar recollections. There is the feel-good/cause factor; working for an industry that motivates and equips people to get back out on the water. By joining the industry, you’re also indirectly helping create better outdoor recreation opportunities for current and future generations, as more people out on the water buying gear, accessories, fishing tackle, registering boats, etc. yields more money for conservation practices like habitat management, boat access, and fish stocking. It’s easier to go to work every day knowing you’re having an impact on future generations.

Jamieson Poirier
Owner/President, Pier 7 Marina

What first drew you to the marine industry?
The marine industry is somewhat of a legacy for me.  I grew up watching my grandfather manage marinas, and of course, I was able to tag along.  I spent my summers and weekends at the marinas, fascinated by the boats, the equipment, and most of all, the people.
What was your first job?
My first job was working the fuel dock and ship store on the weekends and evenings when I was 14 years old. 
What accomplishment are you most proud of?
The accomplishment I am most proud of was purchasing my own business and watching it grow. It was no easy feat getting here, but taking the time to learn the marina business, earn an MBA, and establish a reputation as a premier marina in our market have been the key factors that allowed me to purchase a marina at the age of 32.
As a young professional, what are the biggest challenges you’ve faced in the marine industry and how did you overcome them?
As a young professional in the marine industry, the biggest challenge I have faced has been bridging the age differential between long established boaters and a new, younger generation of boating enthusiasts.  I believe the key to overcoming this was establishing our company’s dedication to the customer’s boating experience.  My goal has always been to provide more than just a product or service.  The boating experience is a holistic approach to the business, meaning we take the time to know you, your boat, and your unique boating needs.  To us, it’s more than just a day at the marina, it’s an experience.  That’s what sets us apart.
What boat did you learn to boat on?
I learned to boat on a 1969 47-foot Pacemaker Motor Yacht and a 1957 26-foot Chris-Craft Continental.
Where is your favorite place to go boating?
My favorite place to boat is the Michigan shoreline of northern Lake Huron and Lake Michigan.
Why should young professionals choose a career in the marine industry?
I believe there is a great amount of opportunity and growth in the marine industry for a young professional.  As our products and businesses become immersed in technology, we need young professionals that can adapt to the changes and lead us going forward.  The skilled trades within the marine industry present a great opportunity for young talent to obtain on the job training while learning a very unique skill set that remains in high demand. 

Kellie Ramsey
Media Marketing Specialist, SeaDek Marine Products

What first drew you to the marine industry?
Wakeboarding. I stood up second try and I rode until I couldn’t move my arms. I was addicted. I’ve had a strong love for the water for as long as I can remember, but it was those early wakeboarding days that instilled a passion for water sports in me.
What was your first job?
My very first job was waitressing at a restaurant called The Depot – it was actually in the caboose from a train. I started working in the marine industry by freelancing. I was doing video editing and animation. 
What accomplishment are you most proud of?
I’m most proud of combining my passion for photo and video with my love for the water and turning that into a career. There was always a fear in the back of my mind that the creative industry would be too competitive, and I wouldn’t last. That fear fueled my determination and got me to where I am today. I consider that a huge accomplishment and I’m very proud of it.
Did you have any key mentors or influences in your career?
Yes, Jason Gardner, the VP of marketing at SeaDek. He has taught me so much about not only the marine industry, but about marketing, work ethic and life in general. He’s always so positive, calm, and driven. Having a mentor like him makes this career an easy choice. I’m lucky. 
What boat did you learn to boat on?
My parent’s 1993 Chaparral 18 SLC
Where is your favorite place to go boating?
I don’t have a favorite place, I just want to go boating.
Who was your hero as a child?
It’s a tie between my mom, dad, and brother. My mom, because she’s always so calm and sweet. My dad, because he was hilarious and had the best taste in music. And my brother, because he always guides me and pushes me to do better.
What are some of your favorite non-boating hobbies?
Am I allowed to say photography? While it’s a major part of my job, it’s also my biggest hobby. I love the challenge and creativity of being able to capture a single moment in time from my perspective.
Why should young professionals choose a career in the marine industry?
It’s an industry built around a lifestyle. It’s fun, the people are cool and you’re always by the water!

Oliver Ray
Manager, Customer Development, Ilmor

What first drew you to the marine industry?
In 2005, I was working on our Indy Car program in the subassembly area. I worked alongside the V10 Marine team and became obsessed with the product. I would volunteer at local marine-based events before moving over to the marine team in 2010.
What was your first job?
In the marine world, my first job was to be the on-site technical support for MasterCraft Boats working on the Ilmor product.
What accomplishment are you most proud of?
My most significant accomplishment that I’m most proud of is developing the customer experience department at Ilmor. This task could not be done without the amazing team that backs it. Keeping within our racing heritage, we refer to the service group as our marine pit crew and they are in my eyes the best in the industry.
As a young professional, what are the biggest challenges you’ve faced in the marine industry and how did you overcome them?
My most substantial challenge would have to be my age and getting people to take me seriously. This was overcome by knowing the product, knowing the company and standing behind what I was trying to sell.
What boat did you learn to boat on?
A pontoon with a small electric outboard. I laugh today that if you can park an underpowered pontoon while fighting the water current, you can drive anything.
Who was your hero as a child?
My parents. I was raised in England by my mother who is a strong, hardworking woman and taught me the importance of being me. When I moved to the states with my father and step-mother, there was no rest for the wicked. Combined, this has molded me into the hard-working and outgoing person I am today.
What are some of your favorite non-boating hobbies?
Family is important to me. I love spending time with my wife, two sons, and dogs. Working around the house, garden or in the garage. If I’m not with them, you can find me in the kitchen. I have a massive passion for cooking. I am experimenting with new dishes or spending hours smoking a brisket or ribs.
Why should young professionals choose a career in the marine industry?
As a marine professional, we sell fun. We work on and sell products that are centered around hobbies and enjoyment. Every time a customer calls to say thank you, you know you have made a difference in their life. If you are looking to make an impact on the customer experience in an industry that always has you always smiling, the marine industry is for you.

Will Richards
General Manager, Spring Cove Marina

What first drew you to the marine industry?
Spring Cove is a family operation that my parents have been operating since 1988. My love for boats came organically - being on the water is in my DNA. My parents circumnavigated prior to landing in Solomons, and much of my extended family has spent a portion of their lives on the water. I love “messing about on boats,” and I’m happy to be working in a career that lets me do that.
What was your first job?
I was 12 years old when my dad put a bottle of Clorox in my hand and had me cleaning bathrooms. As a teenager I worked as a dockhand and in the boatyard prepping and painting bottoms.
Did you have any key mentors or influences in your career?
My dad has been my primary mentor and has guided my development as both a person and a leader in our business. He has taught me how to run a business by taking initiative and providing a positive experience through interactions with employees and customers. My wife is also one of the greatest influences on my career. She is one of the hardest working people I know and she motivates me every day to do the best I can. I would also like to give credit to every one of our employees at Spring Cove. I learn from them every day. Without their skills and dedication to our family business, I would not be where I am today.
As a young professional, what are the biggest challenges you’ve faced in the marine industry and how did you overcome them?
I believe earning the respect of my peers and fellow employees through initiative and hard work is one of the most challenging things to accomplish in any career. Most of our employees are older than me, but working hard in each element of our diverse business has allowed me to earn their respect.
What boat did you learn to boat on?
I grew up learning on both sailboats and powerboats – I learned to sail on a Laser at about 8 years old, and the family had some really fun days on our San Juan 24-foot. That was a really fun and fast sailing boat. I spent much of my teen years running around the Patuxent River on our old 20-foot Tiara cabin cruiser. I have great memories pulling friends on tubes and wakeboards!
Why should young professionals choose a career in the marine industry?
A career in recreational boating gives you the opportunity to learn many different skills, to meet and work with interesting, smart, and hardworking people. Our industry is ripe for new ideas and new energy. There is a lot of opportunity for any young professional willing to jump in and start learning.

Evan Ridley
Director of Environmental Programs, Rhode Island Marine Trades Association (RIMTA)

What first drew you to the marine industry?
I’m passionate about contributing to efforts that promote sustainable and productive interactions with the marine environment and its resources. Boating is inherently tied to the way that society utilizes our coasts and waterways. The time we spend on the water is rejuvenating. It also gives us a first-hand perspective of the ways that our actions can influence the balance required to ensure a healthy environment for future generations to recreate in and enjoy.
What was your first job?
My first exposure to the industry came while working as a Graduate Research Assistant for the Rhode Island Sea Grant Program. As one of 33 individual university programs across the United States, R.I. Sea Grant has a long and historic working relationship with marine trades businesses of all kinds. This includes innovative research on a variety of relevant topics and the development of training courses that have helped inform environmental proactivity at marinas/boatyards around the world for more than fifty years. The time I spent at R.I. Sea Grant gave me a profound appreciation for the international footprint and legacy that boating carries here in the Ocean State.
Did you have any key mentors or influences in your career?
I owe a great deal to the mentorship that I have received from Dennis Nixon, Director at R.I. Sea Grant, and Wendy Mackie, CEO at RIMTA. Both of these individuals have provided important lessons on leadership and what it takes to be an agent of innovation. Their continuous encouragement has reinforced my ability to take advantage of all the professional opportunities that Rhode Island has to offer.
As a young professional, what are the biggest challenges you’ve faced in the marine industry and how did you overcome them?
Being the youngest person in every room can present its own unique challenges. This is especially true when representing or sharing ideas that have the potential to alter the way that we manage the materials and overall lifecycle of marine industry products. The initial success of our boat recycling efforts would not be possible without the full spectrum of support that I receive from the RIMTA staff every day. Herding cats doesn’t have to be difficult, especially when you have a great team of people to help you navigate the ups and downs of trying something new.
Where is your favorite place to go boating?
I’ve had the privilege to sail in some amazing parts of the world, and many places hold special real estate in my heart. But nothing will ever beat a downwind run at sunset through the east passage of Narragansett Bay.
Why should young professionals choose a career in the marine industry?
Like many, this industry is in need of young people who can bring enthusiasm, professionalism and fresh insight to their jobs. Boating is big business -- but the interconnectivity and community-oriented qualities of that business make it feel accessible. If you are someone that works hard and has a passion for being on the water, the possibilities are endless. All you have to do is take that first step to plug into the network. Plus, every office I’ve worked in has had a shoreline view!

Matt Slayden
Project Integration Manager, Malibu Boats

What first drew you to the marine industry?
Born and raised in Knoxville, Tenn. and was fortunate enough to have a family that owned a boat and enjoyed spending family time on the water.  We had a Sunbird I/O where I learned to slalom and barefoot at a young age.  When surfing transitioned into wakeboarding I was hooked.  It was apparent that I wasn’t going to be a professional wakeboarder, but I knew wanted to be involved with the sport in some capacity.
What was your first job?
I have been in the boating industry professionally for around 15 years, but the boat building journey really started in high school. Unlike most high schoolers, when the guidance counselor asked, “what do you want to do when you grow up?” I had an answer. I wanted to build boats. She recommended I get an engineering degree and gain as much real-world experience as possible. My sophomore year in college I interned at a boat manufacturer in Gainesville, Fla. called Mirage who built custom trawlers. It was the perfect experience as a novice to the industry. I got to work with true custom boat builders including the president Ken Fickett. It was my first opportunity to see and learn the boat building process. My junior year in college I interned at MasterCraft Boat Company in the engineering department. Another great experience, where I continued to learn about the build and design processes, but in a high-volume facility. I graduated with a mechanical engineering degree and was hired by Sea Ray at their Knoxville facility where we manufactured the 28- to 38-foot Sundancer cruiser line. I worked in both engineering and operations while at Sea Ray.
Did you have any key mentors or influences in your career?
There have been numerous mentors and influences over my career, but I would mention Ritchie Anderson, Malibu’s COO, and Cory Dugger, Malibu’s VP of Engineering, as both have guided and supported me through my career.  They are the main reason I have had success in my current role.
Who was your hero as a child?
I would say my Dad, who claims that he could slalom on an oar although I never saw it.
What are some of your favorite non-boating hobbies?
I have three kids, a 10-year-old son and twin 7-year-old girls, so my hobby is whatever sport/hobby they are into. In the winter, we all enjoy snowboarding, and my son and I both play hockey.
Why should young professionals choose a career in the marine industry?
No matter the segment, I always meet fun and passionate people in our industry. 

John Souch
Vice President of Sales, Boats Group

What first drew you to the marine industry?
Hands down, the people. It’s refreshing to speak to so many dealers, brokers and builders about how they run successful businesses and what makes those businesses unique.
What was your first job?
At the age of 4, my dad had me scrubbing potatoes in the kitchen at one of his Wendy’s franchises. From this, I learned the value of hard work and the feeling of achievement when you are contributing to something bigger. My dad - a proud graduate of the Wendy’s MBA (Mop Bucket Attitude) program, taught me that every role in the restaurant was important to the success of his business - from the fry guy to the store manager.
What accomplishment are you most proud of?
From a professional standpoint, I was recently named the vice president of Sales at Boats Group. Having been with the organization for 13 years, it’s extremely rewarding to provide a new level of support to our customers. Relationships are at the heart of the boating industry, and I’ve been fortunate to spend countless hours with many of our customers understanding their needs. In my new role, I am most excited to help shape the strategy that delivers value to their business.
As a young professional, what are the biggest challenges you’ve faced in the marine industry and how did you overcome them?
I would say the biggest challenge is to defy the status quo. Too often, the boating industry falls back on the old adage, “Well, this is the way we’ve always done it.” As leaders in the industry, we have to challenge that thinking to help move the business of boating forward. Part of my commitment to this effort is to encourage our sales team to be more creative and leverage data points when developing solutions for our customers. Utilizing data and technology is an important step in advancing the way marine retailers make decisions and service their customers.
Where is your favorite place to go boating?
The 1000 Islands on the St. Lawrence River. My parents have a place on the river and I have so many memories of days spent on that frigid water.
Who was your hero as a child?
I’m a huge sports fan, so my hero was always Joe Montana - still the greatest QB to ever play the game!
What are some of your favorite non-boating hobbies?
I enjoy hanging out with my family and spending as much time on the golf course that my wife will allow.
Why should young professionals choose a career in the marine industry?
We all have a vested interest in one thing - getting more people out on the water. I would tell young professionals that same thing I tell my sales team after they’ve had a tough day: “When you put your head down on your pillow, remember that we have one mission and that’s to help our customers get more people to buy boats. That’s a pretty fun job to have!”

Nikki Storey
Executive Director, Great Lakes Boat Building School

What first drew you to the marine industry?
I was drawn to the marine industry for the opportunity to make an impact by supporting students seeking the marine industry as a career path.
What was your first job?
My first job was babysitting.
What accomplishment are you most proud of?
The accomplishment I am most proud of is leading a team to achieve a national accreditation at Great Lakes Boat Building School. As a result, the school has evolved into a responsive, forward thinking, marine industry supporting educational institution. 
Did you have any key mentors or influences in your career?
I have been so fortunate to be surrounded by an amazing board of directors who serve as my mentors. Each director brings a different skill set and perspective to create a dynamic team. 
As a young professional, what are the biggest challenges you’ve faced in the marine industry and how did you overcome them?
One of the biggest challenges I have faced in the marine industry is not only my challenge, it faces the entire industry – AWARENESS. I have conversations every day with parents, students, school administers, teachers and counselors who are completely unaware that the marine industry is a great place to have a lifelong career. What could be better than living and working on the water? We (educational institutions, manufacturers, boating associations, marine employers etc.) have to work together to develop a strategy to share the good news of what amazing career opportunities exist in the marine industry.
Where is your favorite place to go boating?
My favorite place to go boating is the channels of the Les Cheneaux Islands, located in the Eastern Upper Peninsula of Michigan. The Les Cheneaux Islands are 36 islands, carved out by the recession of the glaciers. It’s truly a boater’s paradise and hidden gem of Michigan. Nothing is more enjoyable and relaxing than a sunny day in August, on a wooden boat ride in Snow’s Channel in the Les Cheneaux Islands. 
Who was your hero as a child?
My Aunt Janus, who is no longer with us, was my hero as a child and still is today. She was the first person in my family to attend college and she provided the support and encouragement for me to do the same. Always in my corner, she helped to shape who I am as a leader. She was a smart, fearless female who taught me to be tenacious, authentic and independent. 
Why should young professionals choose a career in the marine industry?
A career in the marine industry will never be a dull career. It’s exhilarating to participate in a field where the industry is constantly evolving and I look forward to the challenges presented every day. The best perk is boating and being on the water! 

Michael Valot
Sales Manager, Atwood Lake Boats

What first drew you to the marine industry?
Proximity to the lake and family involvement in the industry made it a natural fit.
What was your first job?
Working the gas dock, renting boats and selling bait at Atwood Lake Boats.
What accomplishment are you most proud of?
Our sales team doubled our sales volume from ’13 to ’19 with no additional personnel.
Did you have any key mentors or influences in your career?
My dad, Brian Valot has been my mentor in the business since I started full time in 2006. He has been in the industry since 1974, so I try and lean on and learn from his experience as much as possible.
As a young professional, what are the biggest challenges you’ve faced in the marine industry and how did you overcome them?
The biggest challenge was the recession. It was a tough time for a lot of dealers and it was no different for us. During the recession we really took a look at our business model and re-focused a large part of our efforts on making boating easier and more hassle-free for boaters.
What boat did you learn to boat on?
I learned to water ski and wakeboard on a 1976 Starcraft 16-foot Kingfisher. Where is your favorite place to go boating?
Atwood Lake!
What are some of your favorite non-boating hobbies?
Snowboarding, golf, basketball, road biking and spending as much time with family as possible.
Why should young professionals choose a career in the marine industry?
The locations are generally pretty excellent. I really enjoy the variety of the industry. There is constant change so you never know what the next day/ season/ show/ event will bring next.

Matthew Welton
Director of New Product Development — Cobalt,
Naval Architect — Malibu & Cobalt

What first drew you to the marine industry?
Growing up spending my summers on a lake in Michigan, and winters in Florida drew me into a love of boats and a fascination with how they are designed.
What was your first job?
In general: YMCA lifeguard.
In industry: Intern naval architect at Bollinger Shipyards.
What accomplishment are you most proud of?
The breadth of projects that I have been able to be involved in. Over the 60 or so projects I have been a part of they have ranged from mega yachts, to all-electric boats, to military interceptors and now tow boats.
Did you have any key mentors or influences in your career?
Wylie Nagler, the owner of Yellowfin took a gamble on me right out of school and had me designing my first boat three months our of school. While stressful at the time, I now look back on it fondly that I was bestowed with so much trust at such an early time in my career. Michael Peters and the whole team at MPYD taught me so much during my time there about how to be a great designer and engineer. In the time working there I was taught more than I could have ever hoped about what makes a great boat. In my current role I have already been exposed to the great leadership qualities that Jack Springer, Wayne Wilson, and Ritchie Anderson display everyday to the other employees within our organization.
What boat did you learn to boat on?
A 19-foot sterndrive.
Where is your favorite place to go boating?
Sarasota, Florida.
Who was your hero as a child?
In life, my parents. In boating and design, Michael Peters and Jon Bannenburg.
What are some of your favorite non-boating hobbies?
Snow skiing and product design.
Why should young professionals choose a career in the marine industry?
An engineering career in the boating industry is one of the few engineering careers where you can still have a very large impact even as a young graduate on the company and product that you are working on. I think that the ability to see that impact is very rewarding for most people in the professional sense.

Jonathan Whitmire
Store Manager, Texas Marine

What first drew you to the marine industry?
I think it was my love of boat shows. As a kid I would go to shows with my dad and I always remember how exciting they were to me. When I was in my senior year of college, I had the opportunity to work a couple of boat shows with my uncle as a helper for Travis Boating Center. I did very well at it and when I graduated, they offered me a full-time job.
What was your first job?
Although my dad was in the boat business for 10 years, in the early ‘80s he transitioned to the auto industry and shortly after started his own business. When I became old enough to help out in the early ‘90s, I would wash cars during the summer and at 15 started selling cars on our lot. It taught me a great deal about sales at an early age.
What accomplishment are you most proud of?
I think my biggest accomplishment has been getting appointed to the Houston Boat Show Board of Directors. The Houston Boat Show is one of the largest indoor boat shows in the world and it has been great being part of the team making decisions for the show.
Did you have any key mentors or influences in your career?
I think it goes without saying that my father has been a huge influence in my career, but if I had to pick someone other than him for this it would definitely be Mike Hebert. Mike is the founder of Texas Marine, and he has always believed in me and pushed me to succeed.  He has spent countless hours over the 13 years I have been with Texas Marine mentoring and coaching me and I am very grateful for that. My career would not be where it is today without him.
As a young professional, what are the biggest challenges you’ve faced in the marine industry and how did you overcome them?
I think one of the biggest challenges in every industry is learning to embrace change.  Since I have been employed with Texas Marine, I have had almost every job in the company at some point in time, relocated my family to a different store, and been through Texas Marine being bought out by OneWater. The key to success is to have a positive attitude and work hard always.
What are some of your favorite non boating hobbies?
Hands down, off-roading! I love going to off-road parks with my friends/family and riding trails with our Jeeps.
Why should young professionals choose a career in the marine industry?
The marine industry is booming and there are so many opportunities for those willing to work. The marine industry is also one of the few that offers quick room for advancement and lucrative pay to people that don’t have college degrees. If you’re a hard worker and willing to put the time in you’ll be successful in sales or service. Technicians can get specialized school paid for by the company in most cases, coupled with 100k-plus earning potential. In marine industry jobs, your pay is defined by your work ethic in most cases.

Dustin Wimmer
Owner, Highway Marine

What first drew you to the marine industry?
My parents established Highway Marine and the instilled in me a love for boating.
What was your first job?
Detailing boats at our store.
What accomplishment are you most proud of?
Being a national ATV champion two years in a row and taking over the family business and growing it. 
Did you have any key mentors or influences in your career?
My parents were there for me to guide through every aspect of the business, but also gave me room to make my own decisions.
As a young professional, what are the biggest challenges you’ve faced in the marine industry and how did you overcome them?
We have a short boating season so making sure we make the most of every day is crucial. Especially in those key selling months.
What boat did you learn to boat on?
A Procraft and various other bass boats.
Where is your favorite place to go boating?
Upper Chesapeake, Maryland.
What are some of your favorite non-boating hobbies?
Driving our Polaris RZR around my property with my wife, son and dog, and golfing.
Why should young professionals choose a career in the marine industry?
Being around boats and the people who go boating is a totally different feeling than any other business. We’re a family. It’s fun. It’s a lifestyle. You just can’t get that anywhere else.

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