2021 Boating Industry 40 Under 40

Now in its fifth year, Boating Industry’s annual recognition program of strong young leaders in the marine industry shines a spotlight on a unique group of individuals leading the pack.

Selected from around 200 nominations from across the industry, this year’s group features prominent young professionals form all segments of the marine industry from boat dealers to manufacturers and everything in between. While no easy task to select with so many strong nominations for 2021, the young leaders on the proceeding pages were selected for their multitude of accomplishments and strengths, as well as their passion for the recreational boating industry and their promise to bring the industry into the future.

Kate Anderson
Communications Specialist, Port of Everett

What first drew you to the marine industry?
I grew up boating and fishing in the San Juan Islands and had a love for the water since I was young. In high school I set my mind on working my summers in college at a destination marina in the San Juan Islands, and that is where my career in the marine industry started.
What accomplishment are you most proud of?
One accomplishment I am most proud of was being instrumental in the creation of a new regional boat show, the Anacortes Boat & Yacht Show, in May of 2018.
Did you have any key mentors or influences in your career?
Marla Kempf from the Port of Edmonds (now retired) was a great mentor to me. She encouraged me as a young person new to the marine industry, as well as opportunities to grow and challenge myself professionally and
personally.
As a young professional, what are the biggest challenges you’ve faced in the marine industry and how did you overcome them?
I think the biggest challenge with being a young professional in the marine industry was learning the ropes when I first started. So many in the industry have great knowledge and skill, so it was hard at first to feel like I belonged. Once I got to know the people, however, I quickly learned how willing they were to help and give advice and guidance.
Where is your favorite place to go boating?
I love boating in the San Juan Islands, especially on my 1968 runabout, Lil’ Red.
Who was your hero as a child?
My Grandpa Chuck
Why should young professionals choose a career in the marine industry?
There are so many opportunities for young professionals in the marine industry. It’s a growing industry and it is in need of the younger generations coming up to fill positions as the older generation retires. The people who work in the industry are welcoming and love to give advice, and lend a helping hand. I’ve never found a shortage of people to go to for guidance or encouragement. It’s also a fun industry to work in! Many of my colleagues have become good friends over the years.

Casey Bates
Certification Manager, American Boat & Yacht Council (ABYC)

What was your first job?
ABYC was my first job! Starting as an intern in 2006 and now going on 15 years, I have been lucky to grow within the organization. I first started in the accounting department and over the years worked through each department until I found my home in education.
What accomplishment are you most proud of?
My biggest career accomplishment has been receiving the promotion to certification manager in 2020. I have really enjoyed helping industry folks continue their education by going through our standards based education program and earning professional certifications. At the end of the day, it all helps our industry have safer boating.
Did you have any key mentors or influences in your career?
Sandy Brown (retired ABYC employee) was my career mentor for many years, working alongside her was wonderful. She taught me the ins and outs of the industry and watching her interact with members at trade shows was very valuable. My parents! They are both the hardest workers I know and both built successful businesses from the ground up. I’ve learned from the best.
As a young professional, what are the biggest challenges you’ve faced in the marine industry and how did you overcome them?
Getting out of my comfort zone! I’m very much a “behind the scenes” type person but over the last few years I’ve been pushed to expand my presence and I can now appreciate pushing through those challenges and seeing my growth from it.
What boat did you learn to boat on?
I’m still learning, but I’ve learned everything on my Sundance Skiff.
Why should young professionals choose a career in the marine industry?
Life is too short to have a boring job, boating is always growing and evolving so it keeps you on your toes! The best part of this industry is you can learn the trade and travel; just about anywhere you go you can find a body of water and a marina.

Thomas Bates
Chief Revenue Officer, Correct Craft

What was your first job?
My two brothers and I started a lawn business when I was 10 years old. We grew the business over the years, and sold it to a gentleman my sophomore year in college. He is still operating the business today.
What does leadership mean to you?
Leadership is not about a position or title. Anyone can be a great leader if they have influence. Regarding leading people, my goal is to create the great environment for the best ideas to be generated. I focus on creating and keeping a functional team while providing clarity. This allows everyone the opportunity to leverage his or her talents to the fullest. To be a little more specific, I see leadership as two parts, above the waterline (skills) and below the waterline (character). 

Above the waterline:

  • It is critical that leaders have a vision for future. It is tough to motivate and create clarity if you do not know where you are headed.
  • Focus on developing people.
  • Have a constant focus on change and know how to manage it.
  • Value people and performance. You need both to be successful. 
  • Embrace and live out the values of the company.
  • Below the waterline is the most important. If you don’t demonstrate leadership character, your skills and results will be dismissed.
  • Leaders must be learners and not knowers. This is something we talk about a lot here at Correct Craft.
  • You must expect the best out of others and yourself.
  • Take ownership. There is a great book written by Jocko Willink and Leif Babin that speaks to this topic.
  • Have the courage to deal with difficult situations.
  • Put others first.

As a young professional, what are the biggest challenges you’ve faced in the marine industry and how did you overcome them?
Very early in my career I was able to serve as a sales rep. At that time, reps were typically more mature in age and as someone in my mid-20s at that time, I had to learn how to overcome the bias that existed. I learned to always begin a potential relationship over the phone. This way I was judged based on my communication. Once I did meet them in person, my age was always a surprise, but I would go out of my way to be very responsive, always get them an answer and focus on ways to help them achieve their goals through the product we provided.
Who was your hero as a child?
My Father is my hero. He is an incredible father, coach, mentor, man of faith and friend. He not only invested in me but countless others throughout his life. I clearly remember the letters and notes my Dad would receive from so many people thanking him for his investment in making them a better person. He is not only my hero, but also my superhero.
Why should young professionals choose a career in the marine industry?
I can’t think of a better career choice. How many other careers provide you with a chance to have a positive impact on peoples’ physical and mental health while bringing families and friends together. Anyone who has spent time on the water knows the positive impact of the “blue mind” effect.

Lauren Beckstedt
Chief Marketing Officer, Boat Group, Business Acceleration, Brunswick Corporation

What first drew you to the marine industry?
Coming from an agency background, I’ve had the pleasure of experience across a wide range of industries, and one thing I learned early was never work in a business that you aren’t proud to tell people about. In marine, not only am I proud to describe what I do, but I feel a touch of guilt, because I’ve never met a single person that isn’t enamored with boating, even if they aren’t a boater themselves. Marine is iconic, nostalgic and adrenaline pumping all in one.
What was your first job?
I started in journalism—I wrote for the local paper in college, The Daily Iowan, and after that worked in the communications department at NPR in Washington D.C. I remember when I was at NPR, I started to look for my next job to get back to Chicago and I was flipping through the yellow pages for public relations agencies. I was calling straight down the list and after about 10 calls I reached a gentleman who was self-employed working out of his home and he chuckled at my approach, then he told me the top five firms to call. I took an internship with one of them. Brunswick was one of my first accounts and I’ve basically worked with the company ever since, whether externally or internally.
What accomplishment are you most proud of?
As a leader, nothing is more rewarding than the teams that I’ve helped to build and what we’ve accomplished together. I’ve had some awesome business moments, especially when you get to launch cutting-edge products as the leader in an industry, but those achievements are most exhilarating when the people standing next to you are celebrating together. Every once in awhile you find yourself on a team that’s just clicking—everyone is in sync and thriving doing their part. I’ve been able to help build high performance teams like that a few times and when I reflect, that’s always the accomplishment that comes to mind first.
Did you have any key mentors or influences in your career?
Many. I still work with some of them today, so I’ll share that what has been the most important in my career was having mentors with a strong sense of integrity and commitment to authenticity. I have worked with many mentors who have helped to develop me as a leader, but the most impactful are those that have been active in their support of my career—brought me to the table, made sure my voice was heard, and respected my point of view in a way that is visible to others. Those individuals have shaped my career trajectory. I’ll never be able to pay it back, so I’m committed to doing the same for others.
What boat did you learn to boat on?
I had the pleasure of learning on the job, so I learned to boat on a Sea Ray SLX 310 and shortly after a Sea Ray SLX 400 (yes, I had the advantage of Mercury Joystick Piloting!) So, when we bought our first boat, I was very comfortable going big! I’ve never captained anything smaller.

Doug Bird
Vice President of Sales, GetMyBoat

What first drew you to the marine industry? 
Sailing. I started sailing and racing boats at a young age. I worked at a sail maker as my first job and quickly decided I wanted to be a naval architect.
What was your first job?
My very first job was a sail maker at a local sail loft when I was 12; sweeping floors and making tea.
What does leadership mean to you?
Leadership is about crafting an objective and creating an environment that empowers people to willingly exceed that objective. It is trusting and protecting people so they can achieve everything they are asked.
As a young professional, what are the biggest challenges you’ve faced in the marine industry and how did you overcome them?
There are still many barriers in the industry that make it financially and operationally difficult to attract a greater diversity of people. The “we have always done it that way” response still stifles innovation and makes it hard for consumers.  The only way to overcome this is through education, data and providing new technologies to make it more accessible. 
Who was your hero as a child?
Garth Brooks.
What are some of your favorite non-boating hobbies?
Are there other hobbies that don’t involve boating!? Does racing sailboats count?
Why should young professionals choose a career in the marine industry?
Opportunity. The industry is going through a generational evolution and bringing new people in. It’s also an industry that invites passionate people. Boating in all its guises is fantastic, and what better way to earn a living than be in it everyday!

Natalie Childress
Business Strategy Manager, MasterCraft Boat Company

What first drew you to the marine industry?
I’ve been fascinated with the water since I was a kid. We spent a lot of time boating with my mom’s best friend and would also drive two and a half hours to go to the lake with my childhood best friend. While in college, my sister took me sailing in San Francisco and within a year after graduating, spent every weekend on the water on my first boat. I decided at that time I was going to find a way to bring that feeling I experienced to others.
What does leadership mean to you?
Leadership is the ability to see the problem and be the solution. Leaders see how things can be improved and rally people to move toward that enhanced vision. Leaders never give up and have the willingness to fight, take a punch and get up off the floor and keep moving. A passionate and compassionate leader can energize a company. In order to energize the company, it requires people, and so leadership is also about personal relationships. Putting people first, and not treating them transactionally is incredibly important. Leaders come from all different paths. Learning from those paths creates even stronger leadership, as it brings unique perspectives. When challenges arise, leaders are the people that pull your team through those times with bravery, honor, respect, guidance and support. Leaders want their entire company to succeed, and that includes everyone in the company.
Did you have any key mentors or influences in your career?
I’ve been fortunate to have several amazing mentors throughout my career, but I met my first one in the boating industry during my second month. The Miami International Boat Show (MIBS) was this fascinating and frankly, incredibly overwhelming experience at 24-years-old. Mike Aiello with MarineMax gave me three pieces of advice that has helped me survive and thrive throughout these years and I’m incredibly grateful for his guidance over the years. He’s impacted so many people.
As a young professional, what are the biggest challenges you’ve faced in the marine industry and how did you overcome them?
Change is the only thing that is constant. Consumers wants and needs are always changing. Company portfolios are constantly evolving. Organizations are restructuring. To overcome this, I focus on incorporating business practices that help provide more efficient results than what previously existed. Practices that can be evolved and measured with data. I focus on out of the box ideation that is different than what the current competition is doing. Out of 100 people that say “we can’t do that,” I strive to be one that says “how and what do we need so we can?”
Who was your hero as a child?
My father. My father gave me the greatest gift anyone could ever give another person. He believed in me, wholeheartedly. He knew how to celebrate life. Every accomplishment, success…every big moment. He always encouraged me to go for it, there’s always a way and that going for it is hard. It’s uncomfortable. But it’s those uncomfortable moments that shape us. Loyalty, dedication, dependability and generosity are traits I strive to take these and all of the qualities I’ve learned from him and apply them to both my professional and personal life, in his honor now.
Why should young professionals choose a career in the marine industry?
The phrase “there’s something in the water” is true. Young professionals will not find a more passionate industry than the boating industry. There is an immense opportunity to make a positive impact here. There’s so much for us to still build.

Capt. Ryan Coffin
Lead Technician, Yarmouth Boat Yard

What first drew you to the marine industry?
The love of the outdoors and being on and around water.
What accomplishment are you most proud of?
There are several. Prior to starting my career I represented New Hampshire in Skills USA at Nationals in Missouri placing 12th. One is that I was able to buy my house in my early twenties. Another was achieving my Captain’s License. I’m also proud to have completed many marine trainings and earned so many certifications over the years. The fact that I am now also an instructor at the local college has been a real milestone as well.
As a young professional, what are the biggest challenges you’ve faced in the marine industry and how did you overcome them?
The value of the vessels and the engines I work on can be intimidating. Some of the repair projects I deal with are worth tens of thousands of dollars. The responsibility of the decision making that I am required to make is not something I take lightly. Sometimes you find yourself debating if a specific approach is the correct solution. Diagnosing engine issues isn’t always straightforward and obvious. But with all of the experience I have gained over the years, I have learned to trust my gut. It’s also extremely important to listen closely to our customers and build relationships with them. It’s a great feeling to know that they trust and value my expertise and input.
Who was your hero as a child?
I’d say my grandfather was my hero. Seeing his work ethic and drive to better his family and change the legacy of our family tree was always inspiring. I am reminded of him daily when I see the joy of my children as they grow and explore the world, knowing my wife and I are building a legacy like my grandfather.
Why should young professionals choose a career in the marine industry?
I wish more young professionals understood how many opportunities there are in the marine industry. If they have the drive and determination, the career paths are endless. Almost all aspects in this industry can be a stepping-stone.

John Michael Cornell
General Manager, Hurricane Cove Marina & Boatyard

What was your first job?
Working the concession stand at my local pool. 
What does leadership mean to you?
Leadership is about inspiring others to work together and creating an environment people want to be a part of.
As a young professional, what are the biggest challenges you’ve faced in the marine industry and how did you overcome them?
I think the biggest challenge we have faced in the marine industry is trying to implement new ideas and processes that are not considered “standard practice.” From our viewpoint, the world is changing at a faster pace than ever before – and the marine industry isn’t exempt from that. Our team is always looking ahead for potential roadblocks or changes and how we could improve things - even if that means going against the grain.
What boat did you learn to boat on?
A 21-foot Pro-Line, we still own.
Where is your favorite place to go boating?
Anywhere with clear skies and calm seas, but the Exumas are hard to beat.
Who was your hero as a child?
Short answer: my parents. They have been and continue to be my heroes every day.
Why should young professionals choose a career in the marine industry?
The people - the industry is filled with people who have a real love for what they do. I’ve worked in other industries and I’ve never seen a group of people who are more passionate about what they do day-in-and-day-out. That passion and drive is contagious.

Caroline Cozier
Key Accounts Director, Boats Group

What first drew you to the marine industry?
My passion and love for the water. Some of my fondest memories are spending time on the water with family and friends.
What was your first job?
Clubhouse waitress at Rockaway Hunting Club.
Did you have any key mentors or influences in your career?
There has been a list of people that have influenced me throughout my life. I have been very fortunate to work with some big players in the marine industry; John Souch and Amanda Barbara Hessian. Both have been extremely resourceful and motivating.
What boat did you learn to boat on?
25 Block Island Steiger Craft.
Where is your favorite place to go boating?
Great South Bay, Long Island and Jupiter, Fla.
Who was your hero as a child?
My parents have shown me the value of hard work and I would not be here today without them. They have provided me with guidance, love and have supported me in every way. 
What are some of your favorite non-boating hobbies?
Skiing, gardening, and traveling.
Why should young professionals choose a career in the marine industry?
Making the move over from the fashion industry, I realized that the marine industry resonated more with my passions. Others that want to dive into a fun, fast-paced industry should explore ways to get involved in the boating community.

Kathleen da Costa
Customer Support Manager, Siren Marine

What was your first job?
Naturally, my first job was only steps away from the water, at Newport Cookie Company. It’s a local favorite located in the iconic Bowen’s Wharf.
What accomplishment are you most proud of?
The accomplishment I am most proud of since joining the Siren Marine family is achieving my NMEA 2000 certification. Having not come from a boating background, I thought there was no way I could pull it off. But with the right combination of teamwork, determination, and long hours spent studying, I achieved my certification and it’s something I am very proud to hold today!
What does leadership mean to you?
Leadership to me means being supportive. Support isn’t just a part of my job description, it’s a fundamental leadership quality. Through supportive leadership, I’ve been successful in building out a capable team that goes above and beyond to deliver the best possible Connected Boat experience to our customers. To successfully support my company’s mission and vision, I start by supporting my team every step of the way. That involves listening to them and providing the tools they’ll need to support the company, our customers and themselves.
Did you have any key mentors or influences in your career?
A key mentor since the start of my career was Daniel Harper, the late founder of Siren Marine. Dan’s love for boating, passion for support, and drive to transform the marine industry was unmatched. It is a beautiful thing to watch someone do what they love. It has inspired me to combine passion with purpose in my own life.
As a young professional, what are the biggest challenges you’ve faced in the marine industry and how did you overcome them?
As a female in a technical leadership role, one of the most difficult challenges I have faced simply boils down to my gender. More times than I should have to admit, I’ve run into challenges where my intelligence and competence has been put into question solely due to my gender. But with patience and perseverance you can prove to anyone what you are capable of – and that is the approach I always take!
Who was your hero as a child?
My parents, Ivam and Jakeline Costa, have always been my heroes. My parents came to the U.S. over 30 years ago. Each day that goes by, I am in complete awe of their selflessness and everything they are willing to do to provide a better life for our family!
Why should young professionals choose a career in the marine industry?
A career in the marine industry means a career of endless possibilities and a guaranteed good time. If their experience is anything like mine, they’re bound to meet countless accomplished and inspiring individuals along the way.

Dustin Emanis
VP of Quality, Supply Chain, Project Management, Hyperform Inc. d.b.a. SeaDek

What first drew you to the marine industry?
I was drawn in by both the opportunity and the culture. The industry is full of opportunity for growth alongside individuals that love what they do. The entire atmosphere of our company is uplifted by working in an industry that sees the value in having an enjoyable career.
What does leadership mean to you?
Leadership, to me, means being bold. Not in a condescending way or by making decisions unilaterally, but in being transformational, taking risks and exercising good judgment, especially in times of turbulence and stress. Good leadership cannot be executed without others to lead. Because of this, the ability to recognize the talents and strengths in others is a critical leadership skill. Once an individual’s strengths are recognized, their skillset can be developed in a targeted way that benefits both the employee and the company. One of the most rewarding aspects of my work is helping people on my team become more than they were and, in turn, watch them develop into leaders in their own right.
Did you have any key mentors or influences in your career?
As a veteran, the Navy had a major impact on my early years. It taught me courage, patience, and grit. I had to learn very quickly that results will come, but that I must retain the same fortitude to reach my goal near the end as I had when I began. I was trained as a scientist, and I’ve always been neutral in my approach to many things, but one person has been helpful in getting me to take that approach and apply it to leadership. After working with Kurt Wilson (President/CEO) for nearly a decade at SeaDek, I’ve learned to be more reflective and take that neutral “unbiased observer” technique and apply it to any situation, whether it’s personnel and conflict, resolving an issue with our supply chain, or evaluating the latest SeaDek product to be released.
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, even today, is that I am a bit young for my position. I have noticed that it takes more effort to establish credibility with my peers (who are typically 10 years senior to me). The best way I’ve discovered to overcome this is to be honest and conversational, gradually building trust and respect. If I don’t have the answer to a question, I’ll admit it and promise to follow-up with an answer, being sure to do so later on. Remaining conversational during presentations is helpful because it allows the audience to ask questions, and with strong answers, I can dispel any skepticism.
Who was your hero as a child?
Hands down, Wolverine (from Marvel comics.) I’ve always admired his bravery and ability to remain calm under pressure.  
Why should young professionals choose a career in the marine industry?
The marine industry is both fun and rewarding. It’s always gratifying to watch the customer’s reaction to seeing their boat for the first time with a finished SeaDek kit. There’s a certain satisfaction that comes from knowing we just improved the overall recreation experience of that customer for years to come.

JoAnna Goldberg
President, Fairwinds Marina and Freedom Boat Club of Maryland & DC

What first drew you to the marine industry?
I’ve been boating my entire life; I was on a boat before I could walk. Boating is what we did together as a family growing up and some of my favorite childhood memories happened on the water. Nothing makes me happier than the smell of salt water, zipping through the bay on a sunny day surrounded by friends and family. I entered the industry to share my passion for boating by making it accessible to as many individuals and families as possible, so they too can create unforgettable memories on the water.
What does leadership mean to you?
Leadership means serving as the exemplar of the values, attitude, and work ethic you expect from your team.  It requires holding yourself to an even higher standard than you hold others, as well as a willingness roll up your sleeves and take on any task you would ask of your team.  Leadership means showing patience, compassion and gratitude for those working beside you to accomplish your goals collectively.
Did you have any key mentors or influences in your career?
My father is my mentor and the single biggest influence in my life.  He motivated and inspired me to become the leader I am today. He demonstrated the possibilities availed by imagination coupled with hard work and empowered me to make my dreams come true.
As a young professional, what are the biggest challenges you’ve faced in the marine industry and how did you overcome them?
When I first took over the marina, as a female in my 20s, customers often dismissed me or overlooked me entirely. They assumed I was a product model or secretary and would turn to an older male in the vicinity to ask their question. Through extensive study and technical training, I amassed a depth of knowledge that allowed me to assist my customers more completely than many of my industry peers.  This both helped build my reputation as an expert and fortified my confidence in swiftly overcoming biased perceptions in a positive and helpful manner.
Who was your hero as a child?
Rainbow Brite.  When I was a little girl, I used to dream about joining her on her intergalactic adventures, spreading color and beauty across the universe.
Why should young professionals choose a career in the marine industry?
Because it’s fun! We get to help people play outside and create memories that last a lifetime. The marine industry is  the perfect confluence of a relaxed, happy atmosphere with the opportunity to make a decent living, and have fun while doing it!

Max Gordon
Regional Sales Director, Chris Craft

What first drew you to the marine industry?
My family has had a summer home in Lake Geneva, Wisconsin for as long as I can remember. Starting in high school, I spent my summers working at Gordy’s Lakefront Marine. During that first year, I had the opportunity to work as a lead generator at the Chicago Boat Show and was introduced to many industry professionals. From that moment, I knew I wanted to make my career in the marine industry.
Did you have any key mentors or influences in your career?
There are too many names to list, but I would say my colleagues (more like family) at Gordy’s Marine and Gage Marine in Lake Geneva, Wis. are at the top. I would not be where I am today without the guidance and education I have received throughout my career. As a young adult, when I first met the executives of the boating manufacturers, I thought to myself “Wow, I would love to be in their position someday,” and that has influenced me ever since.  Making an impact in this industry is something I hope to achieve in my career.  I know I still have a lot to learn. 
As a young professional, what are the biggest challenges you’ve faced in the marine industry and how did you overcome them?
When I first started in this business, I essentially knew nothing about boats and the industry itself.  I always jumped at the opportunity to assist the different departments because I always wanted to learn something new and it was all so fascinating to me; expensive boats, forklifts, semi-trucks, water sports; I felt like a kid in a candy store! Taking on the role of Sales Manager at the age of 25 was a huge challenge for me because I was leading teams of people who were almost twice my age and in the business for many years.  I had to earn their respect by working hard myself and reciprocating my respect to them as well.
Who was your hero as a child?
My heroes are my parents; words cannot describe how much they mean to me. They have taught me how to work hard, always do the right thing, to be patient and always be respectful to others. My mother immigrated from South Korea when she was 3 years old and learned English at the age of 6. My dad grew up on the southside of Chicago and started bussing tables when he was 14. They met in college as student athletes and are so dedicated to their families and successful careers. I am very proud of my multi-cultural heritage and credit my strong work ethic to my mom and dad.
Why should young professionals choose a career in the marine industry?
This industry is based on spending time on the water with friends and family. My friends always see me on boats and ask, “Do you work or just play with boats all day?” The best advice I got was to pursue my passion and if I can make a living at it, even better! We get to enhance people’s lives by getting them on the water. I love sharing experiences on the water and making families happy, when they buy their first boat. There is a lot of opportunity in this industry, so if you are passionate about all things boating, what are you waiting for!

Rachael Green
Director of Engineering, Malibu Boats

What first drew you to the marine industry?
My parents taught me to ski when I was 4-years-old, behind their 1973 Checkmate. Later, I was introduced to wakeboarding when they traded it in for a Ski Brendella. After college, I moved back to the East Tennessee area and was fortunate enough to be able to get behind Malibus through friends at the local dealership, Marine Outfitters. Through this relationship, I was able to meet some incredible people in the marine industry and opened my eyes to the possibility to do what I love and work in the marine industry.  
Did you have any key mentors or influences in your career?
I was fortunate to have several great mentors that actively and/or passively mentored and encouraged me; Cory Dugger, Adam McCall, and Debbie Kent to name a few. Each believe in me, have invested in me, and continue to empower me to go further as I navigate my career in the marine industry.
As a young professional, what are the biggest challenges you’ve faced in the marine industry and how did you overcome them?
I have been fortunate to have several opportunities to grow at Malibu. Jumping into new opportunities required me to step out of my comfort zone and learn new skills. I never walked into these opportunities as an expert in that field, but I have always been surrounded by incredibly talented team members who supported me as I grew into these roles. It took courage to step up to new opportunities, believe in my own self-worth, speak confidently, stay humble, and when in doubt, trust my gut and do what I believe is the right thing to do.
Who was your hero as a child?
My mom and dad.
Why should young professionals choose a career in the marine industry?
Working in the marine industry is fun, competitive, and there is never a dull moment. It is hard work, but we make an incredibly beautiful, innovative product!

Phillip Gutowski
Founder, BoatRx

What first drew you to the marine industry?
Racing sailboats on Lake Erie.
What was your first job?
Lifeguard.
What accomplishment are you most proud of?
Sailing my own boat back and forth from New England to the Caribbean.
What does leadership mean to you?
For me, leadership is a daily empathetic practice of understanding, and putting to use, the unique self-interests of each team member.
Did you have any key mentors or influences in your career?
Absolutely. Richard Trethewey. He and I met on the docks and became fast friends.  Richard has a lifelong commitment to the trades and he uses his role as a public figure on TV to explain complex technical concepts to laypeople. His support and excitement for the growth of BoatRx has meant the world to me.
As a young professional, what are the biggest challenges you’ve faced in the marine industry and how did you overcome them?
Breaking into the industry as a new business has not been easy. One of the biggest challenges was overcoming the resistance from existing marine products distributors. In the early days I was such a small player that some of these distributors would pass me off saying, “We have enough dealers” or “let’s just see how you do before we work together.” Oftentimes they just wouldn’t return emails or phone calls. This became less of a problem after my business manager, Lexi Ossinger, joined the team. As time went on, he found out which businesses were more interested in partnering with us. The good ones could sense the potential we had. He’s also worked to build strong relationships directly with the manufacturers who produce the core components of our systems. 
Who was your hero as a child?
My dad.
What are some of your favorite non-boating hobbies?
Live music and dancing.
Why should young professionals choose a career in the marine industry?
If you’re like me, you really don’t have a choice! If boating is your love, you’ve just got to be in it 24/7.

Sean Jhuty
Plant Manager, Malibu Boats

What was your first job?
I started working in the stock room at Target at the age of 16 through my high school’s work permit program. I worked Saturday and Sundays and have been working ever since.
What accomplishment are you most proud of?
When I was tasked with running the Malibu Boats California Tower Plant, I was pretty new to the Marine Industry and operations, but I was familiar with the processes having worked in HR and EHS the prior three years. I am most proud of growing the California operation to what it is now, 24 CNC Machines, making all of Malibu/Axis Towers in house among other parts, and promoting from within to get to where we are now.
Did you have any key mentors or influences in your career?
Ritchie Anderson, COO Malibu Boats for having the confidence in me to run the California Tower Operation and guiding me through developing it to what it is today.
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 think has been going through the recent pandemic and keeping the operations uninterrupted and employees safe.
What boat did you learn to boat on?
25 LSV.
Who was your hero as a child?
My Grandpa.
Why should young professionals choose a career in the marine industry?
It is a great industry to grow your career in.  It’s a very fast growing, moving and innovative industry that keeps you engaged and challenged.

Craig Kelly
Sales Manager, Great Bay Marine

What first drew you to the marine industry?
I grew up in the business; my father is part owner of the Great Bay Marine. As I got older my fascination with the water grew, as did my role in the dealership.  
What accomplishment are you most proud of?
The obvious answer for me would be being Robalo’s No. 1 salesman nationwide for the 2019 and 2020 model year, but I think what I’m more proud of is that my sales team has increased sales year over year since I took over as sales manager in 2016.
What boat did you learn to boat on?
My first boat “Kelly Kids” was a 15-foot Logic with a 50hp Yamaha.
Who was your hero as a child?
My parents without a doubt. I grew up watching how hard they worked running their own businesses and raising three children. They had a lot on their plates, but they never missed a sporting event or a school function.
What are some of your favorite non-boating hobbies?
When the weather permits you can usually find me at the beach or on a golf course.
Why should young professionals choose a career in the marine industry?
This is a fun industry with so many different opportunities for successful careers. No matter what your specialty is there is an opportunity for you in the marine industry. I can’t say enough about the people that I have met in this industry, the relationships you build are tough to beat.

Jordan Kistler
Product Manager, Forest River Marine

What first drew you to the marine industry?
Undoubtedly, the people. When you interact with great people every day, you wake up excited to go to work. The marine industry is such a unique space in both our internal team and the industry in its entirety. We are encouraged to be creative. We aren’t just building boats, we are building memories and brief escapes from the everyday grind. We build fun, and when that’s the end goal you get to work with some amazingly talented and caring individuals. I’m extremely thankful for our team here at Forest River Marine. They’ve built great products for twenty years and now we get to take the reins and continue the journey with a reinvigorated vision.
What does leadership mean to you?
Leadership for me, is striving to be better than you were yesterday, every day. It doesn’t matter if it’s a team, an individual, a product, or as an organization. It is in the “try” that people notice and what truly matters. Character and leadership is an interchangeable term. There’s no perfect definition, and if there was, there’d be no individuality in business. The greatest leaders in business/sports/military lead by example. I believe servant leadership is the best leadership. Never ask someone to do something that you yourself wouldn’t do. We are the shepherds of the industry, it’s ours to grow and protect. Leadership is not reserved for a title. We can all get better and evolve the term daily.
Did you have any key mentors or influences in your career?
I have been extremely fortunate to be surrounded by great people my entire life. Besides my mother and my wife who are two of the most hard working rock stars I know, the guys below have pushed me to be better in every aspect of life from business to personal development. I’m blessed to have these guys in my corner. They have been major influencers in my life and without their guidance I wouldn’t be where I am today; Mark Brunner, Ryan Casey, Jayde Lippert, Ron Mullet, Kevin Bestul, John Jones, Ryan Smith, Mark Taylor, Marc Rardin and Cam Ridenour.
What boat did you learn to boat on?
The first boat (besides my granddad’s flat bottom fishing boat) I learned to navigate was my dad’s 2001 Aqua Patio with bright green carpet. I believe it had a 50hp Johnson on it. We were kings of Winona Lake (IN) for a few summers, until my dad started making us pay for gas….It’s unbelievable and inspiring to see how much the pontoon segment has evolved and grown since those dog days of summer.
Why should young professionals choose a career in the marine industry?
Some days are full of meetings and coffee pots, and other days are spent out on the water with customers and dealers. You never know what you’ll be doing, whom you’ll be meeting, or where you will be traveling. I suggest this industry to everyone. I have never worked in such an enjoyable field. I believe there are unlimited opportunities for people that want to work hard and make a name for themselves in this industry. 2020 was full of stress for everyone and then our industry was hit with unprecedented demand. It’s been a rollercoaster of a year, and I can’t wait to see how the industry infrastructure will grow from it.  There will be multiple opportunities for young professionals coming out of this. Plus PFG’s and flip-flops are much more comfortable than three piece suits.

Kim Koditek
Director, Content Marketing, National Marine Manufacturers Association (NMMA)

What first drew you to the marine industry?
As a boater my entire life, a career that combined my skills and passion for writing, storytelling, and content creation, with my lifelong love for boating seemed like a no brainer—and an actual dream come true. And it still is today.
Did you have any key mentors or influences in your career?
I have two incredible, extremely talented mentors that I still lean on to this day. The first is Lenny Rudow. I first met Lenny when I joined Boats Group. He was the Senior Editor at the time, and it wouldn’t be much of an exaggeration to say, “he taught me everything he knows.” He took me under his wing and introduced to me to the industry—literally and figurately. The second is Carl Blackwell. Carl was the one who hired me at NMMA, he was the CMO and President of Discover Boating. Carl taught me how to think “big picture,” all the while keeping in mind how all the moving parts fit together. Carl’s the type of leader that I hope to be one day.
As a young professional, what are the biggest challenges you’ve faced in the marine industry and how did you overcome them?
I think overcoming the common stereotype of being thought of as “too young” or “inexperienced” by older, more established professionals in your field is something every young professional experiences at some point or another at the beginning of their careers—myself within the marine industry included. To overcome that kind of challenge, I was first very realistic with myself and came to terms with the fact that I didn’t know everything, and I did still have a lot to learn. And then I actively sought out advice and learning opportunities from mentors and experienced colleagues. Second, I never stopped believing in myself, my abilities, and the value I was bringing to the table. You have to remain steady in your self-confidence and perseverance.
Who was your hero as a child?
My hero has always been my mom. As cliché as it may sound, she really is the strongest, bravest person I know. She has always been my biggest fan, supporting me unconditionally in every stage of my life. Everyone who meets her loves her. I wouldn’t be where I am today without her love and support.
Why should young professionals choose a career in the marine industry?
Because it’s fun! This is an industry that truly lives and breathes the phrase “work hard, play hard.” Not to mention, the boating industry seems to be a magnet for attracting some pretty incredible people. People who before you know it, might just become some of your lifelong friends. It’s also been known to present once-in-a-life-time opportunities and experiences. 10/10 would recommend!

Iasonas Lalizas
Marketing Communications Manager, LALIZAS Group

What first drew you to the marine industry?
In all honesty, I was born and raised in it. Because of my father, who has been sailing since forever, I set foot on a boat ever since I was born, and I haven’t cut ties since then. Thus, I have been involved in the industry since I was a teenager. From the very beginning, I loved it for many reasons - it also felt too natural to me. Apart from the fact that the Greek marine industry is a “rich” market to be in, I get the satisfaction that our products have a real impact. We do not only provide solutions on making life easier on board, but we save lives at sea. This makes it really easier to get up in the morning.
What accomplishment are you most proud of?
A bit less than two years ago, I grabbed the opportunity to get in charge of the Group’s communication department. At the time, we were just three people in total. Having managed to integrate the Communication as well as the Marketing Operations departments last year, I am now running the Marketing & Communications Department. Along with old as well as new members to the team, we all managed to work as one and grow further, both personally and professionally. We are responsible for the planning and implementation of our communication and promotional strategy, the products’ pricing and packaging, their introduction and initial placement in the market, as well as the video and graphic design production. We do everything in-house, which means that literally everything passes through our hands. My team is my greatest accomplishment – I am honestly being very proud of our relationship and of course the job that is done each and every day. 
Where is your favorite place to go boating?
If you have ever been in Greece, you will be able to understand that literally everywhere is a great place for boating. We live in a boating paradise, surrounded by the islands and sea, with an endless coastline. I would highly recommend to anyone that has the opportunity to visit Greece, to come and see for themselves.
Why should young professionals choose a career in the marine industry?
I believe that there is a great amount of opportunity and growth in our industry for a young professional. I also think that it is a very exciting and fun market to be a part of. It is something that I would definitely recommend to my closest friends. Attracting the younger generation into the water in general, would attain more young talent to our industry, which unfortunately we are in great need of. Teenagers and young adults need to learn about the benefits of water-related activities and boating in general.

Jodi Latshaw
CEO, United States Warranty Corporation (USWC) & Eagle Extended Service Protection Corporation (EESPC)

What was your first job?
My dad, Terry Landis, owned United States Warranty Corporation for many years. I worked there since I was a little girl answering phones and sorting cashed checks. Over the years I was able to work in every department learning the ins and outs of the business. 
Did you have any key mentors or influences in your career?
My dad. He had a background as an attorney and even when I was younger, he always taught me to think through all sides of a decision – as a teenager I had to write a research paper on the cultural significance of body piercings in order to convince him to get my ears pierced. It was ridiculous at the time, but I have always remembered that experience. He supported me through my educational pursuits and encouraged me to learn about all aspects of the business. He included me in meetings with different people to understand our partnerships and really taught me a lot about myself and the kind of leader I wanted to be.
What boat did you learn to boat on?
None – I love to be on a boat, as long as I am not in the captain’s chair.
Who was your hero as a child?
My grandmother. Both of my parents worked full time, so I spent a lot of time with her. She was an amazing woman and taught me so much about family and keeping everyone together. She took on each new challenge life threw at her with a smile and determination. She was the epitome of love and strength.
Why should young professionals choose a career in the marine industry?
I read once “to sell boats is to sell a lifestyle.” Growing up in the outdoor recreational industry is all I know. Well, that and financial accounting. Boating is more than just an enjoyable pastime or a fun way to spend a weekend. The marine industry embodies the care-free approach to living that many young professionals strive to achieve these days.  My dad lived to work. These days young professionals work to live.  Bringing my company into the fold within this industry, just felt natural.  I have learned that those in the industry feel as if they are part of something bigger than themselves, that they are part of a community of likeminded, passionate individuals who are all seeking the emotional satisfaction that comes only from being on the water. For those land gigs, like dealerships, I look at it this way; a boat dealership is not your average run-of-the-mill retail shop.  You can’t help but be excited about boating when you step inside of a boat dealership. The atmosphere is casual, just like the boating lifestyle. Boat salespeople are rarely pushy and are typically straight shooters. Young professionals are growing up in a very unique time- an excellent time to be in the boat business. The way I see it, boating has been around for thousands of years, and it is not going away any time soon. Jump on board and catch the wave now!

Ben Lizardo
Director of OEM Sales, Wet Sounds Inc.

What was your first job?
An evening and weekend bus boy at a local restaurant called Pasta House was my intro into the workforce. There was zero glamour to the job, but it funded my audio obsession. Unfortunately, much of that equipment was automotive grade to meet the budget and I needed more shifts to cover replacing most of it. That summer made me despise the smell of spaghetti sauce and mopping floors, but the boat sounded good! 
What does leadership mean to you?
Leadership is the responsibility to grow and develop a successful team. The people leaders surround themselves with are more important than any product or service that one can offer. Growing a team as a whole and grooming your successors should be every leader’s focus.
Did you have any key mentors or influences in your career?
Rene Cornejo and Brent Fuji were owner and general manager of the audio shop that started my career. They were supportive in my growth and instrumental in establishing a firm foundation centered on customer service and maximum effort. Scott Baughman of Reliable Product Marketing taught me how to earn value through helping others. He operates his rep firm as a true partner to those he services and encourages those around him to never stop learning or adapting.
What boat did you learn to boat on?
The primary boat I learned on was a 1994 Pro Craft 180 Combo. I remember lessons from my Dad in the church parking lot to learn how to back up the trailer. I am grateful for those lessons each time I see the struggles of new boat owners at the launch ramp. The 150hp outboard was not something I would ever surf behind but if you trimmed it up just right and filled the live wells, it made a decent wakeboard wake back then.
Who was your hero as a child?
My parents were my heroes as a child. Both worked very hard to give me an up bringing that they were not able to have growing up. They were part of the labor force in the early Silicon Valley days where my mom was my dad’s supervisor. Their career paths separated but my mom remains the boss to this day. My work ethic and respect for others is 100% a result of my heroes. Thanks Mom and Dad.
Why should young professionals choose a career in the marine industry?
The marine industry is about getting people out on the water and improving that experience. Studies show that being near the water help improve the mental and physical wellbeing. That alone makes this industry more rewarding that many others. To learn more about this I suggest reading Blue Mind by Wallace J. Nichols. For those looking to combine the power of music and water, the marine audio industry is a fantastic place to be.

Caroline Mantel
Director of Business Development, Boat History Report

What was your first job?  
Cleaning bird poop out of birdcages and sorting mealworms and crickets for $2 an hour store credit at a local pet shop when I was 13-years-old. I love birds but I’ll never own one after that. 
What accomplishment are you most proud of?  
Industry related, THIS [40 Under 40] – obviously!  Also, I recently received the prestigious NASBLA Award, given to someone for their efforts towards NASBLA, as well as their efforts towards the betterment of boating. I am also pretty proud to have played a key role in the passing of the Uniform Certificate of Title for Vessels Act (UCOTVA) in Florida, which will brand hull damaged boats on titles beginning 2023. In my personal life, I hope it’s surviving my strong willed, stubborn toddler. 
As a young professional, what are the biggest challenges you’ve faced in the marine industry and how did you overcome them?  
Modernization of the marine industry. We are 10 years behind the auto industry in terms of safety and transparency. However, this past year has helped bring the marine industry more in line with what consumers have come to expect. 
What boat did you learn to boat on?  
A freebie Bayliner that eventually split at the deck hull joint on a rough day a mile from shore! Don’t worry, the Boat History Report shows the damage.
Why should young professionals choose a career in the marine industry?   
As a woman, I believe there is a lot of opportunity to have an impact as women are very under represented in the marine industry. 

Spencer Matsumoto
Engineering Product Manager, Regal Boats

What first drew you to the marine industry?
I knew at a very early age that I wanted to be on and around boats. My grandfather was a commercial salmon fisherman out of Sausalito, Calif., and I grew up working on his boat, not only fishing but helping with maintenance. I remember going to boat shows with my dad and grandfather from as early as 5-years-old, and just being enamored with the idea of being on the water.
What does leadership mean to you?
From my point of view, leadership is the art of motivating and directing a team of people- but not limited to a work setting. I believe that leadership looks deeper into the lives of the people we are lucky enough to have influence on, and we are responsible to help guide them to where they want to be in life. Leaders have integrity to set a good example for their team, vulnerability to develop authentic relationships, and practice accountability with intention.
Did you have any key mentors or influences in your career?
I have been incredibly lucky to have been surrounded by qualified mentors throughout my career. Talented craftsmen like Hector Tirado and Casey Merritt taught me what it means to build a quality product, Jimmy Morgan has coached me on all things related to product development, and Paul Kuck and Jeff Worden have mentored me throughout my leadership journey. I am forever grateful for the relationships that I have made with these key influencers.
As a young professional, what are the biggest challenges you’ve faced in the marine industry and how did you overcome them?
The biggest hurdle that I have faced was being labeled a millennial by some of the older generations, and the only way I know to overcome that label is to show great work ethic, respect, and true grit.
Why should young professionals choose a career in the marine industry?
Working in the marine industry is a surreal experience; being able to do something that I truly enjoy and knowing that what I do brings happiness to consumers all over the world is incredibly fulfilling.

Zachary Meyer
Marine Operations Manager, Mark’s Leisure Time Marine

What first drew you to the marine industry?
Growing up around the water puts a passion for boating in you that’s hard to kick. Boating is something I thoroughly enjoy, and sharing that passion with others is something that I’ve been doing for a long time even before working at Mark’s. When I graduated from College, it just felt natural to keep pursuing a passion I already had (and knew a thing or two about).
What accomplishment are you most proud of?
Looking at my tenure here at Mark’s, I would have to say my biggest accomplishments are all the decisions I’ve made to help turn a struggling business profitable and achieving awards along the way such as Top 100 or various CSI awards. I’ve always had a vision in my head of what the company should look like, being able to pursue those visions has been an incredible experience that I am very grateful for.
What does leadership mean to you?
When it pertains to business, I learned the definition of leadership from my father. Leadership isn’t necessarily being at the top of a company or organization; it’s the owner of a company jumping in to help clean a boat that’s running behind for its delivery. It’s doing the work that nobody expects you to, side by side with a person that needs a helping hand. Showing that person tips and tricks to make their job easier along the way. It’s being there to support the people that are beside you to achieve a common goal.  
As a young professional, what are the biggest challenges you’ve faced in the marine industry and how did you overcome them?
I would have to say that easily the biggest challenge in the marine industry was due to my age. While I was learning a lot very quickly, one of the biggest challenges I repeatedly faced was being young. Whether this was someone not taking me seriously or not yet having the experience, age always seemed to be a hurdle. I am thankful that today, at the age of 28, I’ve finally put that challenge behind me. I’ve found that confidence was one of the biggest attributes to overcome this.
Why should young professionals choose a career in the marine industry?
The marine industry offers more growth opportunities than most would anticipate. The industry is lacking young talent in so many areas from techs to sales staff, this creates unlimited opportunities for growth if you apply yourself.

Eric Miller
Chief Engineer, Nautique Boat Company

What first drew you to the marine industry?
I was born into a love for watersports. My great grandfather purchased a piece of a mountain on the Clarion River in Pennsylvania and built a camp before I was born. I was blessed grow up on the water every weekend and all summer. I was skiing at age 2, became a competitive wakeboarder in my teenage years, and skied on the Waterski Team at Clemson University. Along the way, I got into working boat shows and putting on wakeboard clinics for sponsors and helping my family organize grass roots tournaments. Connections I made in watersports and my engineering background eventually earned me an invite to join the Nautique Product Design and Development Team.     
What does leadership mean to you?
Leadership is a never-ending journey of learning. My philosophy on leadership is “just lead” from whatever position you find yourself in and lead by example. I believe that people should be brought into formal leadership positions because they do just that; they are interested in and continue to develop themselves to be the authority in their field.  I have never been a person who pursued a leadership position to have authority over people or even product, but instead have accepted positions over the years to help guide teams of passionate individuals like myself to achieve more than ever could be imagined by a single individual contributor.  I consider myself just a small part of the Engineering team, not the head of it.
Did you have any key mentors or influences in your career?
Bill Snook took me under his wing from day one at Nautique, through the day he retired and even beyond, Bill has been a great mentor and friend. Through the years, along with Bill Snook, Greg Meloon, Steve Carlton, Lindley Blake, Bill Waits and too many others to name have and continue to help me learn about every part to the business and life. In the last couple years, Thomas Bates has been a great sounding board and mentor especially on leadership and relationship building.
As a young professional, what are the biggest challenges you’ve faced in the marine industry and how did you overcome them?
I have had plenty of technical challenges on engineering projects, but that is to be expected.  One of my largest challenges has been work life balance.  For me it is more like life and other life balance. I love what I do, I think of my team as family, and I am deeply invested in the success of both my home and work families. I have learned that work is not just a place; today’s technology has allowed me and others to keep projects moving whenever and from wherever we are required to be.
Why should young professionals choose a career in the marine industry?
My advice is always jump in if you have a passion for boats, watersports, outdoor recreation, etc. I love this industry and I love the people in it. There is nothing better than doing what you love, with amazing friends, and making a living doing it. 

Geordie Newlands
Owner & Operator, Summer Water Sports & SWS Boatworks

What first drew you to the marine industry?
My dad wanted me to work on Bay Street and wear a suit. I preferred to wear a wetsuit instead. For me, it was a lifestyle choice. I gravitate towards the water and fresh air, over concrete and high rises.
What accomplishment are you most proud of?
Turning Summer Water Sports from a ski school operation into a multi-location marina within just a few years AND not going bankrupt at the same time.
Did you have any key mentors or influences in your career?
My parents were key mentors for believing in me to chase my dream as a professional waterskier. Phil Harding, previous owner of Summer Water Sports and Chris Poole of Muskoka Boat Gallery. Also, my 20-group and Sam Dantzler has had a big influence on how we look at and operate my business.
As a young professional, what are the biggest challenges you’ve faced in the marine industry and how did you overcome them?
I think as a young entrepreneur, people didn’t take me seriously. It gave me the drive to prove that I could create the business the way I wanted to. The community here in Muskoka has been very receptive to have an entrepreneur who thinks outside the box.
Who was your hero as a child?
Captain Canada was my hero as a child. He was a Waterskiing Superhero in the community ski shows growing up! He was living the dream and helped shape my passion for waterskiing and show skiing.
Why should young professionals choose a career in the marine industry?
It’s a rewarding career where you sell fun! It’s not a job, it’s a lifestyle.

Chris Perera
President & Founder, Digital Era Media Inc.

What first drew you to the marine industry?
Growing up in the 1000 Islands in a home with a water view of the St Lawrence River, boating was always something I noticed. While our family didn’t own a boat, my neighbors took me boating from a young age. I instantly knew that boating was an experience that eclipsed all others! At the age of 12, I purchased my first motorboat, a 12-foot Starcraft tiller with a 9.9hp Mercury. Then at age 14, I upgraded to a 14-foot Thundercraft with a 50hp Mercury. At age 16, I purchased a Glastron CVX 16 with a 115hp Mercury. Then finally at age 26 a Formula 260 BR with an 8.1L Volvo Penta.
What does leadership mean to you?
Leadership to me means establishing a unique vision and focusing your team on that vision. It’s about taking full responsibility for the entire team. It’s about continually supporting, engaging, and inspiring your team in the hardest of times to make it through the challenges and overcoming them.  It’s about how to move forward and not dwell on the bumps or downfalls along the way. Making your organization a proud place for members to be involved with. It’s about creating a service that your customers want to be part of.
Did you have any key mentors or influences in your career?
I’ve been fortunate enough to have a few key mentors over my journey who have taken their time to provide honest feedback, guidance, and encouragement. One time in particular when I was faced with a difficult business decision, a customer who operates a boat dealership and marina asked me about my business as he sensed I could use some advice. At that time, he set me up with one of his friends who is a high-profile media executive whom provided me advice and encouragement to take things to a new level. Without mentorship I don’t feel I would have progressed nearly as far as I have.
As a young professional, what are the biggest challenges you’ve faced in the marine industry and how did you overcome them?
By far the hardest thing I faced was getting boat dealers and brokers to try using BoatDealers.ca in the early years. One thing is certain in the marine industry, it’s a personal industry! So being fresh and unknown I had many challenges of breaking down the newbie barrier. Multiple years of continued determination and persistence showing real value to dealers and brokers allowed the barriers to be broken down. Thus, allowing me to become part of the boating industry family.
Who was your hero as a child?
My dad (George Perera) was my hero growing up because he took risks to get rewarded with a better life. From his young years leaving Sri Lanka, getting university educated in England (where he ended up meeting my mom), moving to Canada in 1974, to running his own business since 1982. He is still working today at 74 years old! He has taught me that doing things the right way is the only way for long-term sustainability.
Why should young professionals choose a career in the marine industry?
The marine industry is all about dreams. It’s not just about boat ownership. Having a career in the marine industry is about enabling people to access the boating lifestyle. It’s a vibrant industry with interesting people, products, and services. All of which are entertaining and energizing. There’s nothing better than being on the water and helping others share that experience, it’s very rewarding.

Chris Pollum
Marketing Manager, Ilmor

What was your first job?
I’ve always been entrepreneurial, but my first real job was at 14 as a golf caddie at my local country club. It was an incredibly impactful job because it taught me a lot about interpersonal relationships. From the art of a great story to the subtlety of talking to someone and matching their life experiences to business needs. It was an early reminder that you can build deep relationships and conduct business without PowerPoints and buzzwords.
What accomplishment are you most proud of?
I’m most proud of the work I’ve been able to accomplish within several community originations. Lending my professional experience and time to these groups is incredibly rewarding. I’m especially passionate about DECA, which is focused on developing the next generation of business leaders. My connection is personal, as I was involved in the program as a student, and it made a significant impact on me and my career path.
Did you have any key mentors or influences in your career?
There have been several significant figures on my career “path.” First, my parents allowed me the freedom to go out and create my own life adventure, for which I’m eternally grateful. Larry Harris whose words inspired me several times to change paths, and each change leading to astonishing opportunities. Jim Smith and Tom Thiel showed me the world of marketing and what a unique path it has been to walk. Lastly, my incredible husband, David, frees my path from obstacles and has stood by my side on every step of this circuitous journey.
As a young professional, what are the biggest challenges you’ve faced in the marine industry, and how did you overcome them?
Overall, I’ve found the marine industry to be a fantastic environment for a young professional. One of the challenges is overcoming the “That won’t work” or “We’ve already tried that” response to an idea. I’ve found it helpful to take time to learn from those who have been there and better understand their prior experiences. These conversations can lead to unexpected results and often a much stronger solution.
What boat did you learn to boat on?
Soon after joining the marine industry, my husband and I purchased our first boat, a 30-foot express cruiser named “No Well.” It’s been an absolute thrill to explore and discover all the pleasures boating made available to us. Now we spend nearly every summer weekend at the marina and on the water. We’re already daydreaming about our next boat as we think about taking on the Great Loop at some point in the future.
Why should young professionals choose a career in the marine industry?
The marine industry is entering a fresh new era of rapid change and innovation; it’s exhilarating to be immersed in it. A young professional entering the industry now has a chance to be at the center of this ongoing renaissance, which creates opportunities for young professionals’ work to make a profound impact over the coming years.

Alexis Reed
Chief Operating Officer, United States Warranty Corporation (USWC) & Eagle Extended Service Protection Corporation (EESPC)

What first drew you to the marine industry?
Expanding the diversity of our portfolio leverages increased opportunities for our dealers since we have RVs and Powersports vehicles like personal watercraft.
What accomplishment are you most proud of?
Personally, I would say becoming a mother. Professionally, I have grown up with USWC. I am super proud of what I have accomplished over a span of 15 years: Career advancement, implementing new programs, driving growth with new divisional start-ups, being nominated for Women Making Waves last year and 40 under 40.
What does leadership mean to you?
Helping others identify their strengths and challenges, converting mistakes into learned lessons. Encouraging confidence building as a building block to their success. To me a real leader treats each employee/each position as equals. You cannot have a successful company without each and every employee. Each one has a unique role to play.
Did you have any key mentors or influences in your career?
Terry Landis was my mentor; he was the previous owner of USWC. Terry hired me and gave me a chance. He helped me understand the business and continued to push me to go above and beyond.
As a young professional, what are the biggest challenges you’ve faced in the marine industry and how did you overcome them?
Judgment and stereotypes. Born in 1984, I am classified as a millennial. The stereotype of a millennial, the judgment I receive with my age and my title are all challenges. How do I overcome these challenges, I am not sure you overcome them, people will always do what they will, I can just be proud of who I am and what I accomplish.
Why should young professionals choose a career in the marine industry?
First, it is a vital part of the global economy. The marine industry is responsible carrying of 90% of the world’s trade, so it’s not going away anytime soon. In addition, it’s paving the way for ethical industry practices and environmental responsibility of business and economies. The industry is so huge that it offers such unique work experiences and transferrable skills. I have had the chance to learn about Italian boat making, clean water legislations to the impacts we can have on safety and outdoor recreation. What other industry gives you so much knowledge and networking opportunities?

Tyson Rhoad
Service Manager, Clemons Boats

What first drew you to the marine industry?
It started with geography and friends. I grew up on Lake Erie and my friend’s family owned a marina, so I was naturally drawn to those opportunities early on. After college, I jumped right into the local job market with a Top 100 dealer.
What accomplishment are you most proud of?
Having the courage to leave a good job and financial situation to take a chance on the dream of owning my own business. A close second is winning the National Powerlifting Championships while I was in college.
Did you have any key mentors or influences in your career?
It starts with my high school football coach Tony Legando. He helped shape my way of thinking starting from about the fourth grade until today when I finished reading his latest book. Bob Eirons helped iron out a lot of my personal shortcomings and then helped develop my leadership and management style through Dale Carnegie. I worked for Tom Mack for a large part of my career and the lessons I learned there are invaluable for life.  Chuck Thompson is filled with wisdom and perspective. Most recently, working for Jason Clemons has really opened my eyes to drive, determination, and possibility.
Why should young professionals choose a career in the marine industry?
I have learned in my career that there are accountants, salespeople, human resources, managers, social media people, mechanics, leaders, and followers in every single industry. I have a friend that was a mechanic working on trash trucks who we eventually convinced to come work on boats. He told me stories about the juices dropping down on his face while fixing a truck. Six months later he is working on an outboard motor and going for a boat ride. Why not choose an industry that is fun and filled with future opportunity?

Nicole Richards
Project Manager, Siren Marine

What first drew you to the marine industry?
Before finding myself in the marine industry, I sought for career in a field of personal interest that I would truly want to dedicate myself to. The marine industry caters to those who have this wonderful passion for boating, in a market of all ages and all walks of life. It’s extremely rewarding to apply yourself to something that people enjoy, some who even dedicate their lives to. That being said, I consider myself very lucky to work in this industry.
What accomplishment are you most proud of?
My greatest accomplishment in my career was leading a product release to market. This was also my greatest challenge as it was my first task as a project manager at Siren Marine. Completing this project along with my colleagues was extremely rewarding and memorable.
What does leadership mean to you?
A key aspect of leadership is to never say “not my job” and always be up for a challenge. Leadership starts with this, leading by example, and creating an enjoyable work environment for your peers. I have always been eager to support my teammates where I can and encourage questions or new ideas. Taking time to teach someone something new is one of the most rewarding experiences I have had in my career, and I admire those who share the same insight.
Did you have any key mentors or influences in your career?
Dan Harper, founder of Siren Marine. Dan was an inspirational leader and mentor who led his team with passion and dedication. He always encouraged me to do my best in everything I do for Siren and gave me so many wonderful opportunities. While he always had a tight schedule, he never hesitated to make time for me or his team.
Who was your hero as a child?
I don’t believe I ever considered anyone as a hero, but I certainly looked up to my parents. They worked extremely hard to ensure I was provided opportunities to succeed and have dedicated so much of their lives to support me. In a way, I suppose that makes them my heroes.
Why should young professionals choose a career in the marine industry?
The marine industry is driven by people who love what they do and often whose livelihoods are on the water. Working in this industry will bring you pride, motivation, and something new to learn every day. You will always come across individuals who beam with joy when boating is the topic of conversation, and you will rarely come across a boring day.

Paul Rieger
Sales Associate, William F. Miller & Associates

What was your first job? 
My first job was right out of high school, I went to work for Triton Boat company in Ashland City, Tenn. There I started working in R&D and then maintenance and into the Rigging department. I worked at Triton Boats for four years while in college at University of Tennessee.
What accomplishment are you most proud of?  
In the past 15 years, WFM, and the industry as a whole, has had some significant personnel turnover. Mostly for retirement reasons at WFM.  When that happens, you lose some key members who built the agency to what it is today and those members helped to establish the great reputation our agency has maintained thru the decades.  In 2009, I was given a position on the board of directors for our company. Nearly 12 years later, I’m proud of the team we’ve been able to assemble during that time. Our younger team members, many of which are under 40, have not only carried on our company reputation, but have enhanced it greatly. We’ve prepared our company for the next 40 years and I am very proud of being a part of it.
Did you have any key mentors or influences in your career?
I believe many in my agency would have the same answer and that is Joe Miller. Joe’s father, started our agency, and he has been the greatest mentor any of us could ever have.  His integrity is never in question.  He has never been outworked and always does what he says. Those attributes have made Joe one of the most respected and loved folks in our industry.
Who was your hero as a child? 
My father was my hero.  He introduced me to boating, fishing and the outdoors at a young age.  Which have become my passions today.  He instilled a strong work ethic in me and provided me opportunity to learn the marine industry.
Why should young professionals choose a career in the marine industry?  
I believe the marine industry as a whole, has always been a “fun” industry.  While it has gotten very technical over the past couple decades, it is still an industry that anyone with a strong work ethic can enter and excel in.  And the products we produce, most everyone dreams of owning one of our products.  The passion for the product drives this industry.

Sheila Ruffin
President, Soca Carribbean Yacht Charters

What was your first job? 
I was a Front Desk Reservation Clerk at Cherrystone Family Camping Resort, which is located on 300 acres of waterfront on the Chesapeake Bay. Although I initially learned to plan vacations at age 6 with my mother, Cherrystone taught me about customer service in the tourism sector.  I was responsible for making the first impression and setting the tone for the camping trips of our guests.
What accomplishment are you most proud of?
I am most proud of introducing the marine industry to an untapped billion-dollar market in communities of color and millennials. African Americans and Hispanic Americans contributed a combined $119 billion to America’s travel and tourism industry in 2018.  Asian Americans, the country’s wealthiest demographic, constituted 41% of U.S. immigrants from 2010 – 2017. According to the President of Unity Marketing, the millennial generation’s earning years will increase by 2026 – 2029, “with the wealthiest of this generation entering a ‘window of affluence’ that will last for two decades.” As people of color and millennials continue to gain wealth, they represent an enormous opportunity for the marine industry’s future growth.
Did you have any key mentors or influences in your career?
Sheila Johnson, the owner and founder of the Salamander Hotels and Resorts, is a major inspiration in my life. Mrs. Johnson and I are both in the luxury travel & tourism industry and share the same clientele. Mrs. Johnson is a savvy entrepreneur and ranks second only to Oprah Winfrey among the wealthiest Black women in America. She is the only African American woman to hold ownership stakes in three professional sports teams and her philanthropy initiatives are countless.
Who was your hero as a child?
As a little girl, I have fond memories of going to grandma’s house.  She called me her little tomboy because I climbed trees, wrestled my boy cousins, and rode dirt bikes.  My best memory is my grandmother’s pancakes and sweet potato pies.  It was not until high school that I realized the extreme hardships my grandmother encountered being raised in the south during the 1930s and a young mother and wife in the 1950s. Because I never heard her complain, my grandmother, Helen Gillis, was my superwoman!
Why should young professionals choose a career in the marine industry?
The marine industry is becoming extremely innovative through efforts relating to sustainable development and solar-panel boats. The industry offers young professionals an opportunity to expand our industry’s potential through technology, digitalization, and social media while simultaneously learning from the wisdom and knowledge of industry veterans.

Jory Schmeling
General Manager, StanCraft Wooden Boat Company

What first drew you to the marine industry?
At the core of this I would have to say that my father’s career in the tugboat industry drew me to the marine industry, as he towed logs all over north Idaho during his career as a tugboat captain. I always wanted to follow in his footsteps, but as the logging industry in the area declined there was no great opportunity to do this in the inland northwest in the capacity that he did.
What accomplishment are you most proud of?  
The accomplishment I am most proud of is being blessed enough to find my wife, and best friend.  On the professional side of things, I would say the accomplishment I most proud of having the opportunity to be part of helping StanCraft Wooden Boat Company grow and expand to the capacity that we are currently operating at today.
Did you have any key mentors or influences in your career?
One of the key influences in my working life was the first chef that I ever worked for. His name is Tim Heinig. He was an amazing leader and really inspired me in a lot of ways, especially how to treat your employees. Over the last couple of years, I have spent a lot of time watching and reading Gary Vaynerchuk. I really enjoy and believe in many of his teachings and writings.
Who was your hero as a child? 
My hero as a child and still to this day is my Father. His name is Forrest Schmeling. I can only hope to be the man he is one day, and he has inspired me to be the best man that I can be. 
Why should young professionals choose a career in the marine industry? 
I would say that young professionals should choose a career in the marine industry because it is ever changing, there is always a new challenge, and you get the opportunity to work with some amazing people and industries. You are working in an industry that tends to make people smile. It is very rewarding to make or be part of the process to make the boats that people spend time with their families on. Also helping clients build a more efficient and effective transport vessel for people or product. 

Guilherme Tait
OEM Regional Sales Manager, Volvo Penta of the Americas

What first drew you to the marine industry?
It was motivated by spending time boating in my childhood. I spent quite a bit of time boating and fishing with my family at the Parana River in Brazil when I was younger, where my passion for boating really began.
What does leadership mean to you?
Ability to empower people by demonstrating boundless energy and passion towards a common objective. I believe the key factor is knowing how to distinguish different personalities and expectations.
Did you have any key mentors or influences in your career?
Too many to count. My parents, brother and wife have all played a major part of who I am today. I would have to say that the people who have been a consistent, positive force and mentors in my career are Marcia Kull, former VP of Sales at Volvo Penta, and the current Volvo Penta executive management team.
What boat did you learn to boat on?
An aluminum Marajo 19-foot with a two-stroke outboard. That was in early 90s in Brazil.
Who was your hero as a child?
Ayrton Senna (Formula 1) and Neil Armstrong, who I had a pleasure to meet in 2007 in Telluride, CO.
Why should young professionals choose a career in the marine industry?
We are living in a remarkable era. I see the marine industry expanding its horizon for new technologies such as hybrid and full electric solutions and it is exciting to be part of this change.

Jordan Tilton
Dealer & OEM Programs Manager, Allsalt Maritime, Owner & Operator, JTA Yacht Delivery & Consulting

What was your first job?  
My first job was working as a lifeguard at the local pool in the town that I grew up in Northern Ohio. Like most kids, I did the normal lifeguarding, mowing, etc.  When I was 18 and finishing up high school I got my CDL and was driving dump trucks and 18-wheelers for a friends excavating company. My first job out of college was an R&D Captain for Cummins Mercruiser Diesel in Charleston, S.C. working on the development of the Quantum Series engines. 
What accomplishment are you most proud of?
I’m very proud of the family that my wife and I are currently raising.  We have 3 great kids, and it’s so fun to watch them grow and learn everyday.  I have achieved a lot of accomplishments throughout my career, and receiving my Captain’s License way back in 2003 while attending Ohio State is a big one as it’s a huge part of my life currently. Now working for Allsalt Maritime and operating my Yacht Delivery business and watching both companies grow is very exciting. 
As a young professional, what are the biggest challenges you’ve faced in the marine industry and how did you overcome them?
Fortunately I enjoy accepting challenges, and there have been quite a few of them over the course of my career.  I would have to say that working on both the commercial and recreational side of things, the largest challenge to start has been earning the respect of my peers and others inside the industry.  I didn’t go to college for a maritime or engineering field, so when I first started I believe a lot of my peers were skeptical on my background and my knowledge base.  I have a few key elements that I work from on a daily basis and with some perseverance and dedication it has allowed me to continue to grow and build strong relationships beyond what I expected. 
Who was your hero as a child?
I’d have to go to my Dad. He always supported me and was there for me. Regardless of how long he worked, he would always find time to help me with whatever project I was working and always helped me make sure my motocross bikes were ready to go for the weekend races. 
Why should young professionals choose a career in the marine industry?
The marine industry is such a diverse group of people and companies, that if you allow yourself to, you will always learn something new and I think we are at a very exciting time with the technology increases we are seeing. Diesel outboards, shock mitigating seats / monitoring,  electronics, bigger diesel engines, hybrid propulsion, huge center consoles and sportfishers, etc. is all very exciting and fascinating. I’ve thoroughly enjoyed filling up my passport with stamps from places I never imagined that I would get to travel to.  The people all have great backgrounds and stories, and generally are great to work with because we all have the common interest of boats and being out on the water. As large as it seems, the industry is still very small, and seeing the same faces at trade shows is always very enjoyable and exciting.

Tim Walters
Western Regional Sales Director, Chaparral and Robalo Boats

What first drew you to the marine industry?
Our family had boating in our DNA and from an early age, my thoughts and activities centered around cruising, sailing, skiing, and wakeboarding. Introducing people to the joys of boating was my M.O. long before I was compensated to do so. The last 17 years as a professional in the marine industry have been a blessing.
Did you have any key mentors or influences in your career?
Yes, many of the movers and shakers of our industry have been very kind and instrumental in my professional development. Without these individuals, I would not be who I am today, and neither would our industry, for that matter.
As a young professional, what are the biggest challenges you’ve faced in the marine industry and how did you overcome them?
The marine business is relatively small and it is full of lifetime professionals who had to pay their dues to make their way forward. Patience and taking the long-view are key to overcoming the biggest challenge, which is time… Rome was not built in a day.
Where is your favorite place to go boating?
Wherever I go boating next!
Who was your hero as a child?
My parents. They demonstrated hard work and integrity, as well adventure and leisure.
Why should young professionals choose a career in the marine industry?
Boating is a social activity, but requires focus and attention to detail. For this reason, the marine industry attracts a “salt of the earth” group of people that make for strong personal and professional partnerships. This is the most rewarding attribute of a career in the marine industry.

Jennifer Waters
Director of Marketing, Sea Tow Services International

What was your first job?
A cashier at a local supermarket, when I was 15.
What accomplishment are you most proud of?
Being a mom and pursuing a career. Balancing the two has been the most difficult and most rewarding thing I’ve ever done. I know that’s a cliché answer… but it’s true.
Did you have any key mentors or influences in your career?
My Dad. He taught me to be confident and to NEVER settle. When I struggled to land my first job out of college in the super competitive publishing industry in NYC, it was my dad who told me that feeling sorry for myself wasn’t going to get me anywhere in life. That I was the only one who was going to change my situation. I don’t handle complacency well. Hate your job? Find a new one. Want to make more money? Work hard and figure out how. Teaching me to never settle for mediocrity was one of the greatest lessons I’ve ever learned.
As a young professional, what are the biggest challenges you’ve faced in the marine industry and how did you overcome them?
Well, I’m just making it in under the “40 Under 40” wire so I don’t know how young I am anymore! But in all seriousness… I think for any young female, working in a male dominated industry can be intimidating at times. I came into the marine industry from the building industry, so I know a thing or two about it. In my job now, I have a nationwide network of business owners and boat captains counting on me to steer our branding (and our marketing budget allocation) in the right direction. I had to learn early on the importance of not only knowing my audiences and knowing how to communicate with them effectively but earning their respect as well. Trust in your skillset and what you’ve learned along the way – and always demonstrate your ability to do your job best. 
Who was your hero as a child?
My mom of course. 
Why should young professionals choose a career in the marine industry?
There are so many opportunities and areas for growth in this industry. And the people aren’t too bad either! 

Kevin Zoodsma
Operations Leader, Action Water Sports Inc.

What first drew you to the marine industry?
I grew up loving to snowboard in the winter so I was excited to try wakeboarding when my parents bought a boat.  The boating lifestyle is one of the best ways to enjoy the summer in Michigan, and it made total sense to me to share that passion with others.
What accomplishment are you most proud of?
Contributing to the design and construction projects during our expansions over the years have helped streamline our stores for both our employees and customers.
Did you have any key mentors or influences in your career?
Chris Wilson taught me everything about pro shop retail and customer service, and what it takes to create “raving fan” customers.  Jerry Brouwer has coached me on marketing, and leadership skills.  I’m extremely privileged to have learned from these two over the years as well as many others.
What boat did you learn to boat on?
A MasterCraft ProStar 190.
Who was your hero as a child?
My Dad.
Why should young professionals choose a career in the marine industry?
The Marine Industry is constantly evolving and changing with new products and technologies. I personally love the challenges these changes create. Helping people find enjoyment with their friends and families on the water is rewarding as well.

One comment

  1. Thank you for recognising these young professionals.

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