Monday, March 29, 2010

Wednesday March 17th - St. Patty's Day Edition

Today is March 17th, St. Patty's Day in Whistler. Dolton and I worked it out with both our venue managers so we could both get the day off. It is our first full day off since March 5 when we returned from Seattle. I woke up about 30 minutes ago, around 9:30 local time here in Whistler, which was great. On event days I have been waking up around 530, sometimes 6 if I am lucky. Dolton and I are about to head on the 10 o'clock shuttle into town and go workout at the gym in Creekside we joined. Dale, one of the bus drivers, is making a run all the way into the village, versus just to the bus stop at Function Junction, so we are going to keep our workout short and have him pick us up on way back around 11:10. I need to get some of my laundry done and I know Dolton does as well so we will try to each do a load or two then head into the village to begin celebrating St. Patty's Day. If it seems like I do laundry quite often, its because I have a limited number of clothes to wear because I could only pack so much. I usually run out t-shirts to wear after a week and my work clothes usually need to be washed then as well. Yesterday (Tuesday) was another busy morning at Creekside with the downhill events continuing but calls ended at the helpdesk around one. Our staff was shorthanded because Brad, our supervisor at the base level, was sick with a fairly bad cold. We have been down one guy each day since one of our guys Adam, partially tore his ACL skiing at the end of last week. Luckily the rest of our staff has been doing a great job and picked up their slack. Since things were slower in the afternoon I got the chance to sit down and talk with the Food and Beverage Manager at Creekside, Shawna Hall. She is the VANOC (Vancouver Organizing Committee for the Olympics) representative for Food and Beverage, and she oversees Coca-Cola and the Catering Company Sodexo and makes sure each side is holding up their end of the contract. Benoit Klein in the VANOC representative that we deal with, he is the SCW (Snow Clearing, Cleaning and Waste) Manager and is in charge of the contract with Clean Event and Coastal Mountain Excavation. Shawna is in her mid twenties and is originally from Vancouver. My first question was how she got to be the Food and Beverage Venue Manager. I was curious if she had always wanted to be in event management. She told that she actually started out as a waitress around the age of 15, worked there a few years, got into catering and eventually moved up inside a catering company until she applied and got her current job. Shawna said she had never really planned to go into event management but she saw a chance to move up in the restaurant industry and it brought her to events. She did not go to school past high school and has no degree in event management. Shawna strongly felt that work experience is the number one factor in getting a job you apply for. She felt she got where she is because of all her experience in the food and beverage industry and that a degree would not have been much help to her. When I asked her the best and worst parts of her job, I got similar answers to most of the people I asked. She said she loved most of the people she worked with and the chance to meet new people but her least favorite part was the long hours. Shawna did add that after she puts a lot work into an event its great to see her success when the events goes well. I think everyone can really appreciate something they have done when they have put a lot of time into it. What Shawna said about work experience really made me appreciate this internship and the fact that the University of South Carolina puts so much emphasis on real-work opportunities. Some of the people I have been able to meet in the industry as well as the experience I have gained I would not have been able to learn through a semester at school. Shawna told me a typical day for her during these games starts about 5am and last until about 5pm. She added quickly though that in event management each day is different and there really are no typical days. That's a part she likes about what she does. When I asked her what personality type would be best for such a job she said it is important that a person be able to work well under stress. A lot of times things will not go as easy as they should and the hours can be long. She stressed that getting along with the people you work with is half the battle. I have seen this aspect on an everyday basis from watching people from Clean Event work with other companies and VANOC people around the site. Everyone does not always agree but being able to work something out is very important. I got a lot of practical advice from being able to interview Shawna. Her answers were not something I could read out of a book but were realistic.

Monday March 15th

Today is the last Monday I will be working in Whistler, Canada. Next Monday I am planning to head to Vancouver to do some site seeing before I fly home from there on the 24th. The weekend went by pretty fast but did not really feel much like the weekend because I had to work. I sometimes have to think for a second what day it is because other than starting times differing, the days are all the same. Lexi and I talked with Kylie over the weekend and she really wanted us to have the chance to do stuff in Whistler in our last week so she said she only needs one of us in the office each day. Yesterday (Sunday) Lexi and I agreed to take off alternating days and both come the 21st, our last day. Since Creekside was expecting snow overnight last night and during the day today Craig asked if I could help out around the Parkaid today in case we got any calls. Today was supposed to be my day off but since they wanted me here because of the snow Kylie let me go home early yesterday. It was nice to go back, take a nap and tidy up our living space. Before I got off yesterday Craig, Clean Event's project manager, explained a strategy he had put in place for the expected snow. If it was going to snow several centimeters each hour throughout the morning as the weatherman forecasted, it was going to be very difficult for our staff to keep all the steps and landings cleared. Craig went and spread shovels around the venue so that there was one close to all the steps and landings. He told me that if anyone called the helpdesk requesting shoveling, to tell them that if it was not an athlete area that it may take us a little while to get there because it is not our highest priority and they may be better off shoveling it themselves. It sounds blunt but what he said makes sense, and makes our job more manageable. As a result of Craig putting these shovels out we actually received no calls about shoveling any steps or landings today. This idea of placing the shovels out around the venue had never occurred to me when I heard how much snow we were expecting. I simply thought this is our job so to speak so I assumed our staff would be having a busy, long day. However this is where Craigs experience and knowledge of managing events comes into play. I feel like this is something that can't be taught in a classroom and has been what I have benefited from a work opportunity. The ability to adapt to situations and finding ways to get things done faster and better are qualities of a good event manager and are acquired skills. Things have slowed down since the snow stopped around lunchtime today. I am planning to have Wednesday and Friday off later this week, Wednesday because it is St. Patrick's Day and Friday so I can go skiing. It is a weird feeling that the end is so near, a week from now I will be in Vancouver and 9 days from today I will be arriving home in Charlotte.

Friday March 12th

Today (Friday) is the last day at Creekside that is a non-event day with the Paralympics kicking off tomorrow morning at 1130 Am. In comparison to the day before the Olympics began everything seems a lot less hectic and moving at a slower pace. For Clean Event specifically I think Kylie along with everyone is a lot more comfortable in what is expected of them and they now have a better idea of what to expect on event days. Before the Olympics began there was a lot of hype about event days being crazy and full of cleaning, waste and snow removal issues that would never give our staff a chance to take a breathe. In my opinion the Olympics were a busy time but did not live up to the expectation about the level of stress/work. This may have been a strategy used by the management in Clean Event in an attempt to mentally prepare its staff for these days. However now after having worked during the Olympics everyone is just ready for the Paralympics to get going. Arguably the biggest difference in the 0ffice today is that Hughie is not here overseeing everything as he was before the Olympic games and instead Craig is. They have different approaches to prepping the venue managers as well as different demeanors in how they want stuff done. Kylie obviously has more experience under her belt now after the Olympics and feels much less stressed with her brother Craig supervising instead of Hughie. From a personal standpoint I knew my responsibilities before the Olympics pretty well but now I am much more efficient at carrying them out. I have a better idea now of what Kylie wants on a daily basis after having worked with her for over a month. Citrix is Clean Event's software program, which I was slow to learn because we did not have internet at Creekside for the first 3 weeks I was in Whistler. After using it for a month or so I can get things done much faster and am a better asset to the organization of our venue. Despite the fact that a lot of our current staff at Creekside did not work at this venue during the Olympics, we have some of our best workers still onboard that have shown the new guys the way. All the new additions seem to be hard workers and quick learners which has made our overall performance better. The opening ceremony for the Paralympics is taking place tonight followed by eight days of competition. The events for the Paralympics are about an hour longer each day but we are only contracted to arrive 3.5 hours before the event starts instead of five for the Olympics. This is due to less media and broadcast people on-site as well as the expectation for less spectators. Therefore our start times will be slightly later during these games.

Wednesday March 10th

One and half weeks to go!! It seems to be going by slow at the moment but when I look back I cannot believe two months have passed of me being in Whistler. These past few days have been slow as I mentioned in the down days between the Olympics and Paralympics. I have begun to see some of the athletes for the Paralympics around the venue that are practicing on the mountain. I have seen people were jackets from Switzerland, Austria, France, Italy and the United States just to name a few. Lexi is back from her days off and is helping me at the helpdesk today. As it has been the past couple days, helpdesk calls have been at a minimum which has given both Lexi and I the chance to get out on the venue and help out where we are needed. This morning I helped to take inventory of all the things we used up during the Olympics. This included hand sanitizer, toilet bowl cleaner, toilet paper, paper towels and a few other things. Later on in the day Kylie and I went over to the sliding center and picked up whatever leftovers of these supplies they may have as they are in the process of cleaning up and emptying everything out. The Sliding Center, where the luge, skeleton and bobsledding events were held was only an Olympic Venue and will not be used for the Paralympics. This means a lot of the temporary infrastructure put in place is being torn down as well as all the companies working on site are in the process of moving out. Kylie and I were able to get all the toilet paper rolls we needed for the Paralympics from the Sliding Center as well as most of the paper towels and a some of the toilet bowl cleaner. After subtracting what we were able to get from the sliding center I sent a list to Hughie for what needed to be ordered/brought in by the weekend for the upcoming games. This process should have been done a few days earlier but we had enough of all our supplies to get through the first few event days and the delivery time for the rest was only one to two days after it was ordered. Kylie and I went to the Sliding Center earlier today with Clean Event's venue manager for that site, Scott Parnell. Out of the seven venues Clean Event was in charge of during the Olympic games, Scott was the only American venue manager. I had briefly met him before but this was the first time I had actually gotten to know him. His job title was Venue Manager for the Whistler Sliding Center and he was in charge of supervising the cleaning, snow removal and waste at this venue. Clean Event is in charge of all the waste, cleaning all areas except the food tents, and removing the snow from all steps, landings and one meter outside of these. Scott said he had a staff of about 16 on event days and they would arrive five hours before the event started and stayed on average three hours after. His main responsibilities were overseeing that people were doing the jobs they were assigned in a timely manner and that his staff was getting along with the other workers and spectators on-site. The high profile areas were his main concern, for example the athlete lounge and the Olympic family lounge needed to be clean at all times. The rest of the site would need a general clean and dump of all waste once each day. As far as his favorite parts of the job go, Scott said he enjoyed event management because of all the experiences hes had at big sporting events across the world and he loves meeting people. His least favorite parts are the time away from his family and the long hours he has to work a lot of the time but added he would rather be spending time out at venues because the work is always different versus spending less hours at a desk all day. He told me he was from Tampa, Florida and traveled some with Clean Event but did most of their events inside the United States. He had been in Whistler about the same amount of time I had, arriving in early January but was due to fly out tomorrow morning. Scott told me he really missed his wife and two daughters and was looking forward to seeing them. The events he told me worked for Clean Event in the United States were the U.S. Open, an arrangement of festivals and mostly Nascar Races. He said he did a good amount of traveling but a lot of it was inside the south eastern United States and he enjoyed it. Since I have been in Whistler I met one other guy who said he worked many of the Nascar races for Cleanevent. His name is Sam and he is from Seattle, the opposite corner of the United States from Florida. Just yesterday he told me would get to head home for a week after the Paralympics and would then be off to Nashville to start work with a series of Nascar races. Although I have made many great contacts inside Clean Event and at my work venue, these two guys seemed to be more helpful because most of their work is closer to home for me than say somewhere in the United Kingdom or in Australia. I have loved the opportunity to be in another country and at such a global event, but I have decided I would rather make this an occasional thing if possible rather than spent my entire year traveling the world when I graduate from school. I do still think I would life to find a job in event management but maybe one closer to home and I like the idea of working at an Arena possibly. I am considering this because different events would take place at Arena but the traveling would be less.

Saturday, March 20, 2010

Monday March 8th

This is my third day back at work since returning from Seattle. Both Saturday and Sunday were slow days at the Creekside helpdesk because we only got 1 or 2 calls about issues each day. On Saturday Craig Madigan, Kylie's brother, the project manager for Clean Event for the Olympics suggested that Kylie let me off since the office was slow and it was such a nice day. Kylie agreed and let me off work after lunch once I had finished the stuff that needed to get done for the day. I was thrilled to get off so early, even more so than usual because it was such a nice day outside. This gave me the chance to head to the gym early, then get back to camp and do my laundry and get a few things done I had not gotten to do while I was in Seattle. Sunday was a pretty nice day also, and though I did not get off early, it went by pretty fast because our shift started at 8 and we were off by 4. Kylie only worked a half day Sunday and Brad came in for her at lunch because she had a trip planned to Vancouver for her two days off. Brad O'Brien was the night manager at Whistler Olympic Park during the Olympic Games and is now the supervisor for our Parkaid staff at Creekside. His work style is less serious and much more relaxed than Kylie's, because he doesn't seemed to get stressed very easily. Since work was so slow he decided to let us off thirty minutes early yesterday (Sunday) and I expect him to do the same today. Though he is more relaxed Brad seems to have a serious work ethic for when stuff needs to be done just a more relaxed one when there is not much going on. It is just me working at the helpdesk today, Lexi has begun working here too but has her days off through Tuesday. She came into the office today on her way to go snowboarding. One of the best parts of working at Creekside is that Clean Event has five workforce lift passes that enable our workforce to be able to ski/snowboard for free on our days off. I have not had the chance to take advantage of this opportunity yet but I plan to if i can get any days off. This is a huge bonus, lift tickets for a full day in Whistler are ninety-seven dollars with tax. From yesterday (Sunday), there were two weeks left of work for the USC interns in Whistler. It has been a long, fun, crazy trip but now that its March I am ready to go home. I am going to buy my tickets to Carolina Cup this week, which is the 27th, the weekend after I get back. It should be a lot of fun and a great chance to see everyone from school that I have not seen since the first semester. I did not go to Carolina Cup last year so I am excited to see what everyone is talking about. The Paralympics officially start with the opening ceremony on Friday but the first event at Creekside is Saturday. There was a lot of excitement in the days leading up to the Olympics that does not seem to be here in the week leading up to the Paralympics. This may not be true of the athletes and spectators but it is of the workforce, who mainly are worn out. Having said that it should be amazing to see the some of the athletes participating in the Paralympics. There will be skiiers at creekside skiing on one or no legs, also athletes that are blind will be competing here.

Sunday, March 7, 2010

Friday March 5th

I just arrived back in Whistler and enjoying the last little bit of our break from work. The recap from Seattle starts Wednesday night when Dolton and I went to PF Chang's for dinner for some good asian cuisine. Following such a good meal was going to see "Edge of Darkness", Mel Gibson's latest film. The movie had a very detailed, well thought-out storyline yet was slightly over dramatic for what was supposed to be a great action movie. Mel Gibson was good in the film but it needed more action to be great. Thursday was our last full day and Seattle and really our last full day off since much of Friday would be spent on a bus getting back to Whistler. The highlight of this day was definitely getting a tour of the Mariners Stadium in Seattle. It was a unique experience to get to go inside the locker room, media room, press boxes, dugout and even onto the field where the players play. Our tour guide was the self proclaimed "best tour guide" at the stadium and gave a very detailed description of the stadium in about an hour and a half tour. After spending some time in the team store Dolton and I headed by Qwest Field, where the Seahawks play to grab a few pictures. The stadium was not giving tours today but we were able to see a decent bit of it from walking around the outside. Next we walked around Pioneer Square, more of the historic side of Seattle. In fact we walked all the way back to Pike Place Market where we grabbed lunch at Chipotle. Back home I am a huge fan of Qdoba but wanted to hear what Chipotle was all about so we gave it a shot. I would have to say it would arguably as good as Qdoba but not better. From here Dolton and I walked around the mall some before taking the monorail back to the Seattle Center which was just a short walk from our hotel. It was nice to just be able to relax in the room and watch some television in quiet. I ended up falling asleep and taking a nap for an hour or so. Once I woke back up I showered and Dolton and I headed back to the mall. We were planning to grab dinner and head to Gameworks where they were having all you can play for only $10 from 9 until midnight. After eating and getting to Gameworks we realized we were going to be joined by about fifty other people for this special deal. Realizing we were not in the mood to wait for games we headed back to the room to watch some TV and continue to relax on what little time we had off left. This morning we left the hotel about eight, boarded a bus that left for Vancouver around 845 and got to Vancouver shortly after 1. This was because of the bus driving slow and numerous stops along the way. Our layover in between bus rides was in Vancouver for about 2 hours. We boarded a bus to Whistler around 3 and arrived in the village at approximately 5pm. This got us back to camp by 530 and the fact that we were about to head back to work set in. After tomorrow we will have exactly two weeks of work left and then a few days in Vancouver before heading home. This has been a great trip, I have gotten to see a lot but I am ready to be home.

From Seattle - Wednesday March 3rd

Seattle has been exactly the break we needed from working in Whistler. Our break kicked off with a party at camp on Monday night in which hot dogs and hamburgers were grilled for dinner. The four of us going to Seattle, Dolton, Sarah, Christine and I had planned to take a greyhound bus from Whistler Village to Seattle and back, but found out that one of the Clean Event drivers was actually taking a bus back to Portland, Oregon on Tuesday and was going through Seattle on the way. This saved each of us going around fifty dollars because we were able to purchase a one way ticket instead of a roundtrip one. The drive taking a bus including stops would have been between eight and nine hours but by riding with the Clean Event driver we made it to Seattle in just over five hours. Prior to making the trip we had asked a few of the people in camp from Seattle about what we should do in our days there as well as done some research on tourist attractions. The Space Needle was our first priority followed by seeing the Mariners and Seahawks stadium. Personally I was really looking forward to the good food awaiting me in Seattle and getting a break from the expensive food in Whistler and the routine dinners at camp. I even looked for Qdoba in Seattle before we left because I had not gotten good mexican food in over two months. On Tuesday we got into Seattle around 430pm and checked into our hotel. It was nothing fancy but was much more spacious than the trailers we had been living in and we had a bathroom and shower IN THE ROOM. This is something we all took for granted before making the trip to Whistler earlier this semester. Our hotel offered a breakfast buffet each morning for just five dollars, had free wifi and a workout room downstairs. We were temporarily in heaven. On Tuesday night after getting in we did a little research on local seafood and walked to a place called The Fisherman, on Seattle's waterfront. The place was empty and we were seated and waited on immediately. I had delicious fettuccine alfredo with smoked salmon on top with a caesar salad. In addition to this we all ordered a crap dip as an appetizer. This was easily the best meal I had received since leaving the United States on January 9th. After enjoying this feast we walked around a little and explored on our way back to our hotel. It was dark and we were tired so we decided to make it an early night. Today (Wednesday) I got up early to workout before breakfast and later we all headed into downtown. The famous "Pike Place Market" in Seattle was the center of most of the shops and was where we headed this morning. It was cool to see all the different tables set up in the market selling all different kinds of trade good and at one end there were several fisherman selling their array of catches. One of the tables/corners featured a group of men singing songs. telling jokes and poking fun at customers with their fish tied to a string. The atmosphere was a fun, exciting one. From here Dolton and I decided to find the first Starbucks in the world, which ended up only being two blocks away from the market. After grabbing a coffee and taking a few pictures we began our adventure around Seattle's downtown venturing in many of its shops and stores. Many of our conversations at camp in Whistler have been debating the best Mexican restaurant, Qdoba or Chipotle. In Seattle they sit opposite corners from each other and one was lunch today, while the other will be lunch tomorrow. This will settle any controversy in my mind. Tonight Dolton and I are looking to go to dinner and possibly a movie as one of the many things to do in Seattle.