An interview with our Operations Manager
2nd November 2019

How I became an Operations Manager

The post: Operations Manager, We Are Vertigo 

The post holder: Glen Stewart 

A natural interest in business and an enthusiasm to learn has guided Glen Stewart in his career. Here’s how he became an Operations Manager.

Give a brief outline of your career to date.

My career started out just after I left school, I decided to take a year out of studying as I still hadn’t decided what was next for me. While trying to figure out my next steps, I bought an existing marquee rental business along with a friend and began to rent out marquees for private parties, corporate gatherings etc throughout Northern Ireland – this was my first taste of business and although it was a simple operation it taught me a great deal in terms of sales, customer relationships and business management. 

At that time I was also working part time at We Are Vertigo as a Crew Member in the Adventure Centre and had done so since the day it opened. It wasn’t until after a team meeting that I decided to approach my boss and ask him if I could learn more about the business end of the company. Luckily, I was given a chance and decided to dive in with two feet and try to absorb as much information as I could. As the months passed, I was learning more and more about the day to day running and eventually got promoted to Supervisor before moving onto Site Manager of the entire complex. 

I took a year out to go travelling, made some amazing memories and gained an insight into how the world works down-under. Upon returning from Australia, I was offered the job of Operations Manager at We Are Vertigo and the responsibility of helping set up the amazing indoor Skydiving facility. This was a great challenge to get my teeth stuck into after returning from a year out and I loved every minute of it. I have since progressed on to become the Operations Manager for the whole business, opening five new sites/attractions. 

What was your favourite subject at school?

I really enjoyed Business Studies in school; it was definitely what initially attracted me into the world of business. It wasn’t until lower sixth that I realised I relished the idea of running a business. 

Did you go on to further/ higher education, if so what did you study and where?

No. I got accepted to study Business Management in Manchester University but decided it wasn’t the path for me. 

How did you get into your area of work?

I decided to take a hands-on approach to learning and asked my boss at We Are Vertigo at the time if I could take a bit more on and start to learn the nitty gritty of the business. Four years later I am the Operations Manager of that business and have a wealth of knowledge and experience that I don’t feel university could have given me. 

Is this what you always wanted to do?

I knew I always wanted to be involved in a business in some way or another. I loved the thought of being busy all the time, meeting new people, travelling and making decisions. I never thought of running a leisure business when I was younger. 

Were there any particular essential qualifications or experience needed?

I don’t think you need any specific qualifications or experience, but you certainly need a good work ethic, an eye for detail and strong focus on customer service. You could say this comes from the experience of working in the industry and growing with the business. 

Are there alternative routes into the job?

I would say so yes, I know a lot of people that have fallen into business management from an entirely different career path, including some of the great managers that we currently employ. Some have degrees, some don’t – I don’t tend to look for education or qualifications but instead look at how a person conducts themselves, how they motivate a team and their attitude to hard work. 

What are the main personal skills your job requires?

Communication, confidence. leadership, problem solving, being personable, having good commercial awareness, as well as organisation skills and perseverance. 

What does a typical day entail? 

My day always involves a lot of communication and usually starts with a call or meeting with the management team within each site. We will discuss tasks and targets for the day/week ahead and construct a plan of how we are going to achieve them. Speaking with the array of suppliers the business has is a big part of my job; making sure they are briefed in what we need from them and then managing their outputs to our deadlines. 

What are the best and most challenging aspects of the job?

It’s a busy and challenging job but hugely rewarding. The best part of my job is definitely seeing the end result of a project we have been working on; I really enjoy watching customers have a great time and their reaction when they first see it – it makes the hard work and long hours worth it. 

The most challenging part of my job is ensuring that we meet our customers’ expectations all the time, every time. Managing people and their workloads play a huge part in my job; managing the teams and ensuring they have everything they need to do the job correctly is something the management team and I work hard to achieve. It’s a huge team effort but we’re all working with the same collective aim to create world-class leisure experiences. 

What advice would you give anyone looking to follow a similar career path?

Be a sponge; learn as much as you can from whoever you can and use that knowledge to drive yourself forward. There is something to learn from everyone, no matter who they are or what they do. 

If you weren’t doing this what would you like to do?

I enjoy project managing and building stuff. I love being part of the building process and bringing an idea or visual to life. I can’t put my finger on exactly what job that would be, but it would definitely be something along those lines.

What is the one piece of advice you would give to yourself on your first day?

Always ask questions and don’t be afraid to think outside the box – no idea is a bad idea. 

And finally, what’s the key to any successful job search?

I would say, think objectively about what personal qualities you can bring to the role and try to effectively communicate this. Plus, don’t give up; if you have drive, passion and determination, you will find the right role for you.