A Passion for Sustainability: Dave Burgess

Please tell us a bit about yourself.

I grew up in Calgary and went to school in Edmonton. Growing up I was interested in airplanes, so I decided to become an engineer. After graduation I headed to Toronto to work for Boeing and then moved to Kelowna to work for a company that modified airplanes for a cargo carrier. I decided I wanted to work more on innovation and went back to school to obtain a combined engineering/MBA degree, where I enjoyed learning about marketing and HR.

After my master’s, I went to a local high-tech company called Creo that grew to be the biggest tech company in British Columbia. Their culture had a strong business and empowerment focus, and I still use what I learned there every day. When it was time to change, I had the chance to work at a wind turbine manufacturer, which was interesting and fun because the company was very capable and passionate. However, their key market collapsed, and I made the move to WhiteWater!

What is your position and some of your daily responsibilities?

I am the Senior Manager for Product Management. I try to foster a product approach for WhiteWater that suits our organization and industry. The key idea in a product is to “design once and make many,” which means investing more in planning and engineering before entering the market, compared to making a one-off according to a specific customer request. The business benefits are reduced costs, increased ability to grow the organization, and improved quality and customer satisfaction. The challenges are trying to determine which ideas are worth investing in up front and summoning the extra resources to do this more thoughtful development.    

You are on our new sustainability team. What made you want to get involved?

Sustainability is a pretty serious issue; I remember first learning about climate change in the mid-1990s and thinking how we would have to engage the relentless power of the economy to drive progress in this area. The government needs to set the underlying economic policies, so everyone can realign their thousands of individual decisions more in favour of the environment. This means that sustainable businesses will be critical players in making environmental progress. 

It’s important to me to focus my (limited!) energy on what makes the most impact. I try to bike to work as much as I can, but more significantly, we looked at our family carbon footprint and made some huge improvements by putting in a heat pump instead of a new furnace, eating more vegetarian meals, and driving less. I believe making a thoughtful step in the right direction is the best way to get started towards sustainability. You then can look around and figure out the next step instead of being overwhelmed by trying to do everything at once.

What’s something that surprised you about working at WhiteWater?

I think WhiteWater has an outstanding market opportunity compared to some other companies I have been involved with. The company has also grown to be quite large and it’s really cool to see all of the projects that we have done.

If you could snap your fingers and become an expert in something, what would it be?

Math! Although I took engineering, math was not my strong suit. But as I got older, I see it as really beautiful and amazing. Or, I would love to be a whiz with PowerBI!

What’s your favourite WhiteWater product?

Manta. I rode the Ray Rush at Aquatica Orlando and just loved the smooth runout. Zipping smoothly over the water was magical.

What are some of your hobbies outside of work?

I learned to skate ski (cross country) this winter, and it was a fantastic outlet during the COVID isolation. My son and I bought some mountain bikes, and I am trying to learn what I can ride without killing myself. I am also on a long-term quest to play the piano by ear, instead of using music like I learned with as a kid.   

Cassidy Newman