From Rockin’ It in Concerts to Rockin’ It in Tech: Aaron Mendelson

Employee spotlight—a Q&A with
Aaron Mendelson
Director, Customer Success and Product Innovation
Vantage Technology in Longmont, Colorado, USA

Let’s start at the beginning. Where did you grow up and where did you go to school? What did you study?

I grew up just outside of Washington, D.C. and went to Ithaca College in Upstate New York, where I majored in Television Radio. But my biggest takeaway from college was being on many student activity committees. We organized concerts, festivals, and other big events. We’ve put on shows with Tori Amos, The Mighty Mighty Bosstones, George Clinton and the P-Funk, Paula Cole, Jon Stewart, to mention a few.

Aaron with Jimmy Buffet

These are some big names! How did these extra-curricular activities impact your career?

For each event, we had to coordinate every little aspect, including marketing, ticket sales, photography, sound, lighting, logistics, finding qualified team members who can handle these tasks, and creating a memorable experience for the fans. The skills I have learned from program management are essentially project management. It’s very similar to what I am doing now, putting together software developers, systems architects, sales and marketing, customer success, etc.—all parts and pieces that contribute to the whole end product. 

Aaron and friends with Dick Vitale

What were you doing before joining WhiteWater?

After graduation, I didn’t want to de-ice another lock or scrape another windshield, so I moved to Florida to work at Universal Orlando Resort. After a few years, I moved to convention hotels and become the Director of Entertainment for 11 years at Gaylord, which now belongs to Marriott.

What brought you to WhiteWater?

While at Gaylord, I started working with a lot of technology and even won an IAAPA Brass Ring Award for our work. At the same time, WhiteWater wanted to bring technology to their attractions. So I made the move in 2013.

With son at an attraction Aaron ran at Gaylord

What is your most satisfying achievement at the company so far?

While bringing technology into our attractions, we discovered that the byproduct was capturing a lot of data. We saw dispatch rates; we saw how many people were riding. We saw who was riding and who repeated. And we thought: How can we get this data around the entire park?

So I made this mind map laying out what we called “Smart Park” at the time. Things like, guests should be able to have their personalized settings. They should be able to collect loyalty points. They should be able to find each other.

That was the genesis of Vantage. So the most satisfying achievement at WhiteWater was bringing Vantage to life.

Installing Vantage at Island H2O Live!

What do you like about your job?

I have so much passion for what we’re doing. We have the ability to change our industry and have been given the leeway to build something special that has never been seen before by the industry.

So it’s great serving as a utility knife in the company. I oversee the product team, the customer success team, the development team, operations, and procurement. It’s exciting to have the opportunity to affect change in multiple areas and play a significant role in the sales and marketing strategy.

What would you do for a career if you weren’t doing this?

That’s easy; I would be a rock star!

There was a time when my hair went down to the middle of my back, and there was a guitar swung around my shoulder all the time. I was in a bunch of bands. We opened for bands like Sum 41, White Lion, Black Flag, and so many others.

Hard to imagine? I’ll give you a YouTube link so you can watch it yourself.

 

What do you do outside work?

Colorado feels in a way a lot like Vancouver because people do a lot of outdoor activities. So I enjoy hiking and biking here with my 11-year-old son and my awesome wife.

Hiking in Colorado, 14,000 ft. above sea level

What is the most memorable compliment that someone has paid you?

A former colleague of mine, who is a public relations person, said that Aaron is one of the most grounded creatives that he has ever met. This means a lot to me because many times, when you think of a creative person, they seem to have their head up in the clouds. I have been in situations where creatives make promises that are not feasible, and you end up with a huge problem because you can’t deliver.

I love being creative, and I have a good understanding of how things work. I make sure that new project ideas are things that we can accomplish, so no overselling. I can put together the concept, the prototype, and a team to realize the idea. So being a grounded creative is the best compliment I have ever received.

Harmony Liau Mueller