Industry Profile: Stevens Pass RTP Administrator Dennis Kelly
18 Jul, 2008
Shay: So tell us about yourself?
Dennis: My name is Dennis Kelly. I have many monikers but most of my friends call me Denno. I’m 31 years old, and I moved our West only 3 years ago to live in the mountains. I’m passionate about my life, work, family, the mountains and environment, snowboarding and the resort/snowboard industry. I live, ride, and work at Stevens Pass in Washington.
Shay: What is your job title?
Dennis: RTP Administrator for Stevens Pass.
Shay: Did your parents question your job choice?
Dennis: My dad questioned my decision to move to the mountains because I didn’t have a career opportunity lined up at first, and I would be giving up one in the process. I think he just wanted to make sure it was really what I wanted because I was choosing more than just a job, but also a new lifestyle. Both parents have always been supportive though.
Shay: What was your first set up?
Dennis: Burton Custom with Burton Mission bindings. It only lasted a month because it was such a tank. The salesperson had me buy a board only based on my height, and being 6’3″ and a small build, it was too aggressive…I could barely flex it! I got a shorter one and was much happier.
Shay: What is your current set up?
Dennis: Lib Tech TRS w/MTX and Salomon Relay XLT bindings…wow that’s a lot of acronyms. Anyway, it’s a super fun, lively setup for slaying the whole mountain. I also have a Rome Agent from a couple years back for spring and park riding…its buttery goodness.
Photographer Jordon Ingmire
Shay: What was your first job?
Dennis: (Laughing) I flipped burgers at McDonalds. I had fun working with other high school friends, but it was definite motivation to do something with my life.
Shay: What’s a great day of snowboarding to you?
Dennis: They are all great, but some are definitely better than others. The ideal day is new snow, bluebird, hiking with good people, and slashing pow until the sun goes down.
Photo courtesy of Dennis Kelly
Shay: Who are your influences?
Dennis: My dad and my daughter Ava…both have such a positive, awesome outlook on life. Snowboarding-wise, I’d say Nicolas Muller, Travis Parker, David Benedek, Todd Richards, Travis Rice, and Mark Landvik. They all have unique, killer style, and seem to have fun with it. To me that is what it is all about.
Shay: How long have you been snowboarding?
Dennis: I’m on the tail end of my fourth season.
Shay: How many days do you get to ride a year?
Dennis: I’m a 100 day rider.
Shay: What is your role at Stevens Pass as the RTP Administrator?
Dennis: I manage the RTP|ONE product suite which includes Point-of-Sale (PoS), Customer Relationship Management (CRM), and E-commerce for all our lines of business. RTP is an integral part of our operation because it is framework for managing the resort. It provides us with accurate accounting, sales reporting, and marketing/CRM data, and simplifies the processes of auditing, managing inventory, and scheduling.
Much of my time is focused on assuring the availability, integrity, performance, and security of the database back-end, and that all interfaces to the system (such as PoS computers, hand-held scanners, and lift access gates) are integrated and functioning properly.
Photographer Jordon Ingmire
Shay: How does your job keep things going smoothly at a resort?
Dennis: My job and department are critical to keeping things running smoothly. Many employees cannot do their job with efficiency, and the guest experience is significantly impacted if RTP is slow or unavailable. Proactive management of the system can help prevent this. Proper planning keeps people calm, and minimizes downtime in emergency situations.
Shay: How has technology made the resort experience better for visitors and employees?
Dennis: With technology we are able to streamline and simplify many processes. It empowers employees with the resources to more effectively do their jobs. The guest experience is more enjoyable by maximizing their time on the mountain, and providing them the best value for their money.
Shay: What technology do the resorts have in place currently?
Dennis: They vary greatly from resort to resort, but most have productivity suites, a point of sale system, data storage, and a local network. Many are moving into enterprise-level technologies with large scale and redundant systems, Internet/Wireless access for guests in all their facilities, and online sales.
It’s an exciting time for us here at Stevens Pass because we are implementing a technology not found at many resorts in North America – RFID gates for lift access, which will be available for the 2008-2009 season. At the gate a wireless signal will reflect off a small chip in your ticket/pass, if valid, provides you lift access. You’ll be able to keep your ticket/pass in your pocket, and immediately walk through the gate. It avoids having to stop, pull your ticket/pass out, and wait for it to be visually inspected or scanned.
Shay: What programs do you need to be familiar with to do an IT job at a resort?
Dennis: This will vary greatly from resort to resort, depending on the use of technology, the size of the resort, and organization of the IT department. At a smaller resort, one person might do it all. Others could have a help desk, field technicians, and systems/network administrators and/or engineers. An entry-level person should have experience installing and using desktop applications like Adobe Reader, Microsoft Internet Explorer, Office, and Outlook, and a point of sale application like Micros or RTP. From there one step up to installing and configuring server applications or services like Microsoft Active Directory, Exchange, File Sharing, SQL Server, and the back-end to point of sale and accounting systems. Usually the highest level positions are planning and selecting technologies/applications, software development, and engineering of server and network infrastructure.
Shay: You handle online marketing and e-commerce, what do you see for the future towards these and resorts?
Dennis: Is is the future. Guests want the convenience of interacting with the resort with their office, a laptop in a coffee shop, or a phone while on the go. We want them to have access to accurate and current information such as weather, snow reports, lift status, etc., provide them with products and promotions that best fit their needs based on the information they request, and make them available for sale online. We believe personal interaction is still strong and a vital part of providing exceptional customer service…technology won’t replace it, but it will complement it by making the experience more comfortable, convenient, and providing people the opportunity for the best mountain memories.
Shay: Prior to Stevens Pass, what other resorts have you worked for?
Dennis: Jackson Hole Mountain Resort
Shay: Whats your average day like at work?
Dennis: Coffee. Email. Respond and/or fix issues. Coffee. Start on a project. Shred. Shred. Shred. Continue working on project.
Shay: What are some memorable experiences from working in IT?
Dennis: The worst is when I had a mission critical service fail, and it took 3 days working around the clock (after 4 hours of sleep each night) to debug and fix a very complex problem. Even then, you feel a sense of accomplishment when it is over. The best memories come from working with an awesome team to develop a product/service you all believe in, and knowing you were a part of others most memorable experiences. Probably sounds cheesy, but I think it is what most people would like to achieve in their career.
Shay: How is working for Stevens Pass (any cool work events, work environment, job perks)?
Dennis: It pretty much rules. The management here really understands the value of technology. While it is starting to change within the industry, many resorts still struggle to understand it. I’m provided a positive working environment and the resources I need to be my best. They also understand the mountain culture, and offer flexibility needed to enjoy the mountain benefits. I’m part of a team of intelligent, passionate, and hard working people who are excited about evolving the resort to better meet our guests’ expectations.
Shay: What experience did you have or skills before getting the job?
Dennis: I have a BS in Computer Science and a BA in Telecommunications. I worked 8 years as a Network Engineer for Michigan State University, and then 2 years as a Senior Systems Engineer at Jackson Hole Mountain Resort.
Shay: What’s the best perk you’ve gotten from your job?
Dennis: Being able to afford a decent quality of life (i.e. not be a total snowboard bum) and provide for Ava while doing what I love…living and riding in the mountains. It’s not to say I don’t love free or heavily discounted gear too!
Photo courtesy of Dennis Kelly
Shay: Any disadvantages of your job?
Dennis: Most people would say compensation…I could make double, maybe triple if I were working outside of the resort industry. Yeah, extra money would be nice for traveling or having a little more emergency buffer. While I certainly would not refuse it if offered, money isn’t a life or career goal. I don’t regret my decisions, and think I have a very rewarding job.
Shay: What’s the busiest time of year for you?
Dennis: 2 weeks before the season starts. It can be brutal working in IT during that time, but it is leverage for people to not mess with you the rest of the season!
Shay: Education vs Experience…which do you think is more important?
Dennis: Experience because education is experience too. Personally, I think you learn more about your job doing it than sitting in a classroom. However, education is still a critical component. It can provide you with the fundamentals/basics to learn new technology more quickly and advance in your career than without it. The combination of both opens doors, so I think an education and an internship, whether paid or unpaid, is a great way to start.
Shay: What advice would you give to people wanting to do IT work for resorts?
Dennis: The mountain culture is very different. It’s not uncommon for IT folk to hold onto corporate expectations, whether it be compensation or status, when entering the resort industry. It’s frustrating to see unhappy people who aren’t making it work for themselves, and also impacting the workplace in a negative way in the process. Don’t take away an opportunity for someone else, but go big if it is really what you want to do! The investments you make in your skill-set and career can be rewarding. This is true for any walk of life, and I think it is summed up best by stealing a quote from Jeremy Jones in “91 Words for Snow”…”If you’re not giving it all you got, you’re only taking up space.”
Shay: Final thoughts?
Dennis: Thanks for the opportunity Shay!