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You need to be able to accept that not every day can be perfect; the way that you respond to situations out of your control goes a long way to establishing that mindset of having a strong work ethic.

Alex Vanderlaan

Operations Coordinator

Golf Canada

× The interview with Alex Vanderlaan was conducted via a typed conversation. Editing changes were made to make it easier to read while maintaining the voice of the interview.

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1Tell us about your role as the Operations Coordinator for Golf Canada. What does a typical day look like for you?

As Operations Coordinator, I am a part of the Professional Championships team at Golf Canada that puts on the RBC Canadian Open and CP Women’s Open.

My typical day changes based on the time of year; however, I would say that there is no such thing as a ‘typical’ day working in event operations.

In the winter months, I spend much of my time going through the planning process for the events & meeting with various suppliers to touch base and go over plans.

We get on site for the RBC Canadian Open in the spring and begin overseeing course preparation – there is significantly more that goes into a professional golf event than most fans realize.

After the event is over, we spend about a month ‘tearing down’ the site before getting on site for the CP Women’s Open where the process repeats itself.

It is not uncommon to put in 85+ hour work weeks in the summer, especially around tournament times. I find that time absolutely flies though, as there is so much excitement on site at each event.

The fall is spent wrapping up the previous summer, budgeting, and beginning preparation for the next year. One thing I love about the job is the variation in each day.

There are not many jobs that let you spend your summers on a golf course, and I very much appreciate office life in the winter.

That all being said, right now my ‘typical’ day is spent working from home – our office has been working from home since last March.

2Looking back on the beginning of your sport industry career, why operations management and why golf? Was there a moment you realized you were meant to work within the operations area of the industry?

I started with Golf Canada the summer after my second year at University in the Professional Championships department as an intern in the ‘Workshop’, which is a group of university students that assist in operations at both events.

It was an area of the sport industry that I was not all too aware of at that point in my schooling, but I really enjoyed my experience that summer and have been lucky enough to stick with Golf Canada ever since.

I really like the purpose that working in event operations provides – there is a clear outcome that we are working towards (the events); it is an unreal feeling to see months of hard work come to life on site.

As I mentioned previously, I also really enjoy the variety that comes with working in events. We host each event at a different course each year, which contributes to no two days ever being the same.

Finally, I love the atmosphere on site at the events. You get really close to the people you work with due to the long hours and interconnectedness of each aspect of the event.

It is great to see fans enjoying themselves, knowing how much preparation went into each and every detail.

As for the ‘why golf’ aspect, when I applied for the internship after second year, I had a lot of experience working outside in previous student positions and figured that experience may be an asset in getting the position.

I do really enjoy playing and watching the sport, and I think that having a passion for golf really helps keep me driven in what I do.

3If someone wants to be successful in operations management, what do you think are the three most important skills or attributes they need to develop and why?

It's talked about all the time in the sport industry, and that's probably because it is so true – having a strong work ethic is super important.

I do not think it is possible to succeed working in event operations without being a hard worker. To elaborate on that a bit, you need to be able to stay driven, energetic, and motivated in the work.

Around event time when the hours are long and there is a mountain of work still needing to be done, there isn’t any room for slacking off.

In my opinion, having a strong work ethic is a mindset and takes conscious effort.

When I was first brought on to Golf Canada as an intern, the only real relevant skill I had outside of my education was my work ethic; through that, I have been able to acquire the skills and abilities that lead me to my current job.

Another important skill is to be able to problem-solve.

Regardless of how much planning you do, without fail something will come up that was not planned for. A great example of this is the COVID-19 pandemic – across the industry, companies have had to adjust their plans and strategies to exist alongside the pandemic.

In my role, I have spent significant amounts of time planning for how we can run an event while abiding by COVID-19 regulations and maintaining a safe atmosphere on site.

While the 2021 RBC Canadian Open was recently cancelled, our team had prepared a comprehensive health and safety plan for the event that we have been able to mirror and will use to hopefully run the 2021 CP Women’s Open.

You need to be able to recognize an issue, find a solution, and adapt.

Finally, being able to communicate in a clear and efficient manner both verbally and through writing is an incredibly important skill; this is not only specific in event operations, but to all areas of the sport industry.

There is a noticeable difference between effective and ineffective communication.

4Golf Canada is a prestigious organization and a global leader in the sport of golf. As a young professional, what would you say is the right attitude to be successful working at a highly respected organization like Golf Canada?

This goes along with my answer to the last question – a huge part of the ‘right’ attitude is your work ethic. It is important to show up to work every day believing that the work you do is going to make a difference.

You need to be able to accept that not every day can be perfect; the way that you respond to situations out of your control goes a long way to establishing that mindset of having a strong work ethic.

Additionally, I think that it is necessary to remember to respect those around you at all times.

The organizational culture within Golf Canada is exceptional, each person that I get to work with genuinely cares about you and your well being.

I remember on one occasion during my first summer as an intern, I misplaced a fairly important item during event week and was quite stressed.

My manager (who had far more on his plate than I did at the time) came over and spent a significant amount of time helping me locate the item, all while maintaining a calm attitude.

This experience really left an impression on me – it is a privilege to work in sport, and as important as the work may seem, positive human relationships are what cultivate productivity.

Finally, when working in sport you need to remember to have fun and enjoy the work that you do.

I am fortunate enough to get to work with a great group of people that keep things light and morale high, even in the busiest of times.

There were a number of times early in my time with Golf Canada when I had to remind myself to just take a breath and enjoy the work.

Few people get an opportunity like we who work in the sport industry have – to get paid to work in an area that is also our passion.

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5The sport industry is an extremely competitive environment for up-and-coming professionals looking to get started in their career. Based on your experience, how can an aspiring sport professional distinguish themselves from other potential job candidates?

  • Volunteer experience is extremely valuable.

    While it can sometimes be difficult to find work in sport, there are countless volunteer opportunities available within the industry at all times. Volunteer opportunities are very useful for building relevant skills that can be applied to paid positions.

    Volunteer positions are also great for getting experience in different areas of the industry and stretching your comfort zone.

    When I was in university, I volunteered as the mascot for a CEBL team which was definitely out of my comfort zone.

    It turned out to be a really good experience, and while it doesn’t exactly relate to the position I’m currently in, it taught me communication skills and is also a great talking point in interviews.

  • This can also include joining groups or clubs while still in school. I gained some great experience as a part of my university's Sport Business Association, putting on networking and fundraising events of our own.

    Focus on obtaining relevant skills and experiences that can be applied to different areas of the industry.

    I can’t understate the value of a hard worker. Particularly when it comes to entry-level positions, most job specific skills can (and will) be taught. Your work ethic and willingness to learn can be the difference-maker.

  • Another way to distinguish yourself is to make an impression in an interview.

    In my position, I have the opportunity to hire for the intern position I once filled, and as an interviewer, there are a number of things I have found that immediately set a candidate apart.

    It may seem obvious, but dressing appropriately, giving a firm handshake, and maintaining eye contact throughout an interview go a long way to leaving a good impression.

    Do research on the company that you are applying to; it shows interest in the position and indicates that you did your homework before coming to the interview.

    It is also important to have a few thoughtful questions to ask at the end of the interview as again, interest.

    I always find it a bit of a red flag when a candidate doesn’t have any questions at the end of an interview – you are going to be spending the next period of your career in this position, there has to be at least something you want to know about the role, company, etc.

Jaelyn Terrion Jaelyn's Final Thoughts

Golf Canada's Coordinator of Operations, Alex Vanderlaan, tells us about how work ethic acts as an important starting point for a career in operations management. Working for the purpose of a successful event outcome, along with the variation in work that operations management provides, are the driving forces behind his passion for this industry area. Alex credits his success in the industry to maintaining and building a strong work ethic, as well as developing the ability to problem solve and adapt to changing situations. His experience has provided him with great insight on operations management and helpful advice for any future sport industry professionals looking to kickstart their career in this area of the industry. 

Connect With Alex Vanderlaan

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