An Interview of Mentor Gideon Garcia by Protégé Amy Miller
CIRI Alaska Tourism
Where are you from? How did you decide to pursue a career in Alaska?
I grew up in Seattle. I came to Alaska to take a job with Holland America Line as a motorcoach commander. There was opportunity here, there was work. I had worked in tourism all through college, but never believed I could actually work in tourism full time. Alaska changed that for me completely!
What did you study in college? Was it an easy choice?
My degree is in liberal arts from Evergreen State College (in Olympia, WA). Evergreen is an alternative, interdisciplinary curriculum based school, no grades, etc., but once I saw the mechanism of teaching – classes are seminar style and based on the great books curriculum – it was an easy choice. We read a lot and then discussed, and there was lots of writing. It was an interdisciplinary degree.
What is your current position? How would you describe your path to your current position? Did you have anyone you relied on for mentorship/solid career advice?
I’m currently the Chief Operating Officer of CIRI Alaska Tourism. I’d describe my career in tourism as educational, fun and with a few detours into “what the what?” I got my MBA from the University of Alaska Fairbanks and then just learned about business operations along the way. I did have a mentor – David Beagle, a former boss at Holland America Line. He was a great leader and a great mentor. He was my boss, so it was a formal relationship, but he was very open to conversation, very intelligent, he listed to his employees for ideas and was very encouraging.
When did you know you would be a leader?
I have been groomed for it since middle school, I remember be sent to student leadership workshops but didn’t really know why at the time. Heck, even earlier – fifth or sixth grade. I have this specific memory of my first leadership moment. After recess, we were supposed to line up and whichever line was the quietest would get to go in first. Well there were these two lines and everyone was goofing around and being loud so I just stepped into the middle and formed my own line. All the other kids thought I would get in trouble. Instead, the teacher chose me first to go in. After that day, other, kids started to line up behind me. It was an important first acknowledgement for me of my leadership potential.
Was/Is there ever a time when you felt/feel discouraged by obstacles? How did you address that?
Indeed, there have been challenges along the way. I’d say the merger (when Holland America Line merged with Princess, creating Holland America Princess) was one of the most significant changes that I had to manage. I went out and researched how to manage change, techniques for dealing with change, how to bring disparate teams together, and how to internalize it vs. externalize it.
Is there a particular person who inspires you? Maybe someone you’ve read about, someone you know? What do you find inspiring about their story?
I’m a big history buff. I’m not sure if there’s a particular person but definitely historical anecdotes. The quote from George Santayana comes to mind: “Those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it.” And then there’s Eliyahu Goldratt’s Theory of Constraints. That’s been a seminal idea for me in my professional career. I find myself going back to it numerous times.
It is important for CBPP and Anchorage’s business community to collaborate and invest in the next generation of leaders. What do you think should be conveyed to our next generation of leaders?
Be resilient and curious. Get involved. Give a damn. Care.