Today's guest is Chez Chesak Executive Director of the Outdoor Writers Association of America.
Chez has an impressive outdoor and travel career with previous stops at the Family Travel Association, the Intrepid Group, and the Adventure Travel Trade Association.
Introduction to the Outdoors
It came from a single ski trip. I grew up in New England and always loved being in the outdoors. I grew up in a rural part of Massachusetts and was always skiing when I could and things like that. But, it took a ski trip out to Aspen. I had a girlfriend at the time and her high school buddy had become a chef out there and we went. It was my first time really getting out West and I was just blown away. On our flight home, she and I were just talking about, how do we make the outdoors our life? And the first stop was REI. We got part-time jobs at the Bailey's Crossroads area outside of DC. And just started getting into the gear side of things and retail. I just absorbed all the training I could.
And while in Washington, DC a friend of mine said something about his wife working at the American Hiking Society. And I'm thinking, well, wait, she has a full-time job working for a hiking group. And he said, yeah. And they're hiring a fundraiser. I said I can do that. And so that was my first gig in the outdoor industry, which then led to a stint at the American Alpine Club, which then led to winter Wildlands Alliance. I took a little trip to Iraq with my national guard unit, came back, and started working for the Adventure Travel Trade Association and got into the adventure travel side of the industry from there.
Things we talked about
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When we say we're really trying to help mentor the next generation, we're not just talking about young people. If somebody is looking to make a career change, maybe they've always had a passion for photography, videography, writing, whatever it might be. And they're also a passionate outdoors person, we actually have a membership level for them. It's called an associate member. It's basically exactly the same thing as a regular membership. You're just not an official member, so you can't vote on things. You can't vote, you know if our board wants to change the bylaws or something like that, but all those other resources are available to that person. The magazine with all the professional development content, webinars, the different events and things like that, all the discounts and everything that we provide our members. And various opportunities, you know, we're always pushing out calls for submissions and needs. The whole concept is that somebody who joined as an associate member, our goal is that at the end of those two years, they're qualified to join as an actual active member.
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