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Administrative people are interested in work that offers security and a sense of being part of a larger process. They may be at their most productive under supervisors who give clear guidelines and while performing routine tasks in a methodical and reliable way.

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Martin Dunn, Activities Manager
Tourism & Hospitality

Martin Dunn, Activities Manager

Martin Dunn works as the Activities Manager in the Kippure Outdoor Activity Centre in Wicklow.  He received a BSc Hons Degree in Outdoor & Environmental Education from the John Moores University in Liverpool.  He holds numerous other qualifications in related areas such as rock climbing, mountain leader training, basis kayaking and scuba diving.

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first question!

What were the main 'career decision' milestones in your life so far?

The biggest thing that shaped my career was going travelling to Camp America. I was at a camp in Minesota working as the Water Front director in charge of all the activities and safety there as for years I had been a swimming and water polo coach.

In my second summer there I bought a car and travelled for 2 months around America visiting all the friends I made at camp and whilst in Colorado my friend took me rock climbing and walking. I had been walking before in the UK but nothing like the mountains in Boulder and climbing was a new experience and challenge away from team sports that I found I really enjoyed.

When I got back home and was deciding what to do next a friend told me you could do courses in Outdoor Education so I had a look into it and found a course in Liverpool John Moores University which was a BSc Hons in Outdoor & Environmental Education. The course looked really interesting and I was lucky enough to be offered a place.

Who are the people who most influenced your career direction?

Probably my friend Slade Bradbry from America who took me climbing and Paul Buckley, a house mate from Limerick who told me about the course at Liverpool University.

Also my parents who supported me fully in all the decisions I have taken in my life.

How did you go about getting your current job?

I was working at an outdoor center in France and was off for a week and decided to check out the industry and jobs that were around.

I found the advert on an outdoor jobs web site and thought it sounded like the next step in my career and decided to apply.

The application process was a C.V and covering letter and I was invited to an interview in Ireland which I flew and back for in one day. The company informed me by phone a week or two later that I had been successful and the whole process had taken a little over a month.

Describe a typical day?

There is not really a typical day as it depends if there is a group or groups in that day, if I am working with the group, if they are a school, private or corporate group all effect the type of activities we do, the pressure involved and the day you have.

If not I could be contacting clients who have booked to find out what they are looking for from the day, such as just a fun day out, team building, working on a specific goal such as to improve communication skills. Then I have to write the programme and book in the freelance staff who will work on the day as I am the only full time member of staff for the adventure department.

Arranging staff payments, ordering new equipment.

I could be carrying out a safety check of the equipment and the ropes course that must be carried out periodically.

New programme development to keep the activities new and fresh especially if we want repeat business.

The main challenge is trying to find the time to achieve everything in my job description. The best reward is when an event that you have been months in the planning, that could involve 2-3 meetings with the client, numerous e-mail exchanges to ensure the programme is what they want, all the staff do what is expected of them on during the event, all goes relatively to plan and the client is happy with the outcome.

What are the main tasks and responsibilities?

Event Planning and Management

New Programme Development

Maintenance of equipment

Safety checks

Hiring and management of staff for events

Purchasing of new equipment

Customer Service

What are the main challenges?

Apart from just trying to get everything done and keep on top of all aspect of the role, the thing that keeps me 'up-to-speed' is honestly to get the feedback from the client that the day you provided for them went well or exceeded their expectations and that they will come back next year.

What's cool?

We recently added a new high rope activity that we call 'The Monster Swing' that is best described as falling backwards off our 10m high tower before the ropes catch you and you swing underneath. When you do these activities all the time, finding something that gives you a rush like this activity, can be rare.

But I also enjoy training the staff in how to use the activity and seeing the same rush in them now that the tables are turned and they are no longer the one holding the rope but get to be in the clients position for a change! This can also be a valuable lesson for them as it is easy to forget what that feeling is like.

What's not so cool?

Paper work, working in all weathers, midgets biting you, difficult clients.

What particular skills do you bring to your workplace?

Passion for the type of adventure we offer here, the desire to do a good job, hard work, enjoy meeting new people and a good sense of humour.

What subjects did you take in school and how have these influenced your career path?

I had always wanted to be in a uniformed service of some sort, first preference as a fireman, then the armed services or the police but I have an eye condition that rules me out of these jobs.

So during school I had no idea what I wanted to do and I was not the most academic of people so I chose the subjects that I was better at and would stand me the best chance of good grades.

I did not really choose to follow this career path until I was 25.  I had been to university once to do a Coaching Science degree as I was heavily involved in swimming and water polo coaching but this just did not suit me and I dropped out in my first year. So going back a second time as a mature student was a big decision and because I was a mature student they look at you a little differently to entry requirement and take into consideration life experience.

So at the time it was having maths and english plus experience working in sports coaching groups that I think were the main factors. Even the fact that the course had a lot of geography and I had dropped this subject when I was 14 or so, did not go against me and the first year of the course is there to get yourself acquainted with the subject again. 

So in hindsight I was lucky enough that my subject choices in school did not affect my current career.

What is your education to date?

Secondary School - Attended Liverpool Blue Coat School. All subjects achieved passes at G.C.S.E level Maths English (Literature & Language) Biology Physics Chemistry Craft, Design & Technology French History

Liverpool City Colleges - BTEC Sciences - 1 year course equivalent to school GCSE level that I took to increase my grades as they were not as good as I had hoped for

General National Vacation Qualification - 2 year course at a higher level equivalent to English school 'A Levels' that students do between the ages of 16-18. These grades are generally send with applications to university.

Liverpool John Moores University - BSc Hons Degree in Outdoor & Environmental Education achieving a 2:1 grade

Other Qualifications
Single Pitch Award (rock climbing) - the duration to attain this qualification depends on a few things as firstly you must have 20 logged climbs before you can go for your SPA Training course that lasts 2-3 days and then there is a period of consolidation where you must attain a further 20 logged climbs of certain technical difficulty before you can attend the final SPA Assessment course. Depending which sector of the outdoor industry you want to work in this qualification is very important.

Mountain Leader Training - Again the duration of this depends on different factors and is harder to attain than the SPA. You must again achieve 20 mountain walks following certain criteria (must be more than 6 hours and over 600m) before you can attend the Mountain Leader Training Course that lasts for 5-6 days. This again is followed by a consolidation period where you must do a further 20 walks before you can go for your assessment. It is also recognised that the walk must be different and you should not have all the walks in the same area so in the UK you should have walks completed in Scotland, the Lake District and Snowdonia. This is also a very important qualification

I also have my basic Kayaking Qualification for confined water which are my 2 star (which is a skills award), CST (Canoe Safety Test) and my level 1 coach award. My current job is in a mountain based centre so these are not as important right now.

REC 3 Emergency First Aid Qualification - 3 day course that is essential to have and keep up-to-date. Your first aid does not have to be up to this level but for the remoteness of the centre I work in it was deemed necessary.

I also have my scuba diving Divemaster qualification that I did more for fun than for career development but it might come in handy one day.

What aspects of your education have proven most important for your job?

Apart from the practical module involving rock climbing, kayaking and mountain walking, the most valuable module for me was call Developmental Training which looks at various aspect of what makes up a good team, the roles within teams, how to identify these traits in people and how to facilitate learning in this area.

I especially enjoyed this module because we all tried out all of the learning on ourselves to gain an understanding of how it worked. It was also very interesting to learn things about yourself and how others might view you from the image you portray.

What have been the most rewarding events in your career so far?

Some of the things that I am proud of looking back on over my career would include the voluntary work I used to do coaching, swimming and water polo.  I'm also proud of the two summers I spent at a summer camp in America where I hope those people will have good memories of their experience because of the time and effort that I put in.

What personal qualities do you have that helps you in your career?

The personal qualities that I believe I have and help me in my career are patience, good sense of humour, strong work ethic, kindness and a willingness to go out of my way for others.

What is your dream job?

Apart from every boys dream of being a pro football player for the best team in the world, Everton F.C of course, I also would have liked to be in the uniformed services especially the Fire Service because I thing they do an amazing job and I thing it would be something that I would have been good at.

Does your job allow you to have a lifestyle you are happy with?

Yes and No.

Yes because I get to be outdoors introducing people to the activities I enjoy and pushing them out of their comfort zone. Its great to see people surprise themselves when they attempt something they thought they could never do.

No because being in the leisure industry there are not really set hours but the job fits in with the booking we receive so there are no guaranteed weekends off and sometimes the hours are long. This can be tough on family life as my days off can be split in the week.

The pay in the outdoor industry is not always the best.  That in why I moved more towards the management side of things as with the added responsibility comes more money. 

As for job security there are never any guarantees but people still want to do fun things and are looking for different alternatives all the time so with good planning, clever advertising and keeping the activities and programme exciting there is no reason that the job cannot be secure.

What advice would you give to someone considering this job?

  • Qualities & Values - Patience, hard work, like meeting people, enjoy providing good customer service, desire to do a good job for yourself and your employer 
  • Client Skills - Qualification both education qualifications and practical ability to the job
  • Interests - to be generally interested in the field you are working in. I think that it is easy for people to look at the job and think its great and must be loads of fun because you get to go on the high ropes all the time. That is just a small part of the job and generally you are watching others having fun and playing on the activities and you only go on them to do staff training or to do safety checks. You must also be prepared for the paper work that goes along with a job where you are responsible for that safety of people and this cannot be overlooked.

What are the three most important personal characteristics required for the job?

  • Hard Work
  • Enjoyment of the job
  • Good sence of humour

What is your favourite music?

I think that I have a wide ranging taste in music as it depends on the mood or the situation you find yourself in but generally easy listening stuff like Paul Weller, Oasis, David Gray, Kings of Leon, Tracey Chapman, Foo Fighters.

What is your favourite film?

I remember being in the cinema watching the film Heat and thinking it was the best bank robbery gun fight scene that I have ever watched so that would be one of my favourite action films. But others like The Green Mile was amazing, Gross Point Blank is a great comedy and any of the Jason Bourne films.

What is your pet hate at work?

Staff being late or not turning up, people not thinging and smoking whilst wearing and standing close too safety equipment event though that are signs posted and you have told them of the dangers.

What is your star sign?


Have you undertaken, or do you plan to undertake any further training as part of your job?

On the practical skills side I still have to do my Mountain Leader Assessment.  I would also like to gain more kayak and canoeing qualifications and maybe an industrial "working at height" qualification, but I would also like to improve the soft skill side of the job role and do a course in facilitation.

What kinds of work experience would provide a good background for this position?

Scouting, Camp America, any type of youth work will help gain group control and experience, sports coaching, customer service skills can be developed in unrelated jobs and I believe time spend working in restaurants whilst a student was a great learning experience for me in this ares.

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