THE thought of leaving your hometown and flying across the world for a new job might seem scary to some, but not 30-year-old Robert Harrison, who sold his house in England to come to work as water park operations manager at Legoland Malaysia, Johor.
“I was honestly nervous because it’s a country I’ve never been to before. When I came here, I didn’t know the language so it was quite intimidating,” said Harrison.
“Now, I call Malaysia my home. I haven’t missed England since! And if I do need to go back, I’m only a flight away.”
When he came here two years ago, there was lots of paperwork and training to do prior to the opening of the water park.
He had to make sure the standard operating procedures were written for every single attraction, including safety regulations for each ride, as well as other aspects like the height limits and proper attire.
For guests to safely enjoy themselves at the water park, Harrison made sure life jackets are available for free, which surprisingly isn’t a requirement at some other water parks. That helps prevent a lot of incidents from happening, he said.
Besides that, he also arranged lifeguarding courses for the lifeguards and slide attendants.
According to Harrison, the lifeguards at Legoland Malaysia Resort are from all over the country and range from 18 to 40 years old.
“When you start out as a lifeguard, you’re trained for an hour every day on each position. We have 37 positions to ensure that every inch of the water is being watched,” said Harrison.
“And before that, they have to go through a full lifeguard course, where they spend a week being trained off-site at a pool to obtain their qualifications from Jeff Ellis & Associates, which is internationally recognised.”
As lifeguards, it’s all about prevention so Harrison says they have to be responsible and accountable if something goes wrong. And when the lifeguards are fully trained and qualified, they are able to deliver a great level of guest care and if needed, after-care for an incident.
Despite the common misconception that there isn’t much career progression as a lifeguard, Harrison proves they can develop and work their way up from lifeguard to head lifeguard, supervisor and eventually, a managerial position.
Harrison has been in the industry for over 13 years, starting out as a part-time lifeguard at 17, before becoming a head lifeguard and progressing until he was managing a water park in England and now, Legoland Water Park, Johor.
Harrison said: “When I started, I was very reserved and wasn’t really confident. Then my manager at the time inspired me and made me realise that you can go beyond just being a lifeguard because he started out as a lifeguard as well.
“That’s why I try to give opportunities to all the lifeguards and junior members of staff to grow by sharing my knowledge and experience because you never know, they might be your next water park leader.”
He added that it’s also about giving them confidence and equipping them with skills through swimming training, rescue skills training, teamwork training and English lessons. That way, they are able to deliver what is required of them as lifeguards.
But it’s not just his colleagues that he wants to inspire. He hopes guests, especially kids, will walk away with a unique and memorable experience that will make them want to return to the water park.
“Our main priority is that they enjoy themselves in a safe environment. After that, we want to educate them, and encourage their imagination and creativity,” he said.
“We at Legoland want them to do something they can go home and tell their friends about, like our build-a-raft river, where they can collect Lego bricks along the river to build their own rafts.”
Although he admitted that it might get a little challenging sometimes, he really enjoys his job because he gets to meet new people, interact with guests and, of course, inspire his fellow colleagues.