At the tender age of 28, Kirby Brown found himself responsible for the 4,000 employees and 800 volunteers who work at Whistler Blackcomb.
After graduating with a commerce degree from Dalhousie University in Halifax, Kirby moved to BC and began to cobble together year-round employment in the resort municipality of Whistler, doing a variety of jobs including cleaning toilets, tour guiding, cooking, landscaping and driving a limousine.
After participating in the activities involved in the merger of Whistler and Blackcomb in 1997, he was hired as Employment Housing Manager, responsible for 50 employees and the inventory of some 1,500 beds managed by the resort. He applied when the Director of Employee Experience position came open — “more for the experience than anything” — and was the successful candidate at the age of 28. He attributes his promotion to the leadership and fiscal responsibilities he demonstrated as housing manager. He was also steeped in the company culture and could relate to the average young employee.
Kirby says his mission is “to meet the day-to-day and future needs of all of our people, so they can dedicate their energy to serving our guests well.” His group includes 10 divisions as diverse as maintenance, food and beverage, ski instruction and patrol, lift operations, and administration. As well as the day-to-day activities connected with any HR function, he has to oversee the ramping up and laying off that is associated with a seasonal resort.
The main challenge is conveying the core values of the organization to thousands of employees — up to 1,300 new ones each season — while improving the amount of affordable employee housing.
His advice to people considering a career in tourism is to differentiate themselves through their work ethic and the heart they bring to their work. “It’s not the smartest or the flashiest people who make it in this industry,” he says. “It is the hardest working and the most dedicated.”