July 2, 2018
An Interview with Caitlyn Pickering
Leadership Team | General Manager | Executive Staff
StarQuest Dance Competition
2017 Industry Excellence Award Winner
Second in a series about what actually goes on backstage at dance competitions, from The ADCC Member Competition experts who run them.
Q: What does a Chief Production Officer do?
This is a difficult question to answer! The short answer is a Chief Production Officer needs to oversee all aspects of the production—the show, competition, staff, equipment, trucking, studios, dancers, venues, etc. I spend most of my time mentoring the Tour Managers, Judges, and Road Warriors. I—along with my amazing team—update and prep the equipment you see on site, hire and train the road warriors/judges, tech advance the venues, make the schedules for the events, travel to the events and put on a show! We spend the weeks prepping the four tours to make sure the experience on site is as flawless as possible for the dancers and studios. Then we get to spend the weekends on site with the dancers, having fun and making sure everyone has a phenomenal experience.
Q: What is your training for this job?
There really is no formal training or school that can prepare you for this. It is an amalgamation of past experiences that help—along with perfecting time management, a love for problem solving, a desire to continue learning, and innate leadership. I suggest everyone continue to “train” by attending Escape Rooms, solving puzzles like the Rubik’s Cube, and constantly troubleshooting electronics for family/friends.
Q: How did you become a Chief Production Officer at StarQuest?
I originally auditioned to be a StarQuest emcee and was actually not hired—I was put on the backup list. I moved on and continued doing tours with a different theater company. A few years later I decided to come back and interview for Company Manager/Awards. I was actually hired this time! Steve Wappel (our president and founder) was my tour manager for the majority of my first season. I was able to work closely with him, understand his vision for StarQuest, and learn more about leadership. After my first season as Company Manager I became a Tour Manager and began hiring judges. During my second season as a TM I knew that I wanted to learn more aspects of the company, grow as a leader, and see more of the big picture. At that time the company was much smaller and there wasn’t actually a CPO position… there wasn’t even an executive board! As StarQuest and I continued to evolve, the executive board was created, giving me the title of CPO. I eventually stopped tour managing myself and began hiring, training, and mentoring the tour managers and road warriors.
The simpler answer to this question is I worked nonstop, asked Steve a million questions, looked at every aspect of the company, consistently asking myself if I understood the WHY, and actively desired to grow as a leader and help others grow.
Q: What are your favorite aspects of your work?
My #1 favorite aspect of my work is getting to travel and explore the country. I LOVE trying sushi and coffee in every state! I equally love seeing my staff and the dancers grow year after year. With the dancers, it’s so much fun to make a connection during the three days of competition. When we go to the same event the next year, it’s like no time has passed at all.
A lot of our road warriors come in with little to no touring experience. I love seeing them come back year after year, and getting to see what they do after StarQuest. Our Tour Managers all started at StarQuest as road warriors. It’s so much fun to watch them mentor the Road Warriors, knowing that I played a part in molding them as leaders.
I also love playing games and solving problems. StarQuest provides me with a platform to do both of those on a daily basis.
Q: What inspires you?
Broadway musicals, Harry Potter, my family, other humans, the ocean, a good movie/documentary, and well executed food. I pull inspiration from different experiences and try to incorporate what I’ve gained in some aspect of my work.