Twists and Turns

Adam Sandy talks about his winding path to becoming roller-coaster sales and marketing director for Zamperla.
By Adam Sandy
man with girls in front of roller coaster
Adam Sandy and his daughters attend the opening of Cedar Point’s Wild Mouse roller coaster, which is a Zamperla Twister Freeform.

Adam Sandy says he was “a nerdy kid who liked amusement parks.” As an adult, he turned his hobby into a job. He’s now the roller-coaster sales and marketing director for Zamperla. 

Sandy met with students at a Your Hot Job career event. Here’s what he had to say.

Zamperla is the world’s largest manufacturer of attractions. We also work with everybody. Almost every amusement park in the world has a Zamperla attraction. We work with really small mom-and-pop properties, but also Disney Universal, and everything in between. In my position, I work with our team members around the world. We’ve got about 20 sales-team members, and we do a lot of team selling.

Let me tell you a little bit about my journey here. 

When you’re young, you may be into music, you may be into sports, and you put up posters of your heroes on your wall. I had amusement-park brochures and roller-coaster designers on my wall. It’s strange, I know. And I can’t really tell you why. I would draw coaster layouts and other things. It was my childhood obsession, I guess.  I was a history major. It really gave me a focus on writing and critical thinking. And that’s something I’ve used a lot in my career. After I left college, I got a pile of rejection letters. I wrote to most ride manufacturers and amusement parks, and didn’t get hired anywhere.

My first job was selling advertising for an industry newsweekly. It was a newspaper that advertised for things like the fair, amusement-park arenas, and outdoor entertainment industries. I’d never sold anything before. I was the kid who hid under his dining-room table when I had my third birthday. So it was strange for me to be out talking to people. But I learned over time. It was a good lesson to get out there and start understanding what the sales process looks like. I did that from 2001 until the end of 2003. 

After that, I got hired by a company called Ride Entertainment. I did a lot of traveling, mostly in the United States, and worked on projects. Eventually, Ride Entertainment grew, and we diversified. I got to learn a lot of different things, such as ride installation, contracting, and marketing. We started operating some parks. I did our social-media marketing. We also had financial partnerships and made investments. Working for a small company was an advantage, because it gave me a chance to be involved in many different facets of the business. But sales and coasters were what I was most interested in.

In the summer of 2020, COVID was at its peak. I didn’t know what was going to happen in our industry. I felt like I accomplished everything I could at that time. So I announced I was leaving the company. That same day, I got a call from Zamperla, my current employer. They said they were looking for someone to work with them on the roller-coaster division. I saw it as risky to join the company. It wasn’t known for making good roller coasters. But it had been making investments and was really upping its game. It was a risk, but also had the most potential reward, because if we pulled everything off, we could really jump from C-level manufacturer for coasters up to A-level. And it has been an exciting time to be part of the team here. We’re doing a lot of big projects that people really didn’t associate with us.

Adam Sandy (left) and Michael Coleman of Zamperla showcase their new Lightning roller-coaster train at the IAAPA Expo, the world’s largest amusement-park convention.

Career Lessons 

Looking back on my career, I’ve thought a little bit about what success is. I’ve thought about my important milestones. The first was learning from bad days. I made my childhood hobby my job, which is really cool. It’s especially fun when things are going great. But it makes you think twice as hard when you have problems. 

I also learned a lot about how to work with people, and how to handle problems. Now I take a step back and don’t worry about the big picture. I just get through day by day. I learned a lot about how to make sure that I came away with lessons learned about making life a little better. Working with people has been important in creating something different. My job has been, really, just about relationships. I got to learn a lot by getting everyone’s input. And it’s been my role to push the boundaries of what’s expected of me. 

The biggest change in my industry is that a salesperson is more involved in improving amusement parks. That wasn’t the case 20 years ago. But now, there’s a whole subculture of people who are very passionate about amusement parks. It’s been a lot of fun to change the role of the salesperson by making it much more than just being good friends with my customers. It’s also about providing solutions and talking about how we can work together to make their parks even better.