My name is Igor Kochan and I am the Production Director at American Christmas. I moved to the United States after completing my Master’s degree in Production Management in Saint Petersburg, Russia. Most of the research in this field is from the United States, so I decided to come to the U.S. to gain practical knowledge and experience.
I knew where I would want to work even before I came to the United States. A friend in Saint Petersburg worked at American Christmas as a Decorator for one season. She told me that she had a fantastic experience with this company which installs many of New York’s most beautiful and notable Holiday displays. This sounded like the perfect way for me to gain experience in production while working in an industry that was close to my heart, Christmas. In 2006, I interviewed and was hired as an Apprentice Decorator. This was an entry level, seasonal installing position. I was thrilled to get a job with this company; the role that I started in was not my most important concern. From my first day, I planned to become a full time employee and grow within the organization. I remember my first meeting with the CEO of American Christmas, Fred Schwam. He spoke to us about the career of Kent Fritzel who started as a Decorator and in time became the companies’ Chief Creative Officer. He once came to Fred and promised that he would become an irreplaceable part of the American Christmas family. That inspired me a lot.
A few weeks after I started, I was promoted to the position of Decorator. I remember when Fred congratulated me, I told him that it was my first but not my last promotion at ACI and, just like Kent, I would become an irreplaceable part of American Christmas. Fred smiled and wished me good luck.
After my first season, I did not get a full time job. Only one position was open at that time and I was not the best candidate. I did not give up though. I came back for a second season as a Decorator and showed even more effort and enthusiasm. My hard work was rewarded. After the second season, I was offered a full time position in the Finance department as an Inventory/ Pricing Manager. I was very happy to become a part of the American Christmas family. I learned a lot from Donna Travers, the head of Finance, and all of my great co-workers who coached me every step of the way. Despite success in that position, I longed to work in the Production department where I could use and test my production management skills.
Three years later, I was moved to the Production Department, becoming part of the production management team. I was very excited with this promotion. This was where I felt I had the most to offer American Christmas. The fact that I started my career as a decorator helped me quite a bit. I was familiar with the details of production work and had hands on experience in taking a job from its beginning to installation. I improved many production processes and implemented new systems in our department. Soon my hard work and dedication were noticed and I was promoted to the position of Production Director. This is the position where I work today. The great working environment, which starts with our Chief Production Officer, Lance Caffrey, makes it the best department in the company, from my point of view.
I started my career in an entry level position and now I manage up to 125 employees during the season. As I once told Fred, this is not my last promotion. I will continue to grow with American Christmas. I say this not because I am arrogant. I believe that once you stop thinking about growth within a company you stop thinking about the growth of the company itself. When anyone asks me for advice on how to build a career, I tell them the most important thing is to never give up, never think that good is good enough, be enthusiastic and dedicated to your work and it will be noticed.