Scroll down to read the transcript for the interview with John Chidsey, former Falling Creek Camp counselor and current Subway CEO.

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John Chidsey’s Interview Transcript

Why does the CEO of Subway think you should work at summer camp?

My relationship with the camp is that I was a counselor there in the early 1980s, and my brother was a camper and a counselor there for well over a decade - probably closer to 12-15 years. It’s part of our family.

I think working as a summer camp counselor is one of the best experiences you can have. It’s 24/7, teaches you leadership, teaches you empathy, teaches you responsibility - I mean being responsible for a bunch of 7-12 year old kids like I said is 24/7, it’s an incredible responsibility, but also an incredible opportunity. I think you learn a tremendous amount of life skills from this job.

I think working as a camp counselor teaches you lots of life skills, I think it’s a wonderful job. It teaches you empathy, it teaches you to be responsible, I mean you’re looking after 7-8 children 24/7, teaches you to be involved, and teamwork - there’s so many life skills I think you learn from this job. It’s one of the most unique positions I think you can have to teach you a lot of these life skills.

I think some of the best skills you can develop are the teamwork, responsibility, empathy, realizing what it takes to keep a group of kids motivated, and safe, and engaged for 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, is a big skill. But most importantly, you learn these life skills that you would never learn in a corporate internship. Spending a year or two doing something like this teaches you things you would never learn in the corporate world, and those life skills I would argue are as important as anything you would learn in a corporate internship - you really need both to be a successful person.

One of the best things I think about being a counselor is you’re also totally immersed. It’s a 24/7 job, you’re around these kids and have this responsibility constantly, and so you’re constantly honing these skills. Whereas in a corporate environment, you might be there for 5-6 hours a day, but you’re doing this for 24 hours a day. So I think you get a real chance to practice a lot of these life skills with a real repetition that you wouldn’t get in an ordinary corporate job.

Working at Falling Creek was a great adventure for me. Not only was it fun, but it taught me a lot of life lessons that I continue to use today. The corporate world is all about teamwork, how do you motivate people, how do you engage people, learning how to deal with adversity - things come up, could be horrible weather for the day, could be all sorts of things which occur, and you have to learn how to think on your feet and maneuver. So I think it really made me the leader that I am today.

Some of your fondest memories at Falling Creek? Probably the camaraderie of the counselors believe it or not - as counselors we had a blast. It was probably one of the most fun summer jobs I ever had, you become a family. I certainly enjoyed all the campers, they were fun, and some of those relationships still exist today, but most of all it was just the fun that we created as a group of counselors together for three months in the summer, in a very unique setting where you can probably bond better than anywhere else on the face of the planet.

It’s really hard to put a value on such a unique experience, but there are definitely values. In addition to the life skills I talked about, specifically I think you learn teamwork, empathy, how to make a difference in kids lives, negotiation - all these skills play a piece in your life no matter what you do down the road. I think all those are important values that you’re going to pick up in a job like this, again that you wouldn’t pick up in a corporate job necessarily.

I would tell any parent that this is a fantastic job opportunity for their child. Again, it’s a unique environment where you can learn lots of life skills that you wouldn’t learn in a traditional corporate environment. I would urge parents to let their children go experience something like this. It’s very rare that you’re responsible for peoples’ lives 24 hours a day 7 days a week, and you get to learn teamwork, and empathy, and camaraderie. I would highly, highly recommend this job. You can go off and do corporate things later in life, corporate internships, which are important, but you will get things out of this that you wouldn’t get anywhere else, so I always encourage people to have their children go to camp, and I encourage them to be counselors, and actually when I hire people I look at whether they were a counselor or not, and that’s a definite plus in my mind if they’ve been in that role before.

I think it is one of the most valuable things you can do, and as an example I have a leadership program from the college that I went to and I also have a scholarship program, and when I’m looking for kids either to be my scholars or the 20 kids a year, students, that become part of my leadership program, I’m looking for these kinds of life skills, and these are the sorts of traits that I want to develop in the students that partake in my two programs at my college. And so I think Falling Creek is a great place to hone those skills and to further develop them - which again, maybe you could do in a corporate environment, but I think it fits in nicely with what most leadership type programs are looking for.

I think of the highlights of being a camp counselor is not just the camaraderie of being with the children, the boys, but it’s also the camaraderie of the counselors, I mean you get all different kinds of campers, and you get all different kinds of counselors, and I think learning how to navigate all those different kinds of personalities and still ensure you have great teamwork is an incredibly valuable skill that’s a great way to learn in this very immersive environment, and as I said, it’s a heck of a lot of fun as well. So when you can combine fun and learning at the same time, it’s hard to think of a better summer job.

In addition to all the life skills that we’ve talked about, I think another benefit of working at camp is the network. You become a family basically once you join Falling Creek as a camper or as a counselor, and I know that network has proved invaluable to people over the years in terms of helping them get into certain colleges or universities, actually help them get their first job, and so that network is an invaluable benefit that you pick up on the side in addition to all the things you learned in your day job.