From Water Park Worker to CXO: Whitewater’s Franceen Gonzales

For the past 25 years, Franceen Gonzales has cemented a successful career in the aquatics industry and recently stepped into the role of Chief Experience Officer at WhiteWater, yet her history in aquatics starts with her first summer job. Gonzales discovered her passion for aquatics while working at a small, regional water park in Anthony, Texas as a teen and envisioned creating a future in this industry. Little did she know that the decisions she made from that point on would lead her to the international corporate leadership position she holds today.  

“In this business, you can be a chemist, a biologist, an engineer, a salesperson. You can be whatever you want and have a job. The world is yours.”

At the water park, Gonzales began her journey by cleaning pools and later became a lifeguard. This led to positions at larger water park chains, and she eventually went on to attend Stanford University, pursuing a degree in biology. Gonzales paired her interests with her academic pursuits, which guided her to a career in water science.  

Gonzales discussed her path further saying, “I think I just fell too much in love with aquatics, too much in love with water parks. And I thought, ‘Can I make this a career?’ I went to my first World Waterpark Association Show, and I said, ‘Oh my gosh, these are all over the world – I think I can make this a career!’” 

Combining her desire to help others with her passion for aquatics, Gonzales found herself in a position with Great Wolf Lodge. In this role, she helped facilitate the opening of several resorts, emphasizing the importance of water quality, air quality and customer safety. From her research conducted in this position, Gonzales discovered that if chlorine is reduced at indoor water parks, chloramines that cause skin and eye irritation in the pool and respiratory inflammation from the air can also be reduced. These findings led to her work with the Center for Disease Control and Prevention on pool safety issues, an opportunity she never could have imagined.  

After her time at Great Wolf Lodge, Gonzales moved into a product development role, where she touched a variety of different fields in the aquatics industry. Working with larger brands, she found that this presented new opportunities for growth, including international projects and travel. Eventually, Gonzales moved into a business development role, pitching unique, innovative ideas that drove businesses forward.  

Discussing the industry opportunities, Gonzales shared, “In the pool business, you can be a chemist. You can be a physicist. You can be a biologist and have a job. In this business, you can be an engineer and have a job. In this business, you can be a salesperson and have a job. In this business, you can be in marketing. The world is yours.” 

Gonzales ultimately followed her own advice and made the world hers, creating the entirely new role of Chief Experience Officer at WhiteWater. In this position, she oversees the sales and marketing around project development to ensure the end product adheres to the client’s vision.  

Gonzales’s story serves as a prime example of the countless exciting career possibilities in the aquatics industry. Interested in jumping into the aquatics industry? Explore potential career paths, or search for jobs in your area.