Wyle Norman’s career has blossomed in sunny Florida
By Hilary Reeves
Opening up a tour business in Costa Rica might seem like a risky career move for most people especially if it’s their first career move. Fortunately for Florida-based Sea Star Line, Wyle Norman is not most people.
The story of Norman’s journey to his current position as an equipment manager at Sea Star is anything but boring. His great-uncle, a chemist, moved to Costa Rica in the 1950s and his father soon followed suite.
“My Dad was an entrepreneur here in the states. An opportunity opened up for him to start a business in Costa Rica; we moved when I was a little kid.”
Dropped into the Costa Rican school system, he quickly became fluent in Spanish, eventually studying tourism at the ICT of Costa Rica and met his wife, who was studying biology at the University of Costa Rica.
“I started working in the tourism industry when I was in school, and doing volcano and surf tours,” he said. “I always liked surfing, so I went into business with a friend from Brazil who used to be a professional surfer and we started a surf tour business, basically taking tourists to the best surfing locations in Costa Rica. My partner brought in the surfers from Brazil and I did U.S. We made connections with hotels and boat operators. I started driving customers in a Chevy Suburban, and eventually purchased a 15-passenger van.”
The tragedies of 9/11 took a toll on the business.
“After 9/11, my business just died due to less people traveling abroad,” Norman said, “I did work for a few different people, but my family was struggling,” noted Norman who at the time was recently married and a new father.
Norman and his wife made the difficult decision to return to the States with their young daughter.
“My wife was just one of nine people out of 3,000 selected for a 100-percent paid scholarship for Physical Therapy at the University of Costa Rica, which made the decision to move back to the U.S. very difficult.”
“My Dad restores old Jeeps in Costa Rica – like, the 70s models,” Norman said. “He’s got a paint and body shop, and a mechanic shop. I had that experience growing up, of helping him with that. I’ve always been mechanically inclined.”
During the spring of 2008, a maintenance and repair supervisor position opened at the Sea Star Line marine terminal, and Norman was eager to apply.
“I wanted to take a step back from the service side, working out on the terminal, and see what the management side of the company was like. I really like operations.”
Norman was hired in April of 2008. He said he’s still in awe of the skill set of his coworkers.
“I’m 37 years old, and a lot of guys here have been doing this since before I was born,” he said. “When I’m around people like them, I try to do more listening than talking. There’s still so much for me to learn in this business.”
In August of 2011, Norman was promoted to lead the Equipment Department (Fleet and M&R) at Sea Star and is currently involved in the logistical implementation of TOTE’s new Liquefied Natural Gas (LNG) Marlin Class container ships. The two vessels will be the first LNG powered container vessels ever placed into service, with the first expected to be placed into Puerto Rico trade in Oct. 2015, and the second expected to sail in Jan. 2016.
“One of the things I’ve been involved in is working with engineers designing equipment to move cargo on the new ships,” Norman said.
He said he’s passionate about his future with Sea Star Line.
“I never saw myself sitting behind a desk. I like being brought in when there are issues, or problems, or operational challenges. I just want to be a more rounded asset to the company and am very proud of the success that we have had in the equipment group.”
Norman said he’s inspired by his faith and family.
“My wife finished her education at Liberty University through correspondence and now teaches high school Spanish. We have two daughters, a 15-year-old who was born in Costa Rica and an 11-year-old who was born here in Florida.”
Norman said emphatically that his success is directly related to the success of his coworkers.
“I believe that 100 percent,” he said. “I’m very confident that the LNG program will be something we’ll look back and be able to tell our kids we were a part of.”