Leadership / 01.13.21
5 INTIX Members That Have Made the Pandemic Work With Transition Jobs
As the pandemic era drags on, there have certainly been many tales of loss in the ticketing and live events industry — loss of jobs, loss of careers, loss of income. But there have also been stories of gain — new jobs, new opportunities and successful transitions. Such is the case for the five people profiled in this article; they have all managed to take the skills they’ve learned in the industry and translate them to new opportunities while their old performance venues remain dark.
Take, for instance, Dee Dee Fite. Before the pandemic, she worked for the Indianapolis Symphony Orchestra (ISO). She was there for 28 years overall — 16 in ticketing and the other 12 in the IT department overseeing the ISO’s database. “As part of that job, I set up all of the events and made sure everything went on sale at the right time,” she says. “I also worked with our web vendors to make sure we were able to sell everything online. It was a lot of back-end stuff after moving out of the ticket office and handling all of the ticketing.”
But with no performances and essentially nothing to sell, her position was eliminated. With strong technology expertise, though, it was not long before Fite hooked on with Bloomerang, a software firm that helps not-for-profits like animal rescues and domestic violence shelters. “It’s another database!” she says with a laugh. “My new job is conversion product manager. I help new clients go through the conversion process from their current database to Bloomerang’s database. I’m the main point of contact for that process. I generally spend two to three months with each client. Once they go live in the database, then I start over with new clients. I just take them through the conversion.”
April Moon also found her skills could transfer to new work. “My previous role in the ‘before times,’” she says, “was Associate Director of Audience Services at a large producing and presenting theater company. I was a senior team lead within the marketing and communications department. In this role, I had oversight of the ticket office, front of house, bar services and volunteers, and I led the rental relationships in terms of venue touring, contracting and building these relationships with our rental clients.”
Moon has since gone from the stage to the screen. She recently picked up a gig within the film industry in Toronto, working for Precious Productions in its set decorating department. The company is producing a new TV series, “Clarice,” a spinoff of “The Silence of the Lambs” that premieres on CBS Feb. 11. She has two roles: tracker and COVID screener.
“The COVID screening job is super easy,” she says. “Our department is located off-site and in the lockup warehouse with all of our set pieces, tools and vehicles. All staff on the production check in with a health screening app each day before work. When they arrive at the lockup, I check their app and give them a color-coded wristband to prove they have been checked in. I mark their name and log the check-in location into a spreadsheet that is shared with all the COVID screeners. Every staffer on this production is COVID-tested twice a week, and this includes our core staff and temporary staff. All staff need to have two negative tests before they start to work shifts. I oversee and report our staff testing status weekly to the COVID team. If there is an issue or a missed test, it is my role to troubleshoot and either arrange testing for the staff in question or report to our department head that the staff in question cannot report to work.”
Other INTIX members have not so much transitioned to a new job, but to multiple jobs. So, it is with Tammy Enright. Before the coronavirus crisis, she was at Tickets.com as the client manager to the Washington Nationals. She’s still on furlough from Major League Baseball, but during the early days of the pandemic, she decided to reach out to her network of contacts to see who might need some help.
“Everyone’s life had been turned upside down,” she says. “We were suddenly reimagining things like childcare and schooling and even shopping. So, during that time, I ended up helping people with all kinds of projects. I did gardening. I updated and consolidated a client database for a small events business. I even helped organize and transcribe a cookbook.
“When it became clear this was going to last longer, I began looking at other opportunities. I’m now putting in hours working as a contractor for the Smithsonian’s National Museum of African American History and Culture. I’m also consulting with a small strategy firm, ACCN Strategies. My career had really given me a wide net to cast and to say, ‘Hey, I’m available. I have the time. I’m in D.C., and I have a car. How can I help you right now?’ And people responded.”
Her favorite “gig” so far? “I became a vaccine tester!” she says. “I got the first injection — either the vaccine or the placebo — back in August. And on Dec. 26, my mom, who is a registered nurse, went and got her first actual injection. So, in four months, this country pulled all its resources together and said, ‘Let’s make this work!’ We have a way to go in terms of distribution, but this was my way to give back. Again, I had the time, I had the resources and I had a car to drive myself out to Rockville, Maryland, and make the various appointments.”
And then there are those INTIX members who are going in a completely different direction in these crazy times. Brian Butler was the Director of Ticket Systems and Operations at Playhouse Square in Cleveland. He had been at the venue for 20 years, overseeing the ticketing operations and managing the ticket office.
“After losing my job to workforce reduction due to COVID,” he says, “I decided to take a couple months off to think about what my future would look like. I started by looking for full-time jobs in the industry. I had to really think about my passions and what I saw myself doing for the second half of my life. I have been sober for five years now and have a passion for helping others. So, I decided that my life needed to change its direction completely.”
Butler is now going to college full time and will graduate in May with a certification in chemical dependency counseling. “My goal is to start working in a hospital or treatment center environment,” he says. “In the fall, I will be starting school to get my bachelor’s degree in psychology with a major in social work.”
Like Butler, Fite has found personal meaning in her new pursuits. Working withnot-for-profits, she says, “I get to speak to so many passionate people. Every client I talk to, they’re passionate about what they do and how they help people, and that is so wonderful. These are small organizations. It might be a dog rescue or a domestic [violence] shelter. To be able to help them with their database to make it easier for them, that’s very rewarding.”
Laura Zehe is still Corporate Director of Ticketing for Big3 Entertainment that oversee the Mahaffey Theater and Al Lang Stadium (concerts) in St Petersburg, Florida, but her hours have been severely cut back, and she really only works on those weeks when the local orchestra performs socially distanced shows. So, she has picked up a second job as True Tickets’ Director of Operations on a part-time status.
The biggest perk of her new life? “I love working from home,” she says, “and so does my dog! And I truly support and love the vision of True Tickets and what they are doing to help our industry.”
The pandemic also has enabled Zehe to return to and rekindle her original career ambitions. “A friend from college contacted me to help with her engineering firm,” she says. “I have a degree from the University of Florida in engineering, but fell into ticketing. It's exciting to use my degree and get back to my roots. I get to do some hydrologic modeling and a lot of great analysis that really feeds my need for analytics!”
And while our five professionals are on wildly different journeys now outside of the realm of ticketing, they do have one thing in common: good memories of the work they did before the pandemic. And they all have things they miss.
Butler says there are three things he still longs for. The first, of course, is his old team that was together for many years. But he also misses the data analysis and reporting part of his previous job. “I enjoyed taking the raw data and creating a complete picture of what it was telling us,” he says. But most of all he misses his “INTIX family. Being a member of INTIX for over 20 years, being on the board of directors, and serving as the chairman of the board were all highlights in my life. I am so lucky to have my INTIX family still in my life. They love and support me and that makes my heart full and will never go away.”
Enright was more practical. “I miss the stability,” she says. “And I mean that in a lot of ways. There’s the steady paycheck, of course. But there was also the stability of knowing what my hours and responsibilities were going to be today, next week, next month. And, of course, I miss the people. I miss the folks who I would see day in and day out.”
Fite, was perhaps the most emotional when asked what she misses most. “The music. Our offices were in a building attached to the theater. So, at any given time, there could be a musician down the hallway practicing. Or you’d run into one or more of them in the break room. Or you could hear over the speakers when the symphony was rehearsing. The music always took me back to why I worked there. You could have good days, and then days where you were like, ‘Why am I working here?!’ And then you would hear the music, and you’d just say, ‘Ahhh, that’s why!’”
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Tags: Leadership , Workplace , COVID-19 , Coronavirus