Leadership / 04.06.22
Christina Allen ‘Couldn’t Be Happier’ in Her Life and Ticketing Career
Given that her job includes selling hockey tickets and one of her most treasured possessions is a wooden duck, one could be forgiven for thinking that Christina Allen must live and work somewhere other than where she does. But before clarifying the venue that is lucky enough to have her and the city she calls home, let’s find out more about the duck.
“His name is Dave,” says Christina. “I have had Dave the Duck with me since I left my sorority house in university. They were going to throw him out when I lived there, but I was adamant in saying, ‘You can’t throw out Dave!’ Since then, he has survived four moves [over 15+ years] and is still sitting beside my TV.”
Dave the Duck.
No, the house that TV is in is not in California, home to the Anaheim Ducks of the NHL, but in Kanata, a suburb of Ottawa, Canada. Kanata is home to Christina’s family and the Ottawa Senators, where she is Senior Manager, Box Office for both the NHL hockey club and the Canadian Tire Centre, her favorite venue.
Christina (center) enjoys some family time with cousin Jenn Dall (left) and sister Tricia Allen.
As anyone who has ever spent any time with real ducks will know, they are outgoing, social animals that are often portrayed as being fearless. Oddly enough, that is what Christina says she admires most in people.
“I have always been inspired by people who could jump into the unknown. People who are fearless, who take risks in their career. I am very risk-averse and have never been able to do that in my career or personally, so I admire those who can. I also like people who speak their minds — say what they mean and mean what they say.”
When it comes to colleagues, Christina says she does not like those who complain just to complain.
“Instead of just complaining,” she says, “I prefer someone who also has a suggestion for a solution or at least some constructive feedback.”
Pre-COVID-19, the ticket operations, box office and data team would volunteer each year at Toy Mountain in Ottawa. This photo was taken in 2018.
The quality Christina admires most in a leader is “someone who truly leads, gets everyone on the right path toward the common goal and gets us working together as a team.”
Over the past two years, since the dawn of COVID-19, Christina has valued this more than ever.
“I was one of the few people kept at my organization during the furlough, so it was draining and exhausting. My boss and I were the ticket operations and the box office. We also supported finance, reporting — all those different hats that you have not had to wear. It is just as much work undoing an event as it is putting one on, and I think some people definitely forgot that. They assumed we sat around a little bit, I think. It is one of those things where ticketing was just as busy during [the pandemic] time as it was before.”
In 2016, Christina and her team won INTIX’s Outstanding Ticket Office Award. From left: Jena Hoffman, former CEO of INTIX; Christina, Juliette Mohamed, former assistant box office manager; and INTIX founder Patricia G. Spira.
Christina continues, “My boss and I worked together, and we somehow got to the other side of it, knock on wood, as of today. Then we had our first events. We had Disney on Ice at the beginning of March, so it is almost like there is that return to normal.”
Like so many others, Christina has spent her entire 18-year career in ticketing and, during that time, has seen a wholesale transformation in the industry. She says that the fact it is constantly changing is what she likes most.
“Ticketing 18 years ago is totally different than it is today, and I enjoy that,” she says. “I like that, no matter what, you may be in the same job, but the roles, responsibilities and how we do things change year over year. Sometimes it is gradual, and sometimes it is sudden, but I love that. It keeps it interesting.”
When asked about her most memorable career moment, Christina offers two: one that involved that constant change she mentioned previously and another that had more to do with the glam surrounding live entertainment.
“Back when I worked at Scotiabank Arena in Toronto, it was Air Canada Centre way back in the day, when Bon Jovi did five sold-out shows, I got to go to the afterparty, so I was in the same room as Bon Jovi and Richie Sambora. It was one of those crazy moments where you are like, ‘Wow.’ It was very surreal to be part of that whole experience. The other was when we switched ticketing companies a couple of years ago. It is an incredible amount of work to transition ticketing systems, and I was the lead on the transition. That moment was pretty amazing. I hope never to do it again, but it was very memorable.”
Continuing to reflect on those early days in her career, Christina noted how lucky she has been to have two great mentors.
“When I was just starting out in Toronto, still in my mid-20s, I would have coffee once a month or so with Patti-Anne Tarlton, who was then with Maple Leaf Sports & Entertainment. We would just talk about the industry, and she would let me know that it is more than … the ticketing part of it, to look at what was happening throughout the whole industry. I think that gave me a good foundation to keep growing my career,” Christina says.
She continues, “My current boss, Jody Thorson, has been a great mentor since I have been here. She never told me exactly what to do. She let me find my own path, which was challenging as a new box office manager, and let me build and create my own way of leading. She gave me the bandwidth to be my own manager but is always there to listen and provide feedback. It has never been necessarily [her saying], ‘You need to do it this way.’ She’s been a great sounding board.”
As an active member of INTIX, Christina now finds herself in the role of mentor. She is also on the INTIX Board of Directors.
“The past couple of years, I have been a mentor, so I have enjoyed giving back to younger people and those new in the industry. That was something I did not realize I would enjoy so much, and it pushes me outside of my boundaries as well.”
INTIX Board members gather after a recent meeting in Las Vegas. From left: Derek Younger, Rebecca Throne, Lynne King Smith, Andrew Bragman, Daren Mitch, Maureen Andersen, Mitchell Klein, Christina Allen, Ashley Voorhees and Aren Murray.
Being risk-averse, Christina says her most memorable INTIX moment was presenting at the conference in Anaheim in 2016.
“I am not great at presenting, but my boss pushed me to push myself. I was really nervous [when I walked onto the Inspiration Stage], but I did it and it was so successful. It was one of those moments that gave me so much confidence and showed me that I could do something I was not expecting to do.”
Christina (right) capped off INTIX 2020 in New York City by seeing “Wicked,” her favorite musical, with Josie Pingitore.
While Christina likes learning about new trends in the industry, it is the feeling of community among INTIX members that she most appreciates.
“It is a community that knows exactly what you do and what you are dealing with. It is a unique career, so the challenges are unique to us. I think that is what is different than everything else: It is a group of people who understands,” she says.
Christina also highly values the weekly virtual gathering of ticketing professionals and any opportunity to learn from her peers.
“I like to [listen], especially on those Wednesday Wisdom calls,” she says. “When [Europe or the UK or] the United States was going through everything a year before we were [in Canada], I was able to get best practices and learn from what everyone else was going through, then apply it to [our organization]. This is what I have been doing the whole time I have been at INTIX: I see what other people do, then [determine] how we can take that and make it our own and learn from other people’s successes.”
Another thing that Christina has learned after almost two decades is that ‘It is OK to clock out at 5.” She adds that she would definitely do more of that if she could go back in time.
“Early in my career, I did not find work-life balance. It is hard in our industry, but I wish it were something I had mastered younger because it is very difficult to rethink the way you work when you are older. So, yes, I think I would tell my younger self it is OK to clock out. It will still be there tomorrow. The world will not end.”
Today Christina does make time to pursue various personal interests. While she visits a good friend in LA from time to time and wishes she had lived in New York City for a couple of years in her 20s, her favorite place to visit is Toronto, where she went to university and began her career.
“I loved living there,” she says. “It feels like going back home. Seeing all my friends and walking around the old neighborhood is kind of nostalgic.”
She also has nostalgia for the “Amp,” the former Molson Amphitheatre, now Budweiser Stage, on the grounds of Ontario Place. It is high atop her list of favorite venues.
“There is something about the ‘Amp’ in the summer: cold beer, live music, the atmosphere and open air,” she says. It is where Christina saw two of the best live events of her life so far, the Foo Fighters and Florence and the Machine. Seeing Adele at Massey Hall, a 2,754-capacity venue in downtown Toronto that has since been renovated, is also on that list. “I saw Adele … the first time she played in Toronto. [Massey Hall] is such an incredible venue. There is no such thing as a bad seat.”
Christina also loves Toronto’s Winter Garden Theatre, where she worked briefly. “It is just so beautiful. It has a painted gold leaf roof and is really something special. It is the last double-decker [operating] theatre [in the world].”
All this talk about music makes one wonder who Christina’s favorite performer is, and when asked just that, she does not hesitate.
“Alanis Morrissette. I love Alanis. I think when you are in high school, everyone is angry and you just kind of grew up with her.”
It comes as no surprise that when asked what talent she would most like to have, Christina puts music at the top of her list.
“Playing guitar would have been fun back in the day,” she says. “But, while I love music and concerts, it is not a gene I inherited.”
Today, in her spare time, Christina is more likely to find herself in a cozy armchair reading a good book.
“My favorite authors are Jodi Picoult and Chuck Klosterman,” she says. “They are totally different, which is the funny part. Chuck is the music writer for Rolling Stone [magazine]. I like [the books] where he talks about the ’80s and the ’90s. I was such a ’90s girl, so to go back to that era and that music, I just love it. And then with Jodi Picoult, you just get sucked into the story. It is always some sort of very dramatic situation. It is nice to be able to think yourself into a book versus thinking about everything else that is going on.”
With the world starting to open up again, hopefully with the worst of the pandemic behind us, Christina says she is looking forward to “trying to get back to normal and hang out with friends again.”
Other than wishing the pandemic had never happened, we wondered what Christina would ask for if she were given the proverbial three wishes. She gave us only one, but it was one very close to her heart.
“I think it would be to go back for one day when my niece and nephews [now teenagers] were little, when they were snuggly and just that playful, going-to-the-park age. I do not have kids, so it is one of those things where, all of a sudden, they are grown up and they do not want to go to the park anymore, to the splash pad. Just one day of them being little again. That is the only wish I can think of.”
Chelsea Handler Meet & Greet at the National Arts Centre in Ottawa. From left: co-workers Emily Knight and Chelsea McDermott, niece Miriam, Chelsea Handler, sister Tricia Allen and Christina.
And on a closing note, a return to what we shared earlier about Christina and how she treasures Dave the Duck as one of her most valued possessions. She confides that while she adores him, he would not necessarily be the first thing she would grab if her house were on fire. That would actually be some mice.
“Since I was a baby, I get one from Santa every year,” she says with a smile. “They are Christmas decorations, and I still get one every year from my mom and dad even though I am now of a certain age. They have lots of sentimental value.”
Christina with her dad at an Ottawa Senators vs. Montreal Canadiens playoff game in 2015.
From treasured keepsakes and precious family to her beloved peers and career, it is easy to see why Christina may not have needed three wishes, for she already has everything she could have wished for and more.
Or, as the lyrics to a song from her favorite musical so famously say, “Happy is what happens when all your dreams come true.”
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Tags: Memberships , Leadership