Leadership / 11.02.22
Educating Women on How to Be Successful in Ticketing at the NCAA Level
As part of an ongoing series, we have profiled the strides women have made in such traditionally male-dominated sports organizations as the National Football League, the National Basketball Association and Major League Baseball. Has progress been any easier in the NCAA where women’s college sports are nearly as plentiful as men’s athletics? We posed this and other questions to several female ticketing and live events professionals working on or with college campuses around the country.
Megan Christensen, Associate Director of Entrepreneurial Activities at Sonoma State University, says she is where she is today because of the NCAA and its efforts on hiring women. “My first job out of college was tied to an NCAA grant that our campus received to help hire women into positions of leadership in athletic departments across the country,” she recalls. “This grant led to my first position, which led to more open doors. As the NCAA and individual institutions have focused resources on diversity, equality and inclusion (DEI) programs, these opportunities are only growing. My campus puts a concerted effort into ongoing professional development and career support, which means I’m always learning and exposed to new trends and upcoming ideas.”
Both Christensen and Lacey Williams, Vice President of Ticketing at Texas A&M University’s 12th Man Foundation, spoke of the support women are giving each other within the NCAA as a key to upward mobility. Williams says, “Women are empowering other women more frequently than ever before. We are seeing female leaders mentor, grow, recruit and retain other women, which is incredible. It’s critical to continue the rise of women in a male-dominated industry. There are so many fantastic women leaders who have helped me personally and professionally, and I strive to carry that passion forward to other females in the industry.”
Amanda Marie Rider, Assistant AD for Ticket Operations at Liberty University, notes that her institution has allowed her to find professional development in ways that have affected her career directly “instead of an overview for athletics as a whole. This allows me to be a part of organizations like the National Association of Athletics Ticket Sales and Operations [NAATSO]; Women Leaders; and of course, INTIX, which has allowed me to grow professionally.”
Each of the professionals interviewed for this article professed to having a favorite part of their job. Lori Murphy, Director of Ticket Sales & Operations at Georgetown University, says, “My favorite part of working in collegiate athletics is working with different sports teams. Here at Georgetown, we sell tickets for seven teams. Men’s and women’s soccer, football, men’s and women’s basketball and men’s and women’s lacrosse. While in some aspects they are similar, they are all very different.”
Wendy Brown, Michigan State University’s Associate AD of Ticket Operations, concurred: “The favorite part of my job is the variety of working with multiple sports across many different fan bases. It makes every day different!”
Williams spoke of the countless hours she and her colleagues spend preparing for events: “It’s very rewarding to be a part of a successful game day. That feeling of walking out into a sold-out venue energizes me! It’s such a great feeling knowing all the hard work has paid off and the fans are having an enjoyable experience.”
For Rider, her main source of on-the-job enjoyment is the people she works with and the opportunities that she and they are given to do things not many people get the chance to do. “Like travel to Bowl games, NCAA tournaments and more!” she says. “I also like that we get to help fans create memories by attending our events.”
For Christensen, it’s a whole different set of folks that she has the privilege of interacting with that really inspires her: “My favorite part about my job is the student athletes. As a general sports fan, I enjoy watching them compete. But as a staff member here at SSU, I am fortunate enough to be in a position where I can have an impact on them. Whether that is through being a loud and obnoxious fan, providing hands-on work experience through on-campus jobs, serving as a campus resource, or just being another parent at camp pick-up, there are many opportunities to help foster their growth as individuals. My favorite day of the year is commencement when I see the blue student athlete sashes around the graduates with their families cheering from the stands for them one last time.”
We also opened up our questions to two professionals from Paciolan, the largest primary ticketing company in college athletics with 160-plus college clients. Lisa Langham, Vice President of Operations at the software company, says, “There is something unique about the college sports fan — the passion that people have for their college teams, through thick and thin — that is different than any other genre I’ve experienced. Even after 15 years at Paciolan, I still get a kick out of tuning in to a game on a Saturday afternoon and knowing that we played a part in that experience.”
Liz Kelley, Manager of Client Partners for Paciolan, adds, “There is so much passion surrounding a college athletics program . . . from the student athletes to the coaches and support staff to the fair weather fans to longtime season ticket holders and the donors. I started my ticketing career in college athletics at my alma mater. So, as an alum, you build an automatic affinity for a particular school and that usually turns into a lifelong fandom. Many employees at the schools that I work with live and breathe the teams’ struggles and successes. I love talking to a school on Monday who won a big football game the previous Saturday!”
All of the interviewees agreed they wouldn’t be where they are today without some good advice given to them along the way. Some of them shared brief nuggets like, “Lead by example, regardless of title” (Georgetown’s Murphy), and “You will never go wrong with attention to detail” (MSU’s Brown).
For her part, Rider recalls one mentor who once told her to “be an expert in what I do so that when other people need something, they know to just go directly to you. That's allowed me into the room for some meetings and conversations in recent years that I probably wouldn't have been in otherwise!”
Williams sounded a similar note on knowledge accumulation and taking the lead on things: “Leadership is about helping others around you become better. Helping others continue to grow is one of my favorite parts of being a leader. It is so gratifying to watch others around you achieve success and know you played a small part in it.”
And for any young women reading this just starting out at the NCAA level and striving for some of the success these women have had, what advice would our interviewees have for them? Christensen was quick to answer: “Your career path is your responsibility. You need to be willing to put in the hard work on the job and be prepared to advocate for yourself. Many will be there to support you along the way, but you need to take the lead.”
Brown advised to “network within your department and conference as much as possible,” while Rider urged finding a mentor at your institution and asking them to “bring you into meetings so you can learn at a young age.”
Paciolan’s Langham says, “Advocate for yourself. Speak up and ask for what you want, or what you believe you deserve. Learn to articulate your value — those qualities and skills that only you can bring to the table. And, perhaps most importantly, surround yourself with people who will provide you honest feedback and have your best interest at heart. Those are the people who are genuinely rooting for you to succeed and will be among the first to celebrate you when you’ve arrived!”
Her Paciolan colleague Kelley expands on that counsel, noting that she has worked at “small schools, large schools and on the vendor side. If you’re at a smaller organization, take the opportunity to get exposed to as much as you can across departments. Get involved in the fundraising piece, and join marketing meetings. Learn as much as you can at the event operations level. Be a sponge!”
Perhaps Georgetown’s Murphy summed it up best when she said, “Learn as much as you can. If there’s an opportunity to help out at an event, do it. The more you volunteer helping out, the more you’ll be seen and the more opportunities will come later. Oh, and always remember, working in ticketing is sexy!”
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Tags: Leadership , Women in Ticketing