Leadership / 04.13.22
How Anna Wessely Found Her Voice, Then Found Success in Ticketing Technology
This story is brought to you by the INTIX Women in Entertainment Technology Program.
Digonex, a provider of customized and automated dynamic pricing solutions in the live attractions, events and performing arts industries, recently named Anna Wessely as its first chief technology officer. Her first day on the job was Feb. 2. Wessely came to Digonex following an 18-year tenure at Tessitura Network, the leading ticketing and fundraising CRM platform serving the performing arts and cultural attractions sectors.
She’s proud to recall that she was the eighth employee hired by Tessitura and helped it grow from a small startup to a global software company with close to 300 employees. She held a variety of technology leadership roles there, most notably as vice president of hosting services.
“I was in on the ground floor of this very innovative technology that really served a need,” she says. “The arts and culture community is an industry that really needs to be efficient to be effective. Being able to support that has always been nice. It’s been better than working for a bank or an insurance company. Everyone has a day on the job that’s tough. But then you think about a kid seeing ‘The Lion King’ for the first time or going to an otter exhibit at the zoo. Those are the things that feed my desire to be successful.”
And successful she has been. Her first job was working the box office at a small community theater in Albuquerque, New Mexico. Wessely then earned a degree in theatre management from Santa Fe College, which fed into her interest in the business side of arts and culture. “When you’re youthful, you think about what you see on the stage or on the screen or at the zoo or wherever,” she says. “But, as we all know, there is an industry to it. I was interested in that cross-section of arts and culture and management, and that led me into the ticketing technology world.”
From there, she was fortunate to have the opportunity to work at the Santa Fe Opera, which was the first company to install Tessitura software outside of the Metropolitan Opera. Tessitura then beckoned. For the past two months, she has been very pleased with her transition to Digonex, a partner of Tessitura. “At both companies,” she says, “it’s all about serving the end customer by giving them prices that make sense given what their need is, as well as serving our attractions and live entertainment customers who are trying to maximize their revenue. It’s been an exciting transition for me.”
Wessely continues, “I lead a team of technologists and developers who work on the integration of a variety of ticketing products for customers across a really wide swath of ticketing markets. We have some aquariums and museums, some performing arts organizations, and so forth. We essentially take their data from whatever system they’re in. We make pricing recommendations daily or a couple of times a week depending on the industry. And then we feed those price recommendations, once approved, back into those ticketing systems. I lead the technology arm that makes it all seamless for the customer.”
She acknowledges that, coming out of a global pandemic that is still posing challenges to various live events, has resulted in her and many of her colleagues thinking about what it is they do, who they do it for and what is really important in the world. “We’ve all had more clarity of thought over the last couple of years,” she says. “Everyone wants that end customer, the person walking through the door with ticket in hand, to have a positive experience. When you work in an industry where that is the main goal, then using technology to make that happen seems like a great way to help with that.”
That said, she does have one big hang-up when it comes to her work. Uncertainty! “I don’t like it,” she says. “I read today where Philadelphia is [re-imposing] a citywide indoor mask mandate. So, there is still a huge uncertainty particularly in the live entertainment and performing arts area. But from a technology perspective, it’s strangely invigorating because a lot of our job is to say, ‘OK, our customers are having to pivot quickly. How do we help them do that as easily and seamlessly as possible?’ A challenge is an opportunity.”
Digonex’s solutions utilize leading-edge econometric science that allows clients to optimize their revenues while expanding their addressable market, enhancing community accessibility and realizing greater operational efficiencies. This kind of work brings Wessely into contact with a wide array of people and personalities. Fortunately, she is able to draw on her arts background to be effective.
“The best things I learned about work I learned as a stage manager,” she says. “What was valuable that I learned was being able to interact with a lot of different departments with different jobs and different focuses; working nimbly, but also being able to react to whatever is in front of me; and putting together contingency plans while working with differentiated teams and departments that have all kinds of different needs and communication styles and cultures. The culture of the scene shop is different from the culture of the costume shop, for example. I learned how to ‘meet people where they are.’ It’s helped with my sales calls. If you are talking to a box office manager, it’s a different conversation than with a CFO. It’s not because one is better or worse. It’s because their priorities, focus and expertise are different. Being able to give people information at the level where they’re at has been really valuable.”
Wessely is especially eager to give young women just starting off in the ticketing, technology and live event fields some information on how to have some of the success she’s earned and enjoyed. “One of the biggest things I’ve found is that women have a tendency to censor themselves,” she says. “Too many look at a job description and say, ‘Oh, I don’t check every box so I shouldn’t apply for that.’ To this day, I still find myself taking qualifications out of my emails. Instead of saying ‘just’ and ‘I think,’ I rewrite to become more direct and declarative. Advocate for yourself and your ideas. Apply for that job that you think is a stretch for you. Have a solid salary negotiation. Stretch and try not to make yourself smaller.”
Despite the challenges, Wessely says she is looking to the future with optimism. She feels too many lessons have been learned not to keep what she sees as positive momentum going. “If nothing else,” she says, “we found the resiliency of our communities and each other. Even early in the pandemic, there were viral videos of Italians singing out of their apartment windows and people playing music together online. All of these and more feed our culture and our community. Now more than ever, we need that kind of nourishment for our souls!”
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Tags: Leadership , Women in Ticketing