Leadership / 01.02.24
Liz Baqir: Never a Boring Moment for This Associate Director of Ticketing Services
This story is brought to you by the INTIX Women in Entertainment Technology Program.
Liz Baqir currently serves as Associate Director of Ticketing Services at Cal Performances, the performing arts presenting, commissioning and producing organization based at the University of California, Berkeley. When asked what her favorite part of her job is, she rather quickly and enthusiastically replied: “It’s never, ever boring! There are constantly new challenges, new trends in customer service, new technology, new shows. No two days are ever the same. I find everything about ticketing fascinating, and it’s constantly changing!”
As Associate Director of Ticketing Services, she works closely with marketing, development and production to strategically align ticketing services with the organization’s goals and priorities. She counts herself fortunate to have a top-notch team of assistants who handle most of the day-to-day ticketing operations. “That allows me to focus on the big picture, season planning and audience development initiatives,” she says.
Like so many INTIX members, Baqir didn’t intend to have a career in ticketing. During her undergraduate days at the University of Maryland College Park, she was a house manager and a stage manager. She worked just one semester in the ticket office. Stage management was her chosen path. But the only regional theatre job she was able to land out of college was in the ticket office at Arena Stage in Washington, D.C., working for Jena Hoffman.
“It all just clicked!” she says. “Within a few months I had been promoted, and I’ve been hanging out in the box office ever since. After a few years at Arena, I went back to manage the theatre box office at College Park for seven years until I moved to California.”
She spent one year at BASS Tickets, and then got her current position at Cal Performances at UC Berkeley in 2000. She says, “I have also managed the box office for a legendary local music club, Sweetwater Music Hall, since 2012. In addition, I work multiple music festivals for a few different promoters. Yes, I spend all my vacation time working other jobs, because I love ticketing so much! I feel so incredibly fortunate to have found this path.”
And while the work is never boring, it is still a challenging career week in and week out. “There’s no down time,” she says. “I am constantly challenged to think outside of the box, and it can be exhausting. There are times I get overwhelmed trying to keep up with it all. Fortunately, I love what I do, and I have my INTIX colleagues to reach out to when I think I can’t handle it anymore. INTIX and our regional group, BAPTA [the Bay Area Professional Ticketing Association], are such valuable resources when my patience and/or creativity is being put to the test.”
She was also fortunate to have the aforementioned Jena Hoffman, a past Patricia G. Spira Lifetime Achievement Award recipient, as an early mentor. “She taught me so much about advocating for myself and my staff. Jena taught me from the beginning to ‘take care of my people.’ From that foundation, I have grown into the leader I am now. Our staff is our most precious and valuable resource, and no one outside of the box office understands why what we do is so incredibly difficult at times. So, it’s imperative as a team leader that you recognize, reward and fight for your staff when needed.”
In turn, Baqir always tries to stay accessible to her staff whenever they need advice or counsel on ticketing matters and career issues. She especially loves imparting her wisdom to young women just starting out in the ticketing/live event business. “Be fearless and do what you love,” she says. “And, by that, I mean don’t be afraid to be your authentic self, don’t be afraid to speak out and speak up, don’t be afraid to ask questions and make mistakes, don’t be afraid to ask for help or admit when you’re wrong, and don’t be afraid to challenge the status quo. Find the place in the industry where you feel the most intrigued, the most passionate, the most compelled to learn more, and embrace it with everything you’ve got. It’s a tough industry but 100% worth it!”
And along the way, you might just gain some unique experiences that make for great cocktail party stories and anecdotes. Baqir loves sharing the story about the time she worked a Prince concert in Oakland. She spent a good deal of time trying to assist a patron who insisted that he was on Prince’s guest list and had been corresponding with the artist himself. “He was saying all the right things, so I was being very thorough in my investigation,” she says. “I had checked every possible option and was just about to call the tour manager when the guest revealed that said ‘correspondence’ with Prince had been taking place psychically … through his ‘third eye!’ Needless to say, he was then gently turned away.”
Stories like that are great for chuckles, and Baqir looks forward to compiling more of them. And she especially looks forward to 2024 and all that her work will bring her. She says, “I feel like 2023 started off as another year of recovery as we all tried to come back from the pandemic losses. But it’s beginning to feel a lot like we’re back in full force, and our houses are full once again. I have high hopes in 2024 for our industry!”
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Tags: Leadership , Women in Ticketing