Leadership / 04.07.21
Lori Murphy: Capitalizing on Opportunities in the Nation’s Capital
This story is brought to you by the INTIX Women in Entertainment Technology Program.
When you talk to enough ticketing professionals, you find they have a wide array of things they love about their jobs. Some love the transactional side of things: making sales, hitting target numbers, achieving capacity crowds. Others love the customer service side: helping people get the best seats possible for a game or concert they’ve been looking forward to for a long time.
Lori Murphy of the Washington Nationals loves the pure end result. “I enjoy watching people watch the game,” she says. “I love seeing a full park, excited fans — watching people make new memories with their friends and family, and seeing the joy on their faces. I had a dear friend say that it’s about happy memories. I think my part of this job is helping people make happy memories.”
The job she speaks of is Assistant Ticket Manager. In that position, her primary duties are setting up concerts and suites for each Major League Baseball season. It’s a job that has changed considerably in this last year as pro sports and the world have had to deal with the pandemic.
“In 2020, we were just weeks out from opening day and ready to raise the championship banner — only for it to come to a full stop,” she says. “We started working from home, which became a new normal. I was able to go to the office a couple of times a month. Seeing how empty and quiet the ballpark was reminded me how serious this pandemic is. The biggest change and adjustment has been going from an office of nine where there was constant communication to working at home where the main communication is now done over Slack and Zoom calls.”
There have been some positives. Over the last year, for instance, Murphy says she has gained a better grasp of work-life balance. But she also concedes that working from home has been difficult from a psychological standpoint. “I’ve been battling with my mental health for a while,” she says, “and working from home has been a struggle, as I’m sure it has been for others. There were times over last summer that the stress of refunds, lack of a normal day and even the lack of baseball games made it challenging.”
So, it comes as no surprise that she is more than excited that baseball is back. “I’m happy to see fans in the stands, and I am hopeful that we can do it in a way that will keep me and my office mates safe and continue to provide a great experience for our fans,” she says. “Learning how to adjust from 42,000 fans for a game to now a maximum of 5,000 fans is going to be different, yet we’ll manage.”
It’s been especially tough to manage in the early going with the Nationals having to endure a COVID-19 outbreak — prior to opening day, four players tested positive, and seven others were placed in quarantine after being considered “close contacts.” The start of the season was delayed nearly a week. “So, again,” Murphy says, “we are starting the season pivoting from what we thought was going to be a joyous celebration of our 2019 World Series Championship with 5,000 of our fans.”
Lori Murphy sold her first ticket to a fan while working at Hammons Student Center while attending Southwest Missouri State University, now Missouri State University. She graduated with a bachelor’s degree in interior design, then moved to Kentucky to work as an intern at Western Kentucky University’s Athletic Ticket Office. After her internship, she went to the University of Connecticut to pursue a master’s degree in sports management.
“While at UConn, I worked in the Athletic Ticket Office as a graduate assistant,” she says. “It was while I was there that the men’s basketball team went on to play and win the NCAA National Championship. That was an experience I’ll never forget. During the 1999-2000 season, I traveled with the women’s basketball team. It was the ride of a lifetime. Being a part of that team the year they went 36-1 and won the National Championship was, at that point, the highlight of my career.”
After graduate school, she was given the opportunity to work for the WNBA’s Charlotte Sting, then the NBA’s Charlotte Hornets. There, she was able to cut her teeth in professional sports. She attended her first INTIX Conference in Atlanta in 2002 and soon hooked on with the Washington Capitals. In 2007, she joined the Nationals full time.
Along the way, Murphy received several tidbits of wisdom that have stayed with her to this day. Her friend and colleague, Julie Lovins of the Chicago Blackhawks, advised her “not to show too much emotion or even acknowledge the low blows.” Her former Nationals boss, Stacey Lesanto, told her, “never to underestimate myself or think that I’m not qualified for a new role or job,” she says. She admits that is something she is still working on today.
Murphy adds, “Although this isn’t a piece of advice, more of a quote, another dear friend and former colleague of mine, Michael Thompson, said once in an interview, ‘Working in sports is sexy!’”
Murphy has found herself sarcastically saying those five words to colleagues and co-workers whenever they are doing some menial tasks that need to be done, such as counting parking spaces, zip-tying seats or anything of that nature. It’s her way of keeping everyone’s spirits up, while reminding them how lucky they are. “Everyone thinks working in sports is fun and exciting,” she says, “and it is. However, there are many times when you’re moving promo items, working late into the night setting up computers and [so forth, and] you think, ‘This isn’t the side that people see!’ The public sees the finished product, not the setup.”
Murphy is also aware of the challenges and responsibility she has working in a male-majority field. For other INTIX members reading this who are in similar circumstances, she says, “Understand you are working in a man’s field. Find yourself a female mentor and learn as much from [her] as possible. As Julie said, ‘Keep your emotions in check.’ That is really important. Ask questions, learn as much as you can and don’t be afraid to do the less ‘sexy’ tasks!”
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Tags: Leadership , Women in Ticketing