Leadership / 04.06.22
Women MLB Ticketing Professionals Are in a League of Their Own
Major League Baseball’s (MLB’s) Opening Day is April 7. And, with each game, teams will try and field their nine best players and hope for more wins than losses when all is said and done in the fall. One of the reasons to celebrate the return of the national pastime is the strides the MLB has made in increasing diversity in its front offices and executive ranks, especially with regards to women. We’ve assembled our own roster of nine all-star female professionals from all over the league to talk about the successes and challenges they’ve had and the strides that still need to be made.
Among them is Sheena Quinn, Senior Director of Public Relations for the Chicago White Sox. “Today, we are seeing the league and teams name women, who are individuals at the top of their game, to high-profile positions,” she says. “That’s an important step. Representation at the highest places of the game are critical to normalizing seeing any individual — male or female, of every background — throughout the playing field and in the front office. I’m grateful to the women before me whose journeys have made the work we do today possible and less challenging, as well as the women in the game with the spotlight on them all the time who are proving that we all belong in the game.”
Everyone interviewed for this article concurred that the game is stronger when there are more voices and perspectives at the table. MLB has developed fellowship programs to incorporate more women and diversity into the sport. It’s held a number of other events to help those reach their full potential.
Caroline Bernardi, Manager of Business Analytics for the Oakland Athletics, has been among the beneficiaries. “This year,” she says, “I had the good fortune to participate in MLB's Katy Feeney Leadership Symposium for women in baseball. It was a wonderful program where I got to connect with other female leaders in baseball and learn how to be a champion for inclusivity in the workplace. The fact that the league puts resources into programs like this shows its dedication to supporting women in the sport.”
Individual teams are also taking steps to improve diversity in the front office and in other decision-making roles. Jessica Lee, Senior Manager of Ticket and Financial Operations for the Atlanta Braves, says, “In terms of career support, with the Braves in particular, I see it with our Women in Baseball group as well as our involvement in WISE [Women in Sports and Entertainment]. Also, our Women in Baseball ERG has done an outstanding job of celebrating all of the amazing women in our organization and giving us a space to voice any concerns or struggles we may be having.”
Margo Malone, Senior Manager of Season Ticket Memberships and Special Projects for the San Francisco Giants, was equally complimentary of her team. “The Giants have certainly led the way, starting with the hire of Alyssa Nakken as the first female coach in the major leagues,” she says. “I’m a member of Momentum, an employee resource group that plays an instrumental role in empowering the women of the Giants front office. In my opinion, there’s an increasing awareness throughout Major League Baseball that women can excel in any role given the opportunity. As a long-tenured woman of color, my goal is to continue to be a mentor and open doors for others who are underrepresented.”
Meanwhile, the Washington Nationals’ Lori M. Murphy took the time to praise a team that is not her own — the Miami Marlins — for the hiring of Kim Ng in November 2020 as the first female Asian-American General Manager in MLB history. The Nats’ Assistant Ticket Manager says, “Witnessing the first Asian-American woman become a GM for an MLB team has shown so much growth. I am watching the future unfold and seeing more women in these prominent roles. It shows that the future is female, and we have a seat at the table!”
For the Love of the Game
All the interviewees expressed a deep love of the game that has served them well in their careers. They also expressed a lot of love for the work they do, day in and day out.
As Ticket Operations Manager for the Oakland Athletics, Allie Guido oversees the day-to-day operations of the ticketing department for both spring training and the regular season to ensure all processes are set up efficiently and operating at organizational standards. This requires her to have much contact with all team departments. “I enjoy being able to work and collaborate with every department,” she says. “While I primarily work with the ticket sales and membership services teams, I do still get to work with corporate partnerships to fulfill their contracts, community on all their initiatives, work with finance on settlements and much more.”
Bernardi, her colleague with the A’s, adds, “From a technical perspective, I love the satisfaction of solving a challenging problem … whether it’s getting your code to work properly or figuring out how to visualize something new in Tableau. I also love how collaborative the industry is, as a whole. I’ve had so many opportunities to network with business analytics professionals at other baseball teams and sports in general, and I truly value those connections.”
Other interviewees noted the personal side benefits of the work they do, especially when they’re able to take a breath and recognize how fortunate they are to be doing work that so many others would love to do. Elizabeth “Liz” Milla, Manager of Financial Reporting and Analysis for the Chicago White Sox, says, “The best feeling is to stand on the concourse when there is a sell-out crowd knowing I played a small part in that achievement. Then we figure out how to do it again tomorrow. I love that challenge.”
Murphy was equally reflective: “I get to watch memories being made as they happen. I see families and friends come to the ballpark and have a great time. I see parents teach their children how to score games, creating memories that will last for a lifetime.”
Jessica “Jess” Brown, Senior Director of Ticket Services and Technology for the Milwaukee Brewers, agrees. “I also love going out into the stadium on games or events, and just watching all of our fans enjoy our ballpark,” she says. “And knowing somehow you played some small role in getting people here and having an enjoyable experience.”
The love for both the game and the work extends down to the Minor Leagues, too. Siobhan Steiermann, Vice President of Ticket Operations for the Las Vegas Aviators, credits her staff for a lot of her success. “I have a team of strong women who embodies ‘teamwork makes the dream work.’ Every day is an adventure that’s full of laughs, smiles, and sometimes tears,” she says. “I couldn’t do what I do without them. They are creative, hardworking and always willing to try new things. They are the real MVP of the team.”
Put Me in Coach
Most of the nine interviewees said they had some great mentors along the way as they rose to their dream jobs. The advice they received as younger professionals has really stayed top of mind as they’ve built a career in ticketing professional baseball.
“Early in my career,” Malone says, “I was very fortunate to be surrounded by a host of allies and mentors who gave me the courage to believe in my abilities. From Marlins CFO Jonathan Mariner to GM Dave Dombrowski, the message they imparted was that I need to put my career goals in writing and check my progress on a regular basis. Also, it’s important to be able to pivot and adjust as needed. When I relocated from Florida to California, my hope was to continue working in media relations. But the only available opportunity at the Giants was in ticket sales and services. So, here I am 23 years later!”
Steiermann still takes inspiration from an early stint not in sports, but entertainment. “During my time at Cirque du Soleil, my manager said to me, ‘Don’t say, I don’t know.’ Take this opportunity to learn. If you are unsure of the answer, find out. Ask questions. If someone is asking you questions, take this moment to show them where they can find the information or teach them a new skill,” she says.
Lee of the Braves, meanwhile, says the best advice she ever got was when she was an intern. She actually considers it bad advice, but it has really stuck with her. “I was told, ‘Say yes to everything.’ From one aspect, I can understand giving an intern that advice. But I also firmly believe that it comes with limitations. Don’t say ‘yes’ to everything unless you can successfully complete everything. I was so overloaded and afraid to say ‘no’ to projects that it affected the quality of my work and my mental health. It was at a time before mental health was really talked about it. And it wasn’t until the last couple of years that I realized that was what it was.”
The Next Rookie of the Year
Finally, many of the nine women were eager to give advice to young female professionals just starting out and hoping to achieve some of the success they’ve had in Major League Baseball. Some were simple but very important nuggets of wisdom ranging from “Join INTIX. INTIX is an important part of working in ticketing” (Murphy) to “Don’t be afraid to take a starting position that may not be your ‘perfect job’ when you start out” (Brown) to “Lead with authenticity. Don’t try to be a man just because it’s a male-dominated industry” (Bernardi).
Guido also spoke of the importance of keeping one’s identity and staying true to yourself. “Don’t be afraid to be the only female in the room,” she says. “If you’re there, there's a reason. Own it! Make sure your voice is heard. If you’re in that room, they want to hear your voice.”
Nearly all of the interviewees stressed the value of seeking out mentors and developing a network of contacts. None more so than Milla of the White Sox: “Your network will be essential to you as your career and personal life develops.”
Quinn, meanwhile, spoke of the realities of baseball being a much longer season than other pro sports. She says, “Baseball is a challenge; 162 games is not for the faint of heart, and you really have to love it. It’s not easy, but it can be truly rewarding. There are certain times when the work can be challenging, but it’s important to be present. I hope by the time my daughter is in the job market, seeing women throughout sports will not be news. It will just be normal.”
Perhaps Steiermann summed it up best when she said, “My biggest piece of advice? Don’t let anyone talk you out of your dreams!”
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Tags: Sports , Leadership , Women in Ticketing