Leadership / 09.21.22
Women NFL Ticketing Professionals Go to Overtime and Emerge Victorious
We are less than a month into the National Football League’s (NFL’s) regular season, and several things are already clear. The Buffalo Bills are legitimate Super Bowl contenders. Josh Allen and Patrick Mahomes will be jockeying for MVP from now through New Year’s. And women have made great strides in ticketing throughout the league.
The Longest Yard
Progress, of course, has been years in the making. But now that there is serious momentum, the entire league is benefiting. Michele Spadavecchia, Director of Ticket Operations for the New York Jets, says, “When I first started, there were about 20 women working at the Jets. Fast forward to 2022, we have tripled that number if not more. I think the women we have in our office have a ton of experience working or playing sports prior to joining us. This experience puts [them] in a better spot when it comes to working with other people or other departments.”
Staying in the Big Apple market, Amy Matlins, the New York Giants’ Director of Ticketing, has worked in the NFL for 20 years. She says, “I can honestly say there are more women and minorities in decision-making positions today than ever before. I don’t think when I first started there was one woman as Director of Ticketing. And look at us now!”
So, what do the ticketing professionals interviewed for this feature attribute to the rising representation? Clearly, diversity, equity and inclusion (DEI) initiatives have been a focus area of not just the league, but the individual teams for the last few years.
Laini Delawter, Vice President of Ticket and Fan Services for the Philadelphia Eagles, says, “The NFL has really focused on offering opportunities for women to create contacts within the NFL by hosting Women’s Career Forums. It has opened doors for women on the football side that were previously closed. Seeing a female referee during the 2022 NFL season opener made me so proud to be part of this league.”
Qiava Martinez, the Las Vegas Raiders’ Senior Vice President, Interim Chief Sales Officer, further notes that in early 2022, the NFL announced new changes to the Rooney Rule that expanded the rule to include women as part of the external minority candidate interview pool.
Established in 2003, the Rooney Rule now stipulates that all 32 teams must interview at least two women and/or persons of color when seeking to fill prominent positions to comply with the policy. “Even though this is a great move, we still have an opportunity for improvement to see more women and people of color in high level positions,” she says. “That said, I would like to take a moment to brag about my organization, the Raiders. Early this year, Sandra Morgan was hired as our Team President, becoming the first African-American female to hold this position within the NFL. What a great example for young girls and boys to know that dreams are possible!”
The Highlight Reel
All of the women interviewed for this article have a favorite play … er, part of their job that they wanted to tout. For Spadavecchia: “Working game days, especially opening day, is always a big favorite of mine. All the work I have done the last six months from invoicing, schedule release, account manager set-up, mobile ticketing set-up, ticket orders and putting together our game-day staff … once gates open and the scan count starts, it’s great to be a part of that.”
Delawter also spoke of the energy of the arriving crowds each game day, noting that the best part of working in the NFL “is seeing the positive impact it has on our fans and our communities. Sports stirs emotions. The fact that we can play a part in creating those emotions is inspiring.”
Deb Cummins, the Buffalo Bills’ Ticket Systems Director, says, “I have the opportunity not only to work for the NFL, but with various other areas of the ticketing industry, working and interacting with amazing people. It is great being part of this unique ‘family.’”
For her part, Matlins loves that her job combines a lot of different skills. She describes it as “one part accounting, one part customer service, one part event planning, one part problem solving and probably more that I’m not thinking of. Every day is unique and there is always something new that challenges me.”
Martinez was also all about the work: “Building on client and employee relationships is the favorite part of my job. Client relationships are the lifeblood of any organization. Creating a balance in which the customer receives continued business value as well as the sense of being a part of the organization is an important factor for business. Providing the best hospitality programs and guest experience from the time the ticket is purchased to the day of the event by creating memorable moments for all customers is key. I love seeing my team work together to enhance each client’s experience.”
The Game Plan
The various interviewees also credited some coaches and mentors along the way, who taught them the X’s and O’s of the job and how to execute. One of the best pieces of advice Delawter was given had to do with making connections: “Never miss the opportunity to get to know someone working around you. Everyone in the organization — from the security to the cafeteria staff to the team president — plays an integral part in making the team successful. You can learn something from all of them.”
Martinez, meanwhile, returns often to the wisdom of best-selling author, spiritual writer and life coach Lalah Delia. Her favorite nugget of truth? “She remembered who she was and the game changed.” Meaning? “Always remember who you are and never conform!”
For Matlins, it was her father who gave her a key piece of counsel early on. “I’ve tried to emulate the leadership styles and work ethic of those I’ve had the good fortune to work for and with,” she says. “But the thing that has always stuck with me is something my dad used to say, ‘Every day is a good day. Some are just better than others.”
Spadavecchia touted the virtue of “hanging in there.” She says, “Learn and be knowledgeable as much as you can in your field. You never know when an opportunity will pop up.”
The Next Rookie of the Year
Finally, many of the interviewees were eager to give advice to young female professionals just starting out and hoping to achieve some of the success they’ve had in the NFL. Some were simple but very important nuggets of wisdom ranging from “Always stay true to yourself, but be willing to accept change and step out of your comfort zone” (Cummins) to “Always ask questions about internships with NFL teams or working game days for an NFL team” (Spadavecchia).
Matlins offered up a strong dose of reality, saying, “Ticketing isn’t glamorous. It’s a lot of thankless hours. People always complain when something goes wrong because there is an expectation that everything will go right. It only goes right because of the work you put in. It’s not a career to enter into if you expect a limelight, but it can be the most rewarding job if you take pride in the work you do. And if you are like me, you will be lucky enough to share long hours with some of the greatest people in the world and have a ton of fun while you are doing it!”
Delawter opted to give her advice to young female and male ticketing pros equally: “Be the go-to person. If there’s an opportunity to do something, do it. Don’t wait for someone to come and invite you to help out. Help out without being asked! And say ‘Yes’ to everything, even if you think it’s outside your lane. You have to make a lot of sacrifices to work in the NFL, so make sure you love what you do.”
Finally, Martinez noted that there are three things one can do when initially denied opportunities. The first is build your network. The second is work on your craft. And the third is “get off the wall of comfortability. Step forward into your destiny. It is no longer time to allow peoples’ negative thoughts of you to define your potential. If we give power to the negative thoughts, we allow our path to greatness to change … We were all created with a design and purpose. Your life blueprint is only unique to who you are. That’s a wonderful thing! Once you realize your uniqueness, use it to your full potential. Never look to be like the next person. No one is you. That’s very special.”
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Tags: Leadership , Women in Ticketing