Best career or work advice you ever received?
One piece of advice that’s always stuck with me is, “Excel in your current role, for that will lead to your next job. Don’t spend so much time searching for what’s next that you lose sight of what is in front of you.” I try to emulate this every day – understanding that no job is too big or too small. I also have proof that if you’re invested in your current role, it will lead to other opportunities. I was running the NCAA Women’s Basketball Championship first and second rounds on campus, when I was noticed by another school and later offered my first Director of Operations opportunity at that university.
First event, person, or job that sparked your interest in this field of work.
As an undergraduate student at Carolina, I was a manager for the women’s basketball team during a period where we experienced a lot of success. While sports are a large part of who I am, I think it was the first time I realized it might be a possible avenue to a career. However, I still had a limited view on how this could be realized, as I was primarily exposed to the coaching profession. I was fortunate to be accepted into the Exercise and Sport Science Sport Administration Master’s Program where I was introduced to a much broader industry. It was really during this two-year program where I truly understood the inner workings of an athletic department and the areas I found most interesting. I knew it would be imperative that I combine my passion with my skill set, which lead me to Operations and Student-Athlete Development.
If you could go back to your first day on the job and give yourself one piece of advice, what would it be?
The first day, or weeks for that matter, were a bit of a whirlwind due to timing and a new role. I ended one job on Friday, moved physical locations over the weekend and began at Carolina on Monday. Additionally, I relocated while the season was already underway, so a quick learning curve was required. I hit the ground running for this newly created role, so I was also learning to navigate that part of my job. So, with this snapshot of my first day, my advice to self “be patient”. I think when you embark on a new journey, you want to make an immediate impact, demonstrate your work ethic and connect with people. It’s also important to be patient with yourself and others. To build relationships, to learn a new athletic department/team and determine the culture of the program will take time. This is all a part of the process and journey, so be tolerant with yourself during the first few weeks and months. Eventually, I began to see the things I could do immediately to enhance productivity and understand other necessary components of my job. I had fresh ideas but knew they weren’t urgent, so I kept a notebook of observations throughout the season. I evaluated and prioritized after the season, and in my second year I find myself able to implement some of the top priorities.
As you look at the athletic operations field, what is one area that is growing/changing the most?
As the social media landscape has changed, I think we’ve seen a change in two major areas. The first, and most obvious change, has been the increased branding, insight and attention required to progress a program through social media platforms. There is greater demand for creative content design, including videography, photography and graphic design. Head coaches must be proactive in addressing these areas on staff. It’s a skill I encourage for any younger professionals looking to get into collegiate athletics. Additionally, as a result of social media and changes in NCAA legislation, there is a desire to add a position similar to mine. There is a correlation between social media and the increase of mental health issues because of the filtered portrayal of reality. I think we are all impacted, in some way, by social media, so it’s important to be tuned into that with our student-athletes.
What is the most creative or innovative thing you’ve had to do to address a specific incident or situation?
There are two incidents that come to mind when I think about the most unusual or unexpected thing that has happened in my role as Director of Operations. Both of these are things I wouldn’t have learned in the classroom but was prepared to handle with common sense, a calm demeanor and trusting my instincts. The first occurred when half of a post-game meal order did not arrive after a conference game. With no time to retrieve the remaining items, due to a scheduled flight, I called a local pizza company en route to the airport and asked they deliver to the runway! It was a treat for the players and a crisis adverted with quick thinking.
The second incident happened when planning a foreign tour for our team to Italy. The number of international student-athletes required documentation for travel that posed many challenges. While also addressing the needs of the domestic student-athletes, I was also required to travel to Miami and New York City with a few students to obtain proper documentation in advance of our travel to Europe.