Women of the HEAT: Carla Pato

Assistant General Manager, AAA
Years at the HEAT: 18.5

What has been your experience as a woman working in professional sports?


First and foremost, I’m grateful for the opportunities and career that I have developed within the HEAT organization and the support I have received. It’s no secret the sports industry has been led predominantly by men in high-level positions. Conversations about the “boys club” was out there, but I was determined and of the mindset if you work hard you will be recognized and earn opportunities regardless of sex. As my father once said, “You must earn and work your way up the ladder.” I’m happy to see more women breaking into the sports industry today and filling in leadership roles.

As the Assistant GM of the building, I imagine the calls and emails never stop. How do you manage a family and an “always-on” career?


It can be challenging at times to find the perfect work-life balance. It is a demanding job with long hours, but I enjoy what I do and it’s important to me that we successfully operate our building and execute games and events. My family is everything to me and, when I’m home, I try to focus on my kids and my husband and periodically check my phone to make sure I didn’t miss any important emails or calls! A lot of multi-tasking!

In your opinion, what role do women play in our much talked about “HEAT Culture?”


I have been with the HEAT organization for 18 ½ years and I’m happy to see more females in leadership positions. My team is predominantly women, not by intention, but because they are qualified and I saw potential in them. The HEAT has provided a platform to empower employees, including females, and they also encourage us to have more uncomfortable conversations with each other to help navigate through challenges. We have many amazing women in our organization and I’m proud to be a part of the HEAT Culture.

A moment in time where you thought, “Wow, I have a cool job.”


Just saying you work for the Miami HEAT is pretty cool! I have a lot of great memories working here at the AmericanAirlines Arena. I remember as an intern shadowing Jarred Diamond (former Event Manager, now Executive Vice President, General Manager) during the Rolling Stones concert and I was like, “Wow! I can’t believe we are behind-the-scenes dealing directly with the artist production to put on their show.” Then, I had the opportunity to be a part of coordinating the arena’s first award show, the Latin GRAMMYs in 2003, followed by the MTV Video Music Awards in 2004 & 2005, which was an incredible experience. Of course, you can’t forget all of our championship runs. Coordinating The Finals and our first Championship Parade was unforgettable. Non-stop, but worth every minute!

What has evolved for you personally as a result of the pandemic within your role?


I was given the opportunity to fill the role as the Health & Hygiene Manager as the NBA required each venue to designate someone to be responsible for coordinating facility planning pursuant to the new health & safety protocols. We have established a Health & Hygiene team that consists of a Health & Hygiene Coordinator, filled by Jamona Hayling, Covid Coordinators and key personnel from other departments. We are continually monitoring our processes and ensuring everyone is adhering to the new protocols, including keeping the building cleaned and disinfected 24/7.

What’s something you’ve done to take care of your mental health this year?


Learning to simplify and not put so much on my plate at home. Spending more time outdoors, boating, playing boardgames with my boys and, every once in a while, getting acupuncture that gives me an hour of peace and quiet to re-balance myself.

Have you had any strong female leaders? If so, how do you think that shaped you?


Absolutely! I started at the HEAT as an intern and my first boss was a female. I appreciated the fact that she didn’t make me feel like just an intern, but rather someone that was truly part of the team and believed in my potential. I think it’s important to make people feel inclusive, valued and important regardless of title. I make it a point to stay involved with our interns and engage with our frontline staff that are boots on the ground. I believe showing others you are willing to jump in the trenches with them goes a long way versus just delegating from afar with little interaction.

Kim Stone, our former EVP, GM is another strong female leader that I look up to as a role model. When she first transitioned into EVP, GM, she spent time to really learn everyone’s roles, responsibilities and pain points so she could make decisions how to better lead the arena and take it to the next level. You need to understand your playing field to better strategize and also be intentional about it, which in turn also helps get the support needed from your peers. She inspired me as a leader and supported me in preparing myself for the next chapter.

How important is it in your role to develop and empower the next generation of women leaders? And what are you doing to make it happen?


Very important! It means a lot to me if I can make a difference for other females and provide them with opportunities to grow and shine. I truly enjoy giving advice to others and I want to see my peers succeed. If they succeed, then I know I’m doing my job. Sometimes you need to pass the mic and give your fellow females opportunities to lead projects, meetings and allow their voice to be heard. Encourage them to openly share their ideas knowing they have your support.

Is it important for you to have knowledge of the music scene and know the game of basketball in order to succeed in your role?


It is important to have general awareness of the music industry and basketball, but more importantly is how you communicate, interact and manage the overall process to successfully run a facility and provide a great experience for our clients, guests, partners and staff.

One piece of advice you’d offer to a woman looking to break into the sports/entertainment world.


Aim high and don’t underestimate yourself. Seek the job you desire and find opportunities to demonstrate you can do extra work, show your ambition and willingness to learn to help you get to the next level.

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