Women of the HEAT: Shanon Irish
Senior Producer for "Inside the HEAT"
Years at the HEAT: 14
What has been your experience as a woman working in professional sports?
Although it is challenging to be a woman in professional sports, my experience has been a positive one. Out of college, I worked at ESPN for two years, but the majority of my professional career has been with the HEAT. In this organization, I have had the pleasure to work alongside many talented people and I have been respected, have grown as a leader and can really shine in my role. I love telling stories and finding different ways to be creative and that has been nurtured and cultivated from my leadership that have groomed me over the years.
As a producer, how do you always keep things fresh and creative?
I am lucky enough to have an incredible team of producers that brings new ideas to the table all the time. Our goal is to be better with every new episode and we all push each other to think of different ways to tell the stories. We have adapted (especially during this time) and really support each other as a team, understanding that our goal is to produce the best shows for our players and the fans. We really work great together, and we are never satisfied and always looking at new ways to be creative. I am honored to work with them daily.
In your opinion, what role do women play in our much talked about “HEAT Culture?”
We are essential to the HEAT culture. In my opinion, the Inside the HEAT staff is the hardest working, best conditioned, most professional, unselfish, toughest, meanest, nastiest PRODUCTION team in the NBA! Might I mention that we are an almost entirely all-female run crew!
What has evolved for you personally as a result of the pandemic within your role?
The biggest thing that has evolved for me personally is finding creative ways to communicate to others and to stay in contact. In the past, being in the office all together, I would rely heavily on face-to-face communication or emails but, now that things look different, that has had to change. Teams, Zoom, Facetime, phone calls, text messages, voice notes and video recordings are now all a huge part of getting our job done and they have all become a part of my communication package. Even though we aren’t face-to-face, I think my staff does an incredible job of keeping an open line of communication with each other and we address issues, questions, and thoughts as they pop up. In a way, not being around each other has made me a better communicator because it is forcing me to think differently about it.
What’s something you’ve done to take care of your mental health this year?
During this past year, I have taken care of my mental health by focusing on daily exercise, keeping in touch with my family, and continuing to focus on my faith. I've been doing at home workouts, yoga, and walk my 7-month-old puppy three times a day (Yes, I got a pandemic puppy)! My family keeps me grounded so I keep in touch and see them (safely) as often as possible. And although attending church looks a little different, I've been virtually keeping up with my faith and always make sure that God is the central focus in my life. These things have seemed to help me the most when it comes to being mentally strong during this challenging time.
A moment in time where you thought, "Wow, I have a cool job."
This is a tough question as I have had so many of these moments with my job. I've been fortunate enough to travel to multiple players hometowns, All-Star games, team road trips, and Hall of Fame ceremonies in the past 14 years. But I will have to say, traveling with the team to China in 2012 for our pre-season games in Beijing and Shanghai was my most memorable "wow" moment. As we climbed the Great Wall and I experienced that for the first time with some of the players who were also experiencing that for the first time, I had to pinch myself that this was my job. Seeing our team have a huge international presence and experiencing Dwyane Wade launch his Li-Ning empire while on that trip was all very special to me. Then being able to put a show together from that trip and bring it to our fans was the cherry on top and something I will never forget.
Have you had any strong female leaders? If so, how do you think that shaped you?
I have been blessed to have some very strong female leaders in my life. First and foremost, my Mom, Debbie, always has been and always will be the strongest woman I know. She has always fostered my dreams and has encouraged me to never give up on them. Her example of hard work, dedication, and strength in her job is how I make sure to carry myself in my career daily. Secondly is my older sister, Jessica, who is a mini version of my Mom and has helped shaped me in so many ways. The way she has faced adversity in her life and continues to thrive is such an inspiration to me. She is an incredible boss and manages a big team so I often turn to her when I need advice in that area. Lastly is my former dance teacher and friend, Colleen. She was my first mentor and first boss as I worked for her for four years and she taught me how to have a tough skin while still being myself in my job. She taught me to be humble and open to critiques and changes and that has helped me tremendously in my career. Being in a creative job, everyone can feel differently about your work so understanding how to be open to that and to listen to other opinions while not taking it personally has been really important for me.
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?
For me, this is critical and a huge emphasis at this stage in my career. As mentioned before, my staff is nearly all female, so building them up and being a part of their growth to become strong leaders is essential. We need more female leaders, especially in the sports industry, so making sure they have the tools and confidence in this area is of utmost importance. In order to make that happen, I have made sure to lead by example showing them that no job or task is above me and have stressed the importance of communication. I try to provide opportunities for them to lead the team and have been with them along the journey every step of the way. By creating experiences where they have an opportunity to lead, but knowing that they can lean on me for support and feedback, has seemed to work well and I can only hope to continue to do that. I also want them to know they can be themselves and be leaders in different ways and that it doesn’t always look the same for everyone.
For your job, how important is it for you to know the game of basketball, or even be a fan?
It is extremely important. We have to incorporate player stats, big plays, trends, and moments into our shows. We must watch the games and we must understand the basics of basketball, especially for the end of the season when we produce a recap show highlighting the season as a whole. The Inside the HEAT staff has created an archive of the team over the years and that cannot be done without understanding the game. It is also easy to be a fan of this organization and team because their success on the court directly reflects our success. I have also found that while creating our shows and learning about our players, where they come from and talking to their family members, it is easy to become a fan of them personally.
One piece of advice you’d offer to a woman looking to break into the sports/entertainment world.
My advice would be to understand that even though it may be challenging to be a woman in the sports world, there are some wonderful places to work at that embrace diversity and where your voice can be heard. Don't settle for less and find that fit that allows you and your knowledge of the game and your craft to shine.
Check out some amazing Inside the HEAT videos created by Shanon and her team here!