Women of the HEAT: Staci Golden
Manager, Loyalty Program & Rewards
Years at the HEAT: 7.5
What has been your experience as a woman working in professional sports?
Well, where do I begin…? My first experience as a woman in sports was in the NHL where I had to skate to work (uphill both ways) just to prove myself as a woman working in hockey. It was tough, because I had absolutely no idea how to skate, but I learned! (KIDDING - I still have no idea how to skate!)
Seriously, it has been an incredible experience. In the beginning, fresh out of college, I was extremely intimidated and unsure if I made the right career choice. My first job felt like a Muhammad Ali flurry of information coming at me from Rocky Marciano. Like, angles, but it was worth it. I certainly learned a ton about navigating a male-dominated industry as a woman in sports.
It was comforting to see other hardworking women play impactful roles at each level – even in hockey! And yes, although hockey in sunny South Florida seems different, but cool, it allowed me to connect with many other women in sports. One in particular, developed into a “professionally circular kinship” (I’ll explain about that later). A few years later, I transitioned into the NFL and was fortunate enough to experience a Super Bowl, a GATOR-dominating BCS National Championship, five Orange Bowls and an onstage seat at the Black Eyed Peas last concert featuring Queen Latifah. Shortly after that experience, my path led me into the MLS for a stint and more great days in sports, and soon I had the pleasure of joining the amazing NBA where the number of surreal experiences is too many to count, but the greatest day will be explained in a later question.
Four great leagues, 14 exhilarating years and, overall, it has been great! Of course, each stop along the way has offered its challenges but, like Fredrick Douglas so famously said in 1857, “If there is no struggle, there is no progress.” The progress and wins have certainly outweighed the struggle.
Your role involves a ton of relationship building skills. How have you been able to create and maintain a family atmosphere within our membership program?
Are you asking me how the best organization in the NBA builds relationships and maintains a family atmosphere? Simply put, we do it together. “Not one of us is as great as all of us” – Babe Ruth. I don’t do it alone. I can’t. My role is similar to a musician in a symphony (sorry, I love music) and, like any great concerto, when everyone plays in harmony, the listeners don’t only feel the emotion of your hard work, they get involved!
Family is extremely important to me. It’s the center of my world. When it comes to the Miami HEAT, the members are the center of the Miami HEAT Family. Our members are extremely important to us and our day in, day out goal is to ensure that they know how important they are and that they consider us family as well. It’s not just a membership, they are a part of something greater. The players are the heart and the members are the blood that flows throughout the organization. Creating and maintaining a “family first” atmosphere takes consistent attention and relationship-building. However, it’s relatively easy when we apply our innate abilities to love and be a family. We listen, tailor our solutions and personalize each experience. We experience the emotional journey at each tip-off, shot, steal, rebound, loss and victory, and we do it together. Our members are simply the best and, over the years, I’ve cultivated some incredible relationships. Thank you, HEAT Family! The best fans in the NBA.
In your opinion, what role do women play in our much talked about “HEAT Culture?”
Every time I read the word “culture,” my mind paints a portrait that includes an abundance of happy people from all ages, genders and skin tones. That is exactly what the HEAT Culture is all about! And, like any culture, woman play just as essential a role as anyone else. We bring insightful ideas and creative solutions that contribute significantly to the organization and help catapult the agenda forward just as far as our male colleagues do. However, we do seem to fill each room with a little bit more style and laugher than if it would be if we weren’t there!
What has evolved for you personally as a result of the pandemic within your role?
It was tough in the beginning due to the uncertainly of it all. I tried to think of any and all things to distract me enough to be productive. Although the health and safety of everyone around the globe was weighting heavy on my heart, I surprisingly figured out a way to actually be more productive than ever before. The pandemic has forced us to work remotely and this shift has allowed me to lead from afar. Having to pivot in this way helped sharpen that skill a great deal, unlocked a new level of progress and has improved me overall as a leader. Within the Membership Department, we had to learn how to use technology more and engage virtually with our members. Having no in-person basketball games, events or player meet and greets prompted a new challenge for us to engage with the HEAT Family, however, we did it with an energy from screen-to-screen that helped us build relationships even more. The pandemic was certainly a sensitive topic that we were very careful about, but we were able to bond together even more as a result of it and my role placed me front and center of our proactive messaging. This enabled us to creatively relaunch our HEAT Rewards program where we surpassed our year one goals and provided virtual membership experiences that allowed us to be that much needed outlet.
What’s something you’ve done to take care of your mental health this year?
Music, music and more MUSIC! In the words of the O’ Jays, “I love music, any kind of music, just as long as it’s grooving.” The pandemic has been challenging for everyone. Music has always been my therapy and my escape, so why not lean on the primary outlet of my life? My favorite artist is Mr. Stevie Wonder. Stevie always fills my mental space in cinematic fashion and, without fail, I get an undesirable urge to dance! You know how it is. It starts with the feet and, by the time everything gets to the shoulders, the mind is happy and healthy. At least for four minutes and 30 seconds! The best way I extend that joy is to listen to the entire album, back-to-back-to-back. And when I’m not in Stevie’s Musiquarium or listening to my other favorite tunes, I talk to my daughter, family and close friends about it all. Just knowing that they are there and that my feelings are not alone helps me get through in a MAJOR way. My daughter and I dedicated evening time to understanding the evolving pandemic as well as the musical journey of some of our favorite artists. We even discovered a few new ones! I actually continued to build my vinyl collection (lots of online sales going on out there last year – lol) and I brushed up on my two-step. At this point, NO ONE in the HEAT Family has a better around-the-house-two-step than me! Any challengers? Cue Janet Jackson’s Rhythm Nation.
A moment in time where you thought, “Wow, I have a cool job.”
So many! But if I had to choose one, my best “Wow, I have a cool job” moment may be different from what you may imagine.
I joined the HEAT in August 2013, right after the team defeated the San Antonio Spurs to secure a third NBA title. Yes, THAT one. The Ray Allen (a.k.a. Jesus Shuttlesworth) splashed the most beautiful shot I’ve ever seen in my three decades of watching basketball.
Fast forward to a few months later, and the organization is hosting a ring ceremony for the staff. I was certain I was going to receive an email from my manager, Mr. Kenny Jones, telling me to just sit this one out and take the day off. Guess what? That didn’t happen. Instead, Kenny and my newly joined organization invited ME to attend the festivities with my department! It was awesome! Such an incredible day to witness and I will never forget it! We had brunch at the offices, the players greeted the entire staff and I felt more welcome than ever before. So, if I had to choose one, this would be it for sure because I vividly remember saying to myself aloud “this is pretty cool” and, in that moment, I understood the HEAT Culture and HEAT Family 100%. Let’s GO HEAT – Let’s GO HEAT!
Have you had any strong female leaders? If so, how do you think that shaped you?
Overall, I am VERY fortunate to have been around so many strong, amazing, fearless and powerful female leaders. However, my mother is and will forever be my greatest influence that shaped me into the woman you see today. She prepared me for the industry and her love and passion for the game spilled over into me since my days as a toddler. I not only watched her battle and beat breast cancer, but I also watched her trash talk and beat her brothers for years debating hottest sports topics! She always seemed to be the only woman crowded around the television with me and was always ready to speak up to anyone that had an off-cuff opinion or comment about her favorite teams or players. Her strength, knowledge of the game, and life lessons of devotion to our family will always make her the most inspiring and greatest champion in my life. She’s the G.O.A.T. Her winning tradition has pushed me and my daughter to be our very best every day. I also must acknowledge my incredible Godmother, who helped me discover my VOICE and the importance of staying true to myself. There isn’t a day that goes by where she doesn’t remind me to be FEARLESS and to walk in CONFIDENCE. These two women are my rock and drive me to hopefully be the same for my daughter.
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?
Okay, back to that “professionally circular kinship” thing I mentioned a few minutes ago. This is one of the primary reasons why empowering the next generation of female leaders is so important to me.
Not only am I driven to do this every single day as a single mother raising a teenager who is currently preparing for her senior year of high school, but I am naturally driven to extend my reach beyond home and with the same passion to empower the next group of professional women. Why? Because it was done for me way back when I started my career in the NHL. The circle started as a straight line to Ms. Raven Jemison who helped me get hired and thrive while I was there. And after six years and three leagues later, that line became a circle when Raven helped me step into the HEAT organization and continue my dream.
There have been so many other women along the way that have not only extended their helping hands, but they double-clutched my hand and made sure that we walked together each day. For those who helped me beat the defense, it is imperative that I exude optimal professionalism, class and integrity and be the example of what’s possible and push each day to provide inspiration and widen the doorway for those that come after us. By extending both of my hands to the newcomers and remaining transparent about our experience with my male counterparts, I believe with all of my heart that we will walk together along the path of equality a lot more level than ever before.
For your job, how important is it for you to know the game of basketball, or even be a fan?
I love the game to my core. It has been a lifelong relationship for me. It isn’t necessarily required to do my job; however, it makes it SO fun this way! Understanding the game allows me to be a fan which helps me step into the shoes of our members and really grasp and measure the true emotion of their fandom. I truly love the Miami HEAT as much as our most passionate fan, so being able to rehash games, discuss statistics and walk through the play-by-play with our members does help. Anyone coming into this championship organization “basketball-green” will quickly grow passionate and drink the Miami Kool-Aid because our journey is nothing short of fun. To get in the door I don’t think it’s essential but, to hang with me trash talking around the office, it’s imperative!
One piece of advice you’d offer to a woman looking to break into the sports/entertainment world.
Only one? One is tough but, I if I were to offer one piece of advice to a woman looking to break into sports and entertainment, I would say in the immortal words of Mars Blackmon: “Please baby, please baby, baby-baby please!” …come join us! It’s a great ride!