HSE Employee Feature: Meet Coordinator of Guest Experience, Ashley (Mendez) Heafy

by Sam Perley

Throughout the month of March, Hornets.com will be featuring different employees across multiple departments in the organization in conjunction with Women’s History Month and Éne-Bé-A.

Describe what you do with the Charlotte Hornets organization.

“I’m Coordinator of Guest Experience. In my role, I facilitate service promise trainings to make sure we perform consistently throughout the organization and building, that our service is at an elite level and we’re building a customer-obsessed culture. I also help manage our guest experience booths, which are run by a phenomenal group of individuals during events. That entails programs like our first-time kids, first-time guests, birthdays, anniversaries, wheelchair assistance, lost-and-found and more. I spearheaded our Sensory Inclusion Program, track our guest feedback, coordinate our customer service as far as service recovery and work with any other special projects that are guest-facing to enhance the guest experience for Hornets games, concerts and other events held at Spectrum Center.”

What experience(s) have had the most significant impact on your career in sports?

“I learned at a young age that working hard will pay off eventually, even if you don’t see it right away. Whether it’s the smallest task, I know that whatever you do will be recognized by the people who matter the most, which has allowed me to reach new levels and accomplish things. I was given responsibilities at such a young age that has helped me build my confidence in what I’m capable of. Starting in high school, I was the first female to hold a chair position with our athletic committee in student council. In college, I was one of the only women in one of my sports classes and was asked, ‘Are you sure you still want to be in this class? It’s all males.’ And I said, ‘Of course. This is what I’m here to do!’ I know deep down inside that no matter what, you’re going to have people that try and hold you back, but you just have to keep moving forward. Nobody can stop you from what you were meant to do.”

“To have an executive team and an organization that supports and believes in me is really an honor. That’s why I’ve been given these opportunities. I know I had just gotten out of school, am fresh into my career and young, but it’s been really cool to see my growth because of the opportunities they’ve given me. They believe in me and don’t just have some perception of what I am capable of because I’m a Latina female or whatever the case may be. That’s been awesome to feel embraced while always being my true self. I didn’t think I’d be here right now, but this is now my fourth season and I’m excited to see what the future holds.”

What does it mean to you to have Éne-Bé-A and Women’s History Month coincide?

“During Noches Éne-Bé-A on March 7, I definitely felt a sense of community. I watched all the various dances and performances during halftime because there’s so many different genres of music in the Latino and Hispanic culture that were represented. I was really proud. Other guests saw the excitement on my face and they were like, ‘I want to get up and dance now, too!’ It was really exciting to feel represented and acknowledged. Being that it’s with Women’s History Month, it was just so empowering knowing that the NBA and our organization is recognizing the women that are here in this space.”

How do you see yourself as a role model in the Latin American/Hispanic community?

“I didn’t see myself as a role model at first until my alma mater Belmont Abbey asked me to go speak to one of the sports classes during my first year out of school when I was working here. Now, it’s been a tradition that I go in at the beginning of the season. I am able to see the hunger in all the students’ eyes and that makes me feel really good. Every season, there’s just so much more to share and it reminds me of how much I’ve been growing. My drive, ambition and passion in the industry has been what’s most inspiring for others because they say, ‘She was sitting right where I was sitting and look where she is now.’”

“Neither of my parents graduated from college or anything like that and often times you hear that you need to know someone to get into the sports field. I’m proof that that’s not always the case. I started working part-time here as a guest experience representative on the phones and after a few months, I got hired full time. I’ve done things that I never thought would be part of my career, like working the All-Star Game, dancing on the court with the HoneyBees, and creating a welcome video that plays on the jumbotron before each home game. Working here was like in my five-year plan because right out of school, I was hitting the ground running. It all happened so fast that I look back and am so grateful to be able to share my story with others so that they can do the same. Anything is possible if you set your mind to it. I think that’s what inspired others to believe in themselves.”

Are there any influential Latin American/Hispanic role models in your life?

“My parents, Agustin and Ruthy, first and foremost because they’ve sacrificed everything in order for me to pursue my dreams. Even though they were the strict Latino parents that people know of, they still were selfless, supportive, loving and gave me any opportunities that they could. I would also say Jennifer Lopez and Shakira. I’m half Puerto Rican and half Colombian, which are their backgrounds, respectively. These powerful women are iconic. J-Lo is not just a dancer, but she’s also an actor, a singer, an entrepreneur, all these things. As for Shakira, she sings, performs, is an activist and philanthropist. It’s just really inspiring because they didn’t just stop when they were great at one thing. They continued to push boundaries, used their platforms to help others, and excel at everything they did.”

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