Why is it important to you that the NBA and its teams celebrate Women's History Month?
One of the best things about working for the NBA is the authentic importance of our values of equality, diversity and inclusion. You see it every day not just in our words, but in our actions. Celebrating Women’s History Month is a great reminder of the importance of these values and a recognition of the fact that it hasn’t always been easy for women to feel equal and included in society.
What does it mean to you to be the first person in NBA history to hold the titles of President, Team Marketing & Business Operations and Chief Innovation Officer?
I have loved my 13 years at the NBA in New York. It’s truly been a dream job. The sport of basketball has always been something I’ve cherished greatly in life, and for me it started with the Kings moving to Sacramento in 1985 and my dad becoming a season ticket holder. My role today allows me to help drive innovation for the league and our teams – which means developing new ways to make our game more appealing to fans, and new ways to grow our business. Pretty fun things to think about every day!
I’m also extremely appreciative of the opportunities I’ve been given by our commissioner, Adam Silver, and deputy commissioner, Mark Tatum. The fact that someone is in my position at all demonstrates the importance of innovation to the league and the importance of our teams in all four of our leagues (NBA, WNBA, NBA G League, NBA 2K League) in driving that innovation. The Kings and the incredible Golden 1 Center are of course a shining example of innovation in so many ways and we love to see their leadership in this area.
How would you characterize what it means to work for a league that empowers its teams and players to foster progress on and off the court?
I always cite the Nelson Mandela quote, “Sports has the power to change the world. It has the power to inspire. It has the power to unite people in a way that little else does.” So true!
What I love about the NBA is that we fully recognize our responsibility here. It’s not just about entertainment. It’s about building bridges through basketball and using our platform to unite and drive societal change. A great example here is our NBA Voices initiative that features the league, teams and players all working together to address social injustice and unite our communities.
What has been one of the biggest challenges you’ve overcome in your career?
No doubt that simply getting a job in sports was a huge challenge that came down to hard work and certainly luck. It’s not easy to make a change mid-career. I joined the NBA when I was 30, after several years in technology and consulting, with no real sports business experience. I spent years trying to build my network throughout the sports industry and stumbled across someone who later introduced me to a senior executive at the NBA. Once I was actually hired, I certainly was given an opportunity to prove myself – but have to admit, getting in isn’t easy! There are just a lot of people who want to work in sports and not many roles.
What has been your favorite experience during your time at the NBA?
I always tell people that at the NBA there are “Wow, I can’t believe this is my job?!” moments all the time. So, it is really hard to pick just one. I’ve met so many interesting people around our game and participated in so many cool experiences. Being at the game and behind the scenes when a team wins the championship is pretty incredible. Being at opening night of a new arena is amazing in the ways it brings a community together (I’m sure those of you who were also at the opening of the Golden 1 Center agree!). When things are new is often when they are most impactful though. I’ll never forget my first week on the job in 2005, when all of a sudden, I found myself at NBA All-Star in Denver, helping with our Sony PlayStation partnership, sitting with LeBron James chatting and watching him play NBA Live on Sony PlayStation Portable. The week before, I was sitting at my desk as a consultant working on slides for a computer software tech support project. How life changes!
What advice would you offer to fellow women seeking to make an impact in sports?
I truly believe there is no reason that women can’t succeed in sports and I encourage women to be confident and aim high. Again, getting in the door in sports is often the hardest part regardless of gender. If you’re excited about working in sports, don’t give up the search and look for ways to differentiate yourself. Diversity in business is proven to drive more creativity and greater results and it’s very encouraging to see more and more great examples of talented women succeeding in the sports world.
Who have been your biggest female role models?
There have been several, but I can’t talk about female role models without talking first about my incredible mom, who was a kindergarten teacher for years and patiently taught me how to love to learn, which is a skill I absolutely use every single day. I would also say my high school coach, Jorie Baer (she’s now at Casa Roble, but go Bella Vista Broncos!) and my coach at Stanford, Tara VanDerveer. It’s amazing how coaches can be so formative in youth development beyond just teachers of the game. I learned more about life skills from playing basketball in high school and college than in any academic class. Jorie and Tara taught me the importance of leading by example through hard work, being a dedicated teammate with a team-first attitude and always striving to be the best.
What was your favorite part about growing up in Sacramento?
I don’t think this page has enough room for my answer! Anyone who knows me will tell you that I talk all the time about Sacramento and how great it is. Of course, I have to say all the fun things I did with my family and friends growing up in Fair Oaks, from going to Sacramento Kings games, waterskiing/wakeboarding on Folsom Lake and the Delta, riding bikes on the American River Parkway trail, and heading to Lake Tahoe. Also, I will always have such pride for my San Juan Unified School District schools and the amazing classmates I had at Deterding, Carnegie and Bella Vista!