Sports MBA Podcast – 8/30/17 – Class of ’14 Reunion

In response to overwhelming demand, we’ve checked in with some recent hosts and contributors to the SDSU Sports MBA Podcast to ask the critical “Where are they now?” question.

Graduates of the Sports MBA Class of 2014 recently joined us to check in and provide updates on their careers since graduating from SDSU Sports MBA three years ago.

This episode features:

“Your Host” Adam John (SMBA ’14): Jr. Account Supervisor at elemento L2 – Chicago, IL

Walter Franco (SMBA ’14): Associate at Victus Advisors  – Salt Lake City, UT

Steve Fuller (SMBA ’14): Trademarks and Licensing Manager at University of Southern California – Los Angeles, CA

Dom Lucq (SMBA ’14): Manager, Partnership Sales at Golden State Warriors – San Francisco, CA

Carlos Maldonado (SMBA ’14): Controller at Signature Analytics – San Diego, CA

These five Sports MBA graduates reunite to provide information about their careers, offer up some tips for the current Sports MBA class to get through the remainder of the program, and provide general advice for aspiring sports business professionals.

Available on iTunes

The Use of CRM in Sports: A Classroom Visit from Neda Tabatabaie

By Forrest Lockwood & Greg Morrissey

Neda Tabatabaie, Vice President of Business Intelligence with the San Jose Sharks, stopped by to talk about data management through CRM and how she has helped the Sharks become one of the most data-driven organizations in the NHL. Originally from Iran, Neda and her family moved to Toronto when she was young, which would ultimately lead to her entry into the sports world. She graduated with a degree in economics from the University of Toronto and landed her first gig as a Marketing Coordinator at Holt Renfrew, a high-end chain of retail stores in Canada. Much like anyone’s path into sports, hers was as unconventional as they come. Given her expertise in analyzing customer loyalty, Neda was exactly the candidate Maple Leaf Sports and Entertainment were looking for. Upon her hiring in 2005, Neda was tasked to manage the CRM data at a time when very few sports organizations had adopted a CRM system. After years of successfully managing the CRM system for Maple Leaf Sports and Entertainment, Neda was hired on at KORE Software, one of the top CRM software providers on the market. As Vice President of Best Practices, Neda was able to help ensure KORE Software remained a leader in CRM data management. After a little over a year with KORE Software, Neda landed her current position with Sharks Sports and Entertainment as the Vice President of Business Intelligence. What Neda has been able to do for Sharks Sports and Entertainment is nothing short of amazing.

Her goal was to be able to use CRM to become more efficient with ticketing, sponsorship, and marketing. After accomplishing that goal, Neda was then able to integrate all the departments into the CRM system to ensure the entire organization operated more efficiently. The San Jose Sharks have now become a full digital ticketing organization; they have also significantly improved several aspects of the fan experience, with a better arena wi-fi system, more useful mobile app, and stronger content being posted on their social media outlets. Every single one of these improvements can be attributed to Neda Tabatabaie, as she has centralized every single department in the organization into one robust CRM system. Neda stated that her goal is always to “acquire fans through a holistic view of their behavior.” In doing so, her main focus is always on customer retention, which is the hardest task any organization faces.

A New Take on Women’s Night at the Ballpark

On August 15th I traveled up to Seattle to attend the Mariners’ Women in Baseball Night at Safeco Field. This trip meant more than crossing off another MLB stadium on my list (although that was an added bonus), it was about the women behind the scenes working in baseball for teams  and media outlets.

For years teams across the majors and minors have been putting on Girls Night type events, some less tasteful than others, which sometimes involve an open bar, a tour of the press box, and a pink or bedazzled giveaway item. This event was different than all of those. There was a free t-shirt and a drink coupon included in the ticket package, but what the Mariners did was not pandering to the socially accepted belief of what women sports fans “want” from their teams. We got to have real conversations with people who were passionate about baseball and their careers in the sport.

The panel of women consisted of moderator Meg Rowley of Baseball Prospectus, Shannon Drayer of 710 ESPN in Seattle, Baltimore Orioles Director of Analytics and Major League Contracts Sarah Gelles, Seattle Mariners Scout Amanda Hopkins, and Seattle Mariners Senior Manager of Baseball Information Kelly Munro. Every one of these women had stories, advice, and words of encouragement to give but their enthusiasm, passion, and pride were what made this event  as special as it was.

Each one of these women had different paths to get to where they are now. We have been told by many, if not all, guest speakers in the program that the career paths in sports are not linear, these women echoed that. Hopkins, the scout for the Mariners, grew up around the game as her dad is also a scout for the Mariners, but studied psychology in college before being hired on to scout the Four Corners area. Munro stumbled into her roll by accident after taking a ticket sales job with the Mariners for a summer and never looking back.

The women talked about the challenges that face women today who want to break into the industry. Gelles talked about the structural aspects of the game that hinder women who want to take video internships with minor league teams. There are not specified video rooms in most minor league parks, so the interns often work out of the clubhouse, so teams often don’t look at women for positions with these teams. Drayer discussed the gender gap in play-by-play positions, there are currently no female play-by-play personalities and many cite that because women haven’t played the game they can’t understand or commentate the same way as men have. She pointed out, with much applause from the crowd, that there are plenty of men who do play-by-play and who run teams who never played baseball past high school and sometimes not even to that level.

The sold-out crowd was filled with men and women of all ages, including a 12-year-old girl and her who mother stood in front of me. I couldn’t help but notice the mother steal glances at her daughter’s face during the panel discussion and beam with pride that her daughter was 10 feet away from her new role models who are telling her that this career is possible. Also in the crowd were two of the owners of the Mariners as well as many other employees in the organization showing their support for their colleagues.

As many panel discussions do, the women gave advice to the women and girls in the crowd. Kelly Munro said it best, “If there are doors that are open for you, go through them. And if the door is closed, knock. Keep knocking. And if it doesn’t open, find a key.”


Information and quotes from:

Celebrating Women in Baseball Night at Safeco Field

Meg Rowley