By: Chase McCaskill, @itsmechase
Front Office Sports had the privilege to speak with Jana Brooks, Event and Tenant Services Coordinator of the Maryland Stadium Authority. Jana’s path has been somewhat unconventional with many twists and turns along the way. Jana was able to give us thoughtful insight into the importance of teamwork, patience during a job search, and how to deal with the highly stressful event coordinating business.
Talk a little bit about your role with the Maryland Stadium Authority and how did you end up in this position?
My path was very odd. In 2003, I began working at S.A.F.E. Management, who provides the event management and security for the Baltimore Ravens home games. I stayed with S.A.F.E. until I transitioned to MSA in November of 2013. My position with S.A.F.E. was part time and I remained with them for 10 years. During the latter five of my tenure, I worked in the command center taking calls from fans and stadium partners during games and special events. An event coordinator position became available with MSA, I applied, and the rest is history!
My tenant services role consists of facilitating the requests of our warehouse tenants, from a facilities and operations standpoint, through our maintenance team. The events portion of my job is focused mainly on parking lot events. We rent the lots on our complex between and surrounding our stadiums for events from festivals, marathons, car shows and a host of 5ks. I logistically manage approximately 25 events a year. In addition, I still work in the command center for Baltimore Ravens home games, only now with MSA. I log and dispatch radio and phone calls to whichever stadium partner needs to fix the situation. During Baltimore Orioles home games, I act as the Manager on Duty by overseeing all operational aspects of the stadium, other than the game itself. In addition, I oversee the recycling and sustainability for the complex.
How do you maintain composure in such a high stress environment?
More than anything you need to be understanding. I am a part of a well-oiled machine. Everyone has his or her respective responsibilities and you have to understand that everyone’s ultimate goal is to pull off an exceptional, incident-free event.
How important is teamwork to the success of your events?
I have two teams (one at Oriole Park and one at M&T), but they are absolutely amazing. Teamwork definitely makes the dream work. There was a day we had 5 separate events going on throughout the complex with one event in progress in a parking lot that was being used as an egress point for a wedding. Communication [with your team] is key. Regardless of what we go through behind the scenes together, we have to pull off [the event] for our clients.
For those interested in the events aspect of sports, speak to the importance of having event coordinating experience.
Because I came into my role unconventionally, I didn’t have the solid experience to get a job in events, so I decided to enroll in the George Washington University’s Event Management Certificate Program. To earn my certification, I had to pass seven classes, complete a project of planning any event from start to finish, and log 100 practicum hours. I know that time is of the essence for students, but taking any opportunity to volunteer no matter how big or small the event may be is imperative. You gain experience, learn different aspects of event planning, and [how to use] the correct terminology that will be helpful in your future.
What are a few of the common misconceptions about a career as an events coordinator?
That it’s easy and fun. There is a lot of organization, being proactive, working long hours, following up with clients, relationship building with clients and vendors, and problem solving amongst other things. There are a lot of people to appease during each event and that can be stressful; however, if something goes wrong or there are complaints, build some thick skin and don’t take anything personally. It’s all a learning experience.
Speak to your patience and the role it played in waiting for the right opportunity to come along.
For every 100 no’s there might be a yes. I would attend conferences and network all the time, giving my card and resume out all over the place. The people that I wanted to make copies and staple papers for to gain experience are now my colleagues! Everyone has a path, but it is never a straight line. If a certain position is something you really want, don’t let anything stop you from getting it. You must be patient, never stop learning, and stay ready for anything because when the time is right, you’ve got to be prepared. If I would have had this position when I was 23 years old and first wanting to get into the industry, I would never have appreciated it the way I do now.
I have a few: everything happens in its own time and for a reason. I thought that I tried every possible avenue to get into the industry, however, it just was not meant to be at that time. While working at S.A.F.E., I worked full time for a few organizations where I gained a foundation in facilities, operations, administration, and event planning. The variety of situations I was up against during those 10 years completely prepared me for where I am now. When you set out for one thing and it doesn’t happen right away, don’t be discouraged. Stay determined and stick with it, turn every negative into a positive. Have an unwavering work ethic and understand that everyone you network with is important. You never know who is paying attention to you, your personality, and your attitude. Have faith in yourself and trust the process.
Does MSA offer any internship opportunities? If so, can you speak a little about them and how people can apply?
Yes we do, both paid and unpaid. Send us a resume and cover letter making mention of your career goals and why you’d like to be a part of the organization. Check our website at mdstad.com for additional information.
We would like to thank Jana for taking time out of her day to offer up some great advice for our readers!
You can connect with her on LinkedIn here.
This interview is another edition of "Winning Edge Wednesday" in congruence with our partnership with the Winning Edge Leadership Academy. Every Wednesday we will be featuring the story of a woman or minority working in the sports business industry.If you know of a professional you would like featured, drop us a line at firstname.lastname@example.org!