Happy Monday morning! We have the lovely Alana Nguyen today for our Female Sports Professional feature today, such a great treat. She has 5 years of experience in the sports industry under her belt and is currently the managing editor for Yardbarker, a FOX Sports Interactive company, and she has tons of amazing advice. We appreciate her sharing her journey and experiences.
How did you learn you wanted to get into the sports industry?
I kind of got here by accident. I had always loved the online media world, but it wasn’t by design that I ended up in the sports corner of it. While in law school I wrote a few personal blogs about various subjects. One of them was a silly cartoon blog about the NBA that ended up getting me a gig as one of the original bloggers on NBA FanHouse. From there I networked my way into a job as a part-time producer for FanHouse and I eventually took over as head producer from my former bosses Jamie Mottram and John Ness. After that role, it was natural to stay in the sports space.
Please give us a little background on how you got to your current role:
I ended up at Yardbarker through networking. In 2007 I got an email from Pete Vlastelica (then CEO of Yardbarker) who had seen a Greg Oden video interview I’d done for FanHouse and wanted to meet me. We kept in touch and he hooked me up with video interviews with Yardbarker athletes here and there. Over a year later when I was looking to make a job move I reached out to Pete and I was fortunate that he gave me an opportunity to work full-time with Yardbarker’s athletes. As the company evolved over the next few years I tried to involve myself in new areas and I now manage our editorial group and wear various other hats.
Was there a time or situation that made you second-guess your path?
I took over as head producer of FanHouse after I graduated law school and then decided to leave shortly afterwards during a tumultuous time in the organization. That experience had me second-guessing my decision to have turned down what seemed like more stable law firm or business jobs. But three years later I’m very happy I stuck around the online sports world.
Please let us know who your mentors were/are on your journey.
I can’t possibly name all the talented people who have inspired and encouraged me. But I’ll mention that I am forever indebted to Brian Spaeth who originally “discovered” my sports blog and Nate Jones who brought it to the attention of Jamie Mottram, who gave me the NBA FanHouse blogger gig (and later looped me into Yahoo Sports Blogs); John Ness who gave me a shot as a producer at FanHouse; and Jason Gurney and Erin Gurney, early blogosphere friends who got me involved in their amazing labor of love Ballhype. I’m still in touch with all these folks as they’ve moved on to various other roles in sports, in addition of course to Pete Vlastelica who I still work with today at Yardbarker.
Do you think there is a negative ring that automatically lies around females within the sports industry since it’s a male dominated industry?
Being female is a double-edged sword in sports. On the one hand, it can make it easier for you to break into certain on-camera or writing gigs when a “female voice” is being sought – from there a smart female may be able to get enough attention to steer her work towards what she wants to do. On the other hand, some females in those positions struggle to be taken seriously or find themselves continually branded in a tokenized way. (Personally I’ve never struggled to prove my sports knowledge like some females have because I’ve always been upfront about the fact that I’m not a sports buff at all!) And of course a lot of management jobs are still dominated by men, so women face the same struggles in those areas as they do in any male-dominated industry.
What would you say to the men who don’t see women as being on the same level when it comes to the sports industry?
Check your calendars gentlemen, it’s 2011.
If there were one thing you could change about the sports industry, what would it be?
What is your biggest accomplishment to-date in terms of your experience in the sports world?
I wouldn’t call this my biggest accomplishment, but it’s a personal highlight for me. I’m not a big sports buff, so it never fazes me to work with big-name athletes or sports legends. But I’m a HUGE Diddy fan, so I was pretty geeked when I got to talk to him on a Super Bowl red carpet a few years back.
What are your favorite sport sites online?
Of course I’m biased, but every day I read dozens of articles from the 800+ sites in the Yardbarker Network!
What tips or advice would you give to a female wanting to enter the sports industry?
1) Network. This is important in any industry, but it’s especially crucial in an industry like sports that tends to be somewhat insular. Getting a job is often about who you know, so make sure you know people! Networking can range from attending conferences and events (Blogs With Balls is a great one for meeting folks in the online sports space) to simply getting active on Twitter and interacting with people who are important in your space.
2) Do your homework. If you’re going to send a resume, reach out to someone for advice, or even Tweet someone, make sure you know what you’re talking about. Especially in the online space, there’s plenty of information out there, and if you want to be successful, you need to show that you’ve taken the initiative to do your homework and that you respect the time of the person you’re reaching out to.
3) Be strategic with gigs that are less than your dream job. Sometimes you need to compromise in order to get your foot in the door – a lot of people in sports have gotten their starts volunteering, working in low-paying positions, or working in areas that aren’t their favorites. Just make sure that you’re doing work that will help you towards your goals by exposing you to the right people or giving you transferable experience. Once you get your foot in the door, make sure you do what you can to impress the people around you and to volunteer your services in the areas where you ultimately want to work. As an example, when I was first blogging at AOL’s FanHouse, I often emailed producers Jamie and John with ideas and observations about FanHouse operations to get their attention as someone who could contribute more than blogging. I later took on video blogging at John’s suggestion, even though I’ve never aspired to be an on-camera personality. When I heard that Neal Scarborough (then GM of AOL Sports) liked my videos, I emailed him to thank him and told him I was actually more interested in doing behind-the-scenes work. I offered to stop by the office to talk about it with him and John – that visit led to my working as a producer at FanHouse.
4) Be vocal. If you have a blog or some other outlet for your voice, use it to publish thoughtful pieces about the industry. These can be good conversation starters and could get you attention from the people who you hope will eventually employ you. I once wrote a series of posts about what’s next for sports blogging that sparked a lot of conversations with others in the industry.
5) Act professionally. Even if your goal is to land a gig as an outrageous shock jock or an anonymous gossip blogger, remember that the people in a position to pay you money probably want to do business with someone who is respectful and uses a government name. Respond promptly to emails, be on time for appointments and calls, do your homework, etc. It doesn’t matter how great your talent is -- you’re not in a position to be a diva yet, and people do take professionalism into account.
6) Create your own path. Every mentor you talk to will encourage you to take the same path they took. Think carefully about what would work best for YOU and recognize that there may be other paths that will lead you to your goals, especially in areas of the industry like media that are changing so rapidly.
Any advice for the LadyBallers and or fans?
Read all the other LadyBallers interviews with female sports professionals – they’ve got tons of fascinating experiences and perspectives!
Check out our previous Female Sports Professional interviews as well:
Susan Lulgjuraj: Staff writer at the Press of Atlantic City
Lauren Shehadi: CBSSports.com/CBS College Sports Network Anchor and Reporter
Alana Glass: Founder & Owner of Iwanttobeanowner.com
Claire Wright: Events Manager with Central Florida Sports Commission
Mahogany Ratcliffe: Co-creator & co-host of Bad Girls of Sports
Jennifer Taglione: Founder and owner of Stiletto Sports
Jennifer Rodriguez: Co-creator & co-host of Bad Girls of Sports
Justine Brown: Production-Assistant with the NFL Network
Jessica Quiroli: Baseball blogger and covers high school sports for Ultimate Athlete Magazine
Melissa Miller: Assistant Brand Manager for the Orlando Magic
Amber Anderson: Grassroots Marketing Coordinator for the Orlando Magic
Kathryn Stuart: Course Director, Sports Management and Operations - Masters Program at FullSail University
Are you a female interested in sharing your Professional Sports experience or know a female who would be good to feature? Email us and let us know!