How did I get here? And other questions I can’t always answer.
Every week someone asks me how I ended up here.
This question is normally followed by a request for advice on how to follow my path, how to do what I’ve done, and many times I find myself unable to help or provide advice that I feel could be of any value.
It can be hard to look back at your own life, and trace an intentional pathway from where you were to where you are, especially when, if you’re like me, you never had a pathway in the first place.
What I can tell you is the things I have done — the education I got, the internships I took and the jobs I have done and hopefully impart something that will help you find your own way.
Initially, I got a Bachelor of Laws from the University of Queensland. When I went to law school, I did so because I had been a national finalist in mock trial, I liked words and I’d watched Legally Blonde the day applications were due. A lot of my subjects were tailored towards a love of sport — sports law, labour law, competition law, media law as well as a dose of intellectual property law but still law school never sat right with me. Instead, I found myself spending many of my hours outside the classroom throwing myself into the world of ice hockey in Australia.
When I got a full-time job, I realised I also didn’t want to get stuck in events (which I’d fallen into) forever, so I went back and got my Masters in Marketing from Deakin University. I did this online whilst working full time and to this day have never actually set foot on the Deakin campus for anything related to my actual education.
So what have I actually done?
Internships & Volunteer Roles
Brisbane & Gold Coast Bluetongues
When I was 18 I started working with the Brisbane (then Gold Coast) Bluetongues of the Australian Ice Hockey League. I started as the team photographer, moved into roles that looked after the website, social media, marketing, media relations, player wrangling — essentially everything. On game day, I ended up the team’s first aid officer and sports trainer, the penalty box attendant and the unofficial problem solver for things including broken boards, missing goaltenders and melting rinks.
In 2008, I decided that if I was going to spend a few months backpacking across North America during my summer break I may as well try to learn something about hockey and set about trying to get an NHL internship. Nothing about me fit the requirements for an NHL internship and after sending promotional packages to all NHL teams I had zero positive answers (though I had a few invitations to visit if in town). On a whim I emailed Ted Leonsis and a few emails, calls and months later I spent 6 weeks working with the digital and social team of the Capitals, getting my first taste of the big leagues and the social universe (and I got my first Twitter account!). I did everything here — from holding microphones for interviews, editing video, making graphics, visiting children’s hospitals and scaring Alex Ovechkin more than once. To this day, I’ve still stayed in touch with Ted who has kept tabs on my career as I have moved around the globe and hockey as well as stayed friends with many of the staff I met in Washington, who now spread across the country.
The Australian Ice Hockey League
When I started working with the AIHL, I started helping the TV broadcast crew host the local tv coverage of the AIHL finals as an on air host and interviewer. After three seasons working with the Bluetongues team, I was asked to step into a role on the board of the AIHL as a Director specialising in events. Here I took over running the AIHL Finals as we moved to the brand new Icehouse for the first time, a 1500 seat stadium that was to be (and still is) the best in the country. I ran two finals for the AIHL, both the most successful and profitable held by the league at that time, setting record attendance and having the time of my life, though I definitely spent at least half a period of one of the grand finals hiding under a bench out of anxious fear of the game’s outcomes. I was doing this mostly whilst studying full-time and working at a law firm or working full time at the Football Association. I didn’t sleep a lot. I initially left the AIHL in 2011 after a two year stint on the board, returning in 2014 to volunteer with the Melbourne Mustangs looking after sponsors and helping do a variety of things as well as producing “It’s All Goodall” — an AIHL podcast. We won the Goodall Cup that year and it was great.
A year after my internship with the Capitals, I returned stateside, this time to spend 2 and a half months with the Everett Silvertips. I had met Jon Rosen (Communications & PxP — now with the LA Kings) and Doug Soetaert (GM) the previous year on my travels and convinced them to let me follow them around for a while in the hope of learning things to take back to Australia. I did a bit of everything here — graphic design, helping with social media, researching different ways to say different hockey things, making jumbotron montage videos to Kesha’s Tik Tok at the players request and going on a lot of school visits. I slept on an air mattress on a good friend’s floor and on Valentines Day I rode the zamboni dressed as Cupid. It was great. They even let me in the team photo that year.
A sports agency based in Brisbane, I interned here during my final year of law school, helping reinvigorate athlete social presence (mostly football and rugby), work on sponsorship activations including the Bledisloe Cup as well as an attempted transfer of an EPL player.
At this point I finally finished law school and after being rejected for an interview from 15+ law firms I got a job offer from the only non-law firm I applied for, a sports agency called Octagon.
Graduate — I spent three months as a Graduate student at Octagon, mostly doing administration and social development work for the agencies stable of athletes including then current F1 driver Mark Webber (this is how I became obsessed with motorsports) . This also included working on “Rexona’s Australia’s Great Athlete”, an all sport TV show which included lots of creative problem solving, finding missing swim trunks and accidentally losing a multiple-olympic gold medallist out of a golf cart because he didn’t hold on.
Football Federation Victoria
Events Coordinator — Unfortunately, Octagon didn’t work out how we’d all have loved it to and when an opportunity came up at the Football Federation Victoria and the chance to work for Tim Frampton, my former Chairman/Head Commissioner at the AIHL I jumped on it and headed to Melbourne. Here I spent a year and a half running football (soccer) events ranging from gala dinners, volunteers for FIFA World Cup Qualifiers, National Youth League Games, Victorian Premier League finals, conferences on synthetic turf, 1000+ kid football tournaments to my favourite part — the Melbourne Victory W-League. I fell madly in love with the W-League and in addition to running their game days found myself advocating for the team, working with our partner A-League club to promote the girls in the wider community.
In this time though, I had a massive car accident, cracked my sternum, got diagnosed with bipolar disorder and an anxiety disorder and decided I needed a change of scenery.
Social Media Coordinator & Digital Marketing Manager — So Lincraft isn’t sport — but after FFV I got out of sport for a while, heading to join Lincraft, an arts and crafts company where I ran social media and then managed the company’s digital marketing and ecommerce platform which complemented its 65 physical locations.
Then I decided to move to Canada.
National Hockey League
In-Game Social Media Coordinator — When I moved to Canada I didn’t do so with the sole purpose of working in hockey but thought I’d give it a go. The job appeared though in October, and I applied via NHL.com like most people did. I however, chased down a few connections I had, who had friends at the NHL and did my best to get the resume on the right persons desk. 4 interviews, and 3 months later, the NHL offered me a position and I spent the next year and a half working in the NHL Situation room and at key major events providing in-game coverage. I went to a party on my birthday that the Stanley Cup came to, I danced in a thunderstorm moshpit with glowstick wielding Lightning fans and I made press box friends I still have today.
Canadian Women’s Hockey League
Communications & Marketing Manager — I initially started at the CWHL as a volunteer, putting my hand up to help redo the league social media strategy. On my first day on the job, the current Communications & Marketing Manager resigned and I put my hand up (interviewed) and took on the role. At this time, I was working 9–5 at the CWHL before 3 to 4 days a week, I would go across to the NHL and cover the night shift generally hitting bed at 2 to 3am before doing it again. I was tired. A lot.
At the CWHL, I did a bit of everything and learnt a lot about everything. Women’s sport is something I’m passionate about so it was thrilling to get to work in it everyday and make a difference. I wrote press releases, managed website developments, logo redesigns, broadcast games, season ticket designs, sponsor management, government grants and more. I gave quotes, wrangled photographers and relentlessly talked about what we were doing. I ran press scrums and had Marie-Philip Poulin try and pour champagne on me. I called a hockey game dressed as a skeleton and I stood in the middle of a Gillette Stadium rink on a sunny day and watched my girls gaze around, Olympians and World Champions, with a child like wonder that reflected my own. We did amazing, stressful, consuming, overwhelming, great things and I learnt more about myself and what I was capable of than I ever had before.
Toronto Maple Leafs
Digital Community Manager — I came to the Maple Leafs in the most traditional way, an application posted to the team’s job portal, one of 100’s I’m sure they had. I made it to an interview, and then to a presentation in front of 10 of my now-coworkers. Now, I’m trusted with the keys to one of the world’s most prestigious sporting teams digital presence as well as relied upon to help strategise and lead our and our organisation in the digital space. It’s scary and amazing and I’m learning more than I ever expected.
So that’s what I did. That’s how I got here.
So what can I tell you?
How do I get where you got?
There is no way to get where I got. There is no guaranteed pathway, no requisite amount of internships or courses or things that you can do to get where I have gotten to, and even more I can’t guarantee you’ll like it when you get here. The only advice I can give you here are the platitudes you’re probably heard a thousand times — work hard, no job is to small, do all your jobs well, think bigger than your job, ask for bigger things, talk to bigger people, make yourself known, be reliable, be diligent. Be you too though. If you believe in something, fight for something. If something goes against your moral values, don’t be silent.
What should I study?
Whatever you damn well want. But journalist students tend to become journalists and communications students fall into those fields and a lot of us fall into a lot of things anyway. I get torn between telling you to study what excites you (because I didn’t and law school kind of sucked) and telling you to think about the real world and what you want to do after.
I believe the internships, programs, volunteering you do around what you study though is more beneficial in terms of future employment and gaining practical skill sets however. My personal belief is though — don’t get sucked into a Sports degree just because it has the word sport in it. I’m yet to be sold on the necessary benefit of a specialised sports degree for ALL jobs in the sporting field. You can take a more generalised degree and apply it to sport, and take sport electives as well as opening your world and mind to a lot more opportunities.
In a Law Degree and a Marketing Degree I took Sociology of Sport, Sports Law, Sports Marketing, Intellectual Property, Contract law, Competition Law, Labour Law, Media Law. All things that have come in use with where I’ve ended up.
Do I have to do an internship?
The harsh reality is — in the sports industry — the answer is most likely yes. I scraped and scrimped to make many of my internships possible (many which technically didn’t exist), cut corners and lived on some terrible diets to make ends meet but I did so in a still relatively privileged system in a country with financial student support system and a backup system of parents who could rescue me if it needed to happen. I try to be incredible aware of the privileged middle class existence I grew up in, and what it has afforded me in my quest to get to where I have.
The internship system as an entirety is not a fair system — it preferences those who can afford to take significant time to do unpaid labour which excludes by and large low-income students who would otherwise benefit from the experience and often bring a wealth of diversity to the sporting environment. I was privileged to be able to make the decisions I made and take the risks I took and it’s a position that those of us who are able to be in must not take lightly as we move forward with our careers, and champion for changes to these systems to try and address these inequalities.
That is a reality and an entire conversation that should and must be had and not a reality I have any solutions to at this point in time. It also isn’t the answer to the question of the value of an internship.
If you can afford to do so and are in a position to do so I absolutely encourage you to do so. When you do so look for smaller organisations where you might be able to take on more hands on roles that will allow you to contribute and develop your skills. I learnt an incredible amount through my work with the AIHL and the Everett Silvertips and they helped springboard me into future roles. When I had interns at the CWHL they did real work, contributing work and I spent a lot of time making sure they were learning things they wanted to learn, that contributed to their skill sets for the future and that they were inclusively made part of the team.
What skills should I have?
As many as you can — learn a bit of everything especially if you’re in communications. Knowing photoshop, a lot of the Adobe suite never goes astray. Have a basic understanding of coding and tech but also work to understand the sporting professional world from all levels — it’ll make you a much more well rounded employee. Read everything you can get your hands on in all fields you can. I read a lot of books on leadership, on creative thinking, a lot of great blogs on social strategy as well as a considerable amount of academic papers on the theoretics behind sports fan engagement and other pertinent fields.
Also — learn to write — clearly, concisely and if you can eloquently. This will never, ever, ever go stray. The ability to distill an argument, a point, a concept down into a paragraph or two will be a skill that will never go astray.
How do I make a leap from Australia/UK/Brazil to work in Canada/USA?
There’s no concrete answer here. I had a work visa to Canada due to a partnership with Australia and I was lucky. I had friends to live with when I arrived and somehow lucked into an NHL job within weeks of my arrival.
What I did also have, and that has been the most useful, was a large community already built in hockey, over many years of twitter (inadvertently networking I guess) so was able to call on these resources for guidances and connection when available. These connections made calls and sent emails and made recommendations and a lot of the time helped me get to places where I wanted to go. So build a network. No matter where you are. Figure out the people in the know, and build connections.
Other thanks that need to be said.
Working in sport is hard.
In hockey, in what I do, we work 90+ nights a year (plus days) for large portions of the year and your friends will get sick of the constant “No, I’m not available”.
You’ll put up with a lot of sexist, misogynistic bullshit if you’re a woman and you’re climbing the path (but my experience says it’s becoming so much better).
You can pull 80 to 100 hour weeks for weeks in a row without weekend breaks and write your car off, end up in hospital and still need to figure out how to run an event whilst high on painkillers in bed.
You may go to beautiful foreign countries on the other end of the world for a wedding and work a 90 hour week because the event needs to happen and you can’t be there.
You will find it hard to find time to eat right, to exercise, to see people, to not just want to sleep and scream and sob. It is hard, and it is grinding and it takes a lot more out of you than a lot of people are willing to talk about because when you have a job that so many people want it seems taboo to talk about how hard it can be.
Sometimes, you’ll stand a metre from someone as they reach the goal they have worked their whole life for and for a moment you’ll share that moment.
Sometimes, you’ll stand on the sides of stadiums, caught between giants of the game and the fans who so passionately and unreservedly support them, the noise of their cheers making you wonder if you’ll ever hear again.
You’ll watch things rise and fall and along the way you’ll do your best to set the playing field so the game itself can unfold. You’ll do your best to tell the story of your team, your league, your sport — to capture the passion and put it to paper or pixels.
On those days, built on all the days before, it’s a pretty great life.