SBJ/November 5 - 11, 2001/Careerspeople

Trask turned dream of working for Raiders into career as team’s CEO

Like many sports fans in California, Amy Trask lives and breathes the Oakland Raiders. But unlike casual football fans, she has an amazing depth of football knowledge that can be surprising to many.

"I became a football fan, and more specifically a Raider fan, while I was in college and went to a few games," said Trask, chief executive of the Oakland Raiders and the only female CEO in the NFL. "The matchups, the strategy, the intellectual and physical parts of the game — all aspects were completely fascinating to me."

While Trask didn't grow up in a family of avid sports fans, her passion for the game predated any specific career aspirations.

"I grew up wanting to be everything from a vet to an astronaut to a Supreme Court judge," Trask said. "But at some point, it became a dream to work for the Raiders."

Trask offered some advice on finding employment with a professional franchise.

"Don't take all sports classes or get your education just in sports," she said. "When I finished college, I wasn't ready to stop my education, so I entered law school because it provided me with a solid background for any career I wanted to pursue."

Of all the jobs in sports, running an NFL team is one of the most coveted, and thus the hardest to obtain. Like Trask, most people start on the ground floor.

"If you can find an internship or entry-level position with a team — even if you feel it is not as advanced as you like — take that opportunity," Trask said. "Use that position to demonstrate your work ethic, passion and commitment to the team."

That's what Trask did. While in law school, she contacted the Raiders about an internship opportunity and landed one in 1983 in the Raiders' legal department. Two years later, after working as an attorney for Barger & Wolen, a Los Angeles law firm, Trask got a call from the Raiders, who were looking for a full-time attorney. She was hired and has been there ever since.

Trask said that there are other examples of this within the Raiders' organization.

"Marc Badain, a member of our finance department, started with the Raiders as a 'training camp kid,' where he spent the summer at training camp. That job was a 24-hour, seven-day-a-week job, picking up a free agent at midnight, answering the phones," Trask explained. "He worked his way up and is now a very vital member of the Raider organization."

Patience and persistence seem to be the key to getting into the sports business.

"You need to remember that NFL teams tend to be lean organizations. There are only 20 people in our front office," Trask said. "Since there aren't a lot of jobs available, you need to be patient."

Many teams operate the stadiums they play in, which may offer additional job opportunities. Trask believes that while business skills are key, demonstrating passion in an interview is vital.

"We are always looking for intelligent, hard-working and talented people, but they need to feel passionate about the Raiders," Trask said. "The person doesn't need to know every nuance of football, but we don't want someone who thinks that marketing the Raiders is interchangeable with marketing soft drinks."

Clearly passion is important to her.

"I'm looking to see someone who's excited about football and excited about the Raiders and views working for us as a tremendous, once-in-a-lifetime opportunity," Trask said. "We want people who want to be Raiders, not just people who want to be in sports."

That is why the Raiders subscribe to a "promote in-house" policy, she said.

"The first place we look for candidates is from within," said Trask. "We try to promote our own people to give people a chance to move up."

Being female has focused a little more spotlight on Trask than she would like.

"I am often asked about this but try not to view it as an issue," she said. "I've been given a great opportunity, and I don't spend time worrying about, or reflecting on, the fact that there are few women in these roles.

"Working for a team is not a 9-to-5 job, but more a way of life. You live and die with the team's wins and losses. No matter how hard you work, your success is measured by winning football games. It's not as glamorous as it appears, but I wouldn't trade it for anything."

FINAL ADVICE
Trask’s final advice for those trying to get a job in the NFL:
1. Get your foot in the door. Internships provide experience and exposure for candidates. “Offer your services in a manner that exposes yourself to the team and them to you.”
2. Demonstrate passion, commitment and good ideas. Ask yourself, “What can I do to make the team better?”
3. If you don’t know something, ask questions. “I learned football by watching and asking a lot of questions of the players and anyone who knew something about the game.”

Amy Trask

 Age: 40

  Title/Company: Chief executive, Oakland Raiders

  Responsibilities: Oversees team's business operations, including legal, finance and administration. Represents the team at NFL owners meetings and on league matters.

  Education: University of California, Davis, 1978-80; University of California, Berkeley, bachelor of arts, political science, 1982; University of Southern California Law School, 1985

  Career path: Intern, Los Angeles Raiders legal department, 1983

Attorney, Barger & Wolen, 1985 Attorney, Los Angeles Raiders, 1987

Chief executive, Oakland Raiders, 1997


Kathryn Schloessman is president of the Los Angeles Sports & Entertainment Commission, which seeks to bring major sporting and entertainment events to Los Angeles that raise tourism and spending.

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