Michele Kajiwara, AEG/Staples Center
After working in New York as Chelsea Piers’ catering and sales manager from 1998 to 2000, Michele Kajiwara was on the hunt for an interesting and dynamic job when she moved back to Los Angeles.
“The Staples Center had been open for a few years and some of my friends suggested that I apply because it could be an interesting place to work, and that has been the case,” Kajiwara said.
She started out as a service manager in 2003, and a year later she moved into sales, where she quickly became AEG’s top revenue generator. Since 2011, when Kajiwara took over Staples Center and Microsoft Theater’s premium division, sales have risen by over 25%.
Kajiwara and her sales team also sold out all of the arena’s premium seating inventory for the first time in its 20-year history last season.
As a senior executive, Kajiwara believes in mentoring up-and-coming colleagues, especially women. She also believes hiring managers should consider job candidates with interesting life and work experiences and cast a wider net when hiring, so more women will have an opportunity to apply and be considered for positions, she said.
“I like to try and find talent that didn’t take a traditional path to get into sports,” Kajiwara said. “For example, I think taking time off to travel can serve as a great way to explore the world. Get out of your comfort zone, be resourceful, gain more respect and appreciation for other cultures, be able to talk to anyone, and get perspective.” — Karn Dhingra