Women in Sports Part ll: Local Leaders We Admire

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There are countless local women in the sports industry who continue to make history daily. Whether on the field, behind the scenes, or on the sidelines – there are trailblazers all around us. The amount of support and encouragement the women in the industry received in part one, is why we’ve decided to highlight more inspiring women in this field and their accomplishments. Hoboken Girl chatted with a few female leaders in the industry a few months ago and now we’ve interviewed another handful that talks about their successes, how the industry is embracing women, and what they hope to see going forward.

With 13+ major sports teams in the NJ/NYC area, and five major sports leagues operating out of the two states, there are some women right in our Hoboken and Jersey City neighborhoods making their marks in a male-dominated industry, and we couldn’t be prouder to call them neighbors. 

Melissa Wells

Senior Manager of Global Partnerships, NBA

Melissa Wells

Melissa works as a Brand Strategist for the NBA. In this role, Melissa works to create best-in-class marketing partnerships across the NBA and the ecosystem of leagues: WNBA, NBA G League, NBA 2K League, USA Basketball, and the newly launched, Basketball Africa League.

Hoboken Girl: What was your inspiration behind breaking into the sports industry? 

Melissa Wells: I grew up in Morgantown, West Virginia, a town and state-centered around sports and the WVU Mountaineers. Playing basketball and my general exposure to sport there shaped the passion I have for what I do today. I realized that sport had the power to unite, change and inspire communities. When I started to understand the business opportunity behind the game, I made that my focus in college and found ways to get closer to that part of the industry.

HG: Do you see more women becoming involved in the sports industry?

MW: I think we’ve made great strides and continue to see more and more women joining the business side of the sport, especially in sponsorship. However, we still have a lot of work to do. The focus and resources have gone to men’s development for decades. We have to continue to change the status quo and “boys club” mindset as we elevate women in the industry.

HG: Do you have any women that you look up to in the sports industry?

MW: So many, but two of my favorites were always Doris Burke and Pat Summitt. They were before their time and just next level when it came to their knowledge of the game. They were huge role models of mine as I started to see more women carve their path in the game and industry.

Hoboken Girl: What was one of your favorite moments in your career?

MW: Even before I joined the NBA, I had the opportunity to be a shadowing journalist at the 2012 London Olympics. Through a bit of luck, I was able to find my way into a USA Men’s and Women’s Basketball practice where I interviewed athletes like LeBron James and Diana Taurasi. This experience and moment absolutely shaped the start of my career in sports.   

Hoboken Girl: Favorite local spot?

MW: Definitely Cork City. Huge fan of all the craft beers and the fact it is pup-friendly!

Nicole Pincus

VP of Business Leadership, Momentum Worldwide

Nicole Pincus

AS VP of Business Leadership, Nicole leads Verizon’s sports vertical for Momentum, Verizon’s experiential and sponsorship agency.

Hoboken Girl: What was your inspiration behind breaking into the sports industry? 

Nicole Pincus: I wanted to be a SportsCenter anchor, but found I had more natural skills for the business side. Once I went to grad school for Sport Business Management, I knew I’d made the right pivot. 

HG: Do you see more women becoming involved in the sports industry?

NP: More than ever before, women are shaping sports at all levels, as players on the field and as executives in the industry, shifting culture towards women’s empowerment globally. 

HG: Do you have any women that you look up to in the sports industry? 

NP: Definitely! Aside from bosses, more recently I’m so inspired by all the women becoming the FIRSTS at what they are doing. General managers, team owners, play-by-play announcers, team presidents, etc. They are setting new expectations for the next wave of women leaders. 

HG: What was one of your favorite moments in your career?

NP: So many to consider! NBA All-Star, Super Bowl, Victory Lane, Stanley Cup Playoffs. But up at the top was the State of Origin at the MCG in Melbourne with nearly 100k fans (see attached pic). The most epic sporting event!

HG: Favorite local spot? 

NP: Porta for the food, Dullboy for the drinks, and Hudson and Co. for the view!

Jillian Mazza 

Senior Manager Marketing + Creative Services, CBS Sports 

Jillian Mazza 

Jillian is currently in her fifth year at CBS Sports, on a team that is responsible for all off-air marketing campaigns for both CBS Sports and CBS Sports Network CBSSN. Some of her responsibilities include campaign management for the digital support of priority events and executing on-site consumer activations at key CBS Sports and CBSSN events throughout the year.

Hoboken Girl: What was your inspiration behind breaking into the sports industry?

Jillian Mazza: My Dad made it almost impossible for me not to love sports. He has been taking me to sporting events since I was in diapers. I learned a lot of bad words you shouldn’t hear at such a young age, but I also learned plays, rules, traditions, and most importantly the passion of being a sports fan. Sports can make you the happiest you’ve ever been or break your heart into a million pieces, and that constant on-your-toes feeling is what I love.

Hoboken Girl: Do you see more women becoming involved in the sports industry?

JM: Yes! On my first day at CBS Sports I remember being excited by how many women there were, and in my five years, that number has only increased throughout all levels of the company. I think women are realizing that you can have a lot of different backgrounds and experiences to work in sports.

Hoboken Girl: Do you have any women that you look up to in the sports industry?

JM: All of them. If you are a woman and your goal was to get into the sports industry and you made it, I look up to you. If I had to get specific, there is a whole show on CBS Sports Network called We Need To Talk (shameless marketing plug, I had to!) with a roster of incredible women in the industry. Women like Amy Trask and Lesley Visser quite literally paved the path for the rest of us.

Hoboken Girl: What was one of your favorite moments in your career?

JM: Ever since I decided to pursue a career in this industry my goal was to work at a Super Bowl. I was able to cross that off the list at Super Bowl LIII. We had a creative and innovative consumer activation for the entire week leading up to the big game. It was easily the most tiring week of my life (not to mention the months of planning prior to that), but the results and response to our hard work made it more than worth it. The only thing that would have made it better would’ve been if the NY Giants were also there.

Hoboken Girl: Favorite local spot?

JM: Napoli’s, JP’s Bagel Express, and Empire Coffee & Tea!

Read More: Hudson County Women in the BIPOC Community Who Inspire Us

Amy Hashem 

Director of Digital Marketing at Sporttrade

Amy Hashem 

As the Director of Digital Marketing, Amy leads social media and paid advertising for America’s first dynamic sports betting & trading exchange.

Hoboken Girl: What was your inspiration behind breaking into the sports industry?

AH: When I was growing up I wanted to be a professional soccer player. Mia Hamm, Brianna Scurry, and Julie Foudy were my idols. They made me believe that even as a girl, sports could be a part of my life beyond school. Alas, I didn’t make it close to playing anything professionally, but I did play soccer at The College of New Jersey. When I wasn’t practicing, I was studying to get my business degree. My dream was to still find a way to keep sports in my professional life. If I couldn’t play it, I wanted to be part of it. Sports were a part of my identity, not just a hobby. 

Hoboken Girl: Do you see more or fewer women becoming involved in the sports industry?

AH: Definitely more! I still think there is a long way to go. And honestly, the largest strides with women in the industry are very recent. When I first started out in the industry in 2009-2010 I had to very much prove why I deserved to be there. I remember hearing one of the managers say “we hired a girl?!” on my first day of work after college. But more and more women are entering the industry. And in roles that weren’t possible before.

Hoboken Girl: What was one of your favorite moments in your career?

AH: During my college internship at CBS Sports. I remember standing on the field at MetLife stadium prepping the sideline broadcast equipment for a Jets vs Giants game. It was the moment I knew life was still going to be awesome even if I wasn’t playing soccer.

Hoboken Girl: What advice would you give someone looking to break into the sports industry?

AH: Be open to all possibilities. Your career will not be a straight line. You may find that your career takes you away from sports and that’s okay. You’ll gravitate to the roles that will spark your passions and you can find yourself back in the sports industry in different ways.

Alyssa Musto

Senior Manager of Customer Acquisition, NHL

Alyssa Musto

Alyssa’s main responsibility is to manage the NHL’s paid media strategy,  from lead generation efforts like personality quizzes and trivia to boosting original social content and tune-in ads, to influencer marketing.

Hoboken Girl: What was your inspiration behind breaking into the sports industry?

AM: I’ve always been a huge sports fan – I grew up trying out every sport I could, from soccer to tennis to sailing and horseback riding. My dad had season tickets to the Jets, so I also went to every home game with him and absolutely loved being at live events.

Hoboken Girl: Do you see more women becoming involved in the sports industry?

AM: More! As more and more women continue to break into higher-ranking roles in the front office and on the field, the industry will only become even more inclusive. I’ve also experienced a culture of having each other’s backs and being resources for one another across leagues/teams, which creates a great environment all-around. It’s awesome watching a sports panel or attending an industry event and seeing so many women involved.

Hoboken Girl: What was one of your favorite moments in your career? 

AM: It’s hard to pick just one, but my favorite part of the job is getting to work at our events like Winter Classic and All-Star Weekend. It’s awesome seeing our fans’ excitement and passion in person and getting to interact with different fan bases all over the country. Plus, outdoor hockey is just a blast.

Hoboken Girl: Favorite local spot? 

AM: Moran’s, Karma Kafe, Margheritas, Louise and Jerry’s, City Bistro’s rooftop on a sunny day!

Katie Navarino

Account Executive or Partnership Marketing, BSE Global

Katie Navarino

As an Account Executive in BSE Global’s Partnership Marketing department, Katie works on a number of sponsorships for the Brooklyn Nets and Barclays Center. Just some of Katie’s responsibilities include implementing and creating sponsor’s promotions, community programs, media, and signage.

Hoboken Girl: What was your inspiration behind breaking into the sports industry?

Katie Navarino: Growing up the TV was always tuned to whatever New York sports team was in season, I couldn’t wait to start playing Little League with my brother, and as I got older I found a place in my high school and college rowing teams. I began my college career as a drama major but soon found a love for business. After I made the switch, I realized I wanted to be a part of the sports industry since it had been a staple throughout my life. To get started I did an internship with a sports charity program that helped children of all ages play sports and from that moment I knew I had found the right career path. Sports is so much more than just goals or baskets. It teaches confidence and leadership, brings families and friends together, and I want to be a part of it any way I can.

Hoboken Girl: Do you see more women becoming involved in the sports industry? 

KN: I think women are increasingly becoming involved in the sports industry because of the trailblazing women who have fought to have a seat at the table. These women helped pave a path for all of those who follow behind, and that’s important. But there is more work to be done, especially at the executive level.

Hoboken Girl: Do you have any women that you look up to in the sports industry?

KN: There are countless women I look up to in the sports industry, from female athletes to all the women who are breaking barriers every day. One of the women in particular who I follow and look up to is Amy Trask, the former CEO of the Oakland Raiders. She has never been afraid to share her opinion and speak her mind. I also look up to all of the women I work with every day. To have so many supportive women to help guide my career has given me so much motivation and encouragement to keep climbing.

Hoboken Girl: What was one of your favorite moments in your career?

KN: I would have to say one of my favorite moments was stepping out onto the field at Yankee Stadium for the first time while I was working for the New York Yankees. Another one of my favorite moments is when I was recognized as a Winning Women in Sports and was given the opportunity to throw out the first pitch at a Brooklyn Cyclones game. I practiced for days before since I hadn’t thrown a baseball in years, but it was so much fun! 

Hoboken Girl: Favorite local spot?

KN: It’s hard to choose just a few but some of my local favs are Empire Coffee, The Hive, Otto Strada, Sorellina, and O’Bagel.

Kristin Pellettier

Manager, Video Production & Technology

Kristin Pellettier

In Kristin’s role, she leads a team of full-time and freelance video editors at Bleacher Report. Kristin’s team executes long and short-form pieces across all social platforms for B/R and for linear distribution on WarnerMedia’s networks like TNT. In addition to post-produced pieces, the group also edits all of Bleacher Report’s live and taped studio content, as well as highlights for NBA, CFB, CBB, MLB, and MLS.

Hoboken Girl: What was your inspiration behind breaking into the sports industry?

KP: Sports have been a part of my life for as long as I can remember. Watching hockey and baseball was a way for me to bond with my Dad and two older brothers. I played softball and volleyball most of my younger years and continued to play for school and on travel teams. The camaraderie and sense of community were unmatched for me. Being on sports teams is where I honed the skills I rely on so much today; confidence, perseverance, teamwork, and communication. I always knew I needed to work in a field that had that same energy and sense of community.

Hoboken Girl: Do you see more or fewer women becoming involved in the sports industry? Why do you think that is?

KP: There has definitely been a rise of women entering the sports industry and it is fantastic to witness. It’s no surprise that the sports industry has always been male-dominated. When I started at my current company I was one of maybe ten women working there. Since then, women employed at the company have grown exponentially, especially women in leadership positions. I think what is so important is that women finally have role models to look up to in this industry.

Hoboken Girl: What was one of your favorite moments in your career?

KP: Earlier in my career, I had a summer internship at SNY in their creative content department. Being a diehard Mets fan, this had already been a dream come true for me. When my internship was nearing its end, one of the producers was unable to make a shoot with the Mets and they had asked me to fill in for them – which would entail leading the shoot and conducting interviews. It was a piece centered around Ralph Kiner’s legacy and I got to interview the great Tom Seaver, Rusty Staub, and John Franco.

Hoboken Girl: What advice would you give someone looking to break into the sports industry?

KP: Take those internships and learn as much as you can about the industry. Network and make connections in your role.

See More: A Guide to the Healers of Hudson County

Jackie Bartolomeo

Vice President of Development, National Fitness Foundation 

Jackie Bartolomeo

As the Vice President of Development, Jackie helps generate private and corporate support for Foundation programs, including the Presidential Youth Fitness Program. Jackie manages relationships with the Foundation’s existing and future corporate partners including professional sports leagues and consumer brands.

Hoboken Girl: What was your inspiration behind breaking into the sports industry?

Jackie Bartolomeo: I am a very competitive person. I grew up playing sports (field hockey and track) and was raised a die-hard Yankees fan. Working in the sports industry has allowed me to channel my competitiveness into a positive outlet. While a senior at NYU I was interning for a PR firm and did not feel fulfilled or challenged. I asked myself “what is my dream job/internship?” which was to work for the New York Rangers. Sure enough, after faxing in my resume (yes, I’m dating myself here) and calling HR, they had a spot for me interning in marketing and group sales.  That role only fueled my interest in a sport-related career and it led to further opportunities through networking and relationship building. 

Hoboken Girl: What was one of your favorite moments in your career?

JB: There are so many!  I have been fortunate enough to experience All-Star games, work with hall of fame athletes and Olympians, visit the Oval Office and Supreme Court with the Stanley Cup and Championship team (I even met RBG and visited her chambers). I have traveled all over the world and have seen the power of sports. I think my favorite moments are those where I was able to give back to others through my roles. For most of my career, I have worked in a role that has been focused on community relations, corporate social responsibility and specifically providing opportunities for youth.

Hoboken Girl: What advice would you give someone looking to break into the sports industry?

JB: Don’t give up. be prepared to wear many hats, and surround yourself with a support system of cheerleaders.

Cait Nelson

Manager of Team Finance, NBA

Cait Nelson

Cait helps oversee all team-related financial matters for the 30 NBA and 12 WNBA teams. Her day-to-day consists of providing guidance and insight to help those teams better manage their individual businesses from a finance/cash flow perspective.

Hoboken Girl: What was your inspiration behind breaking into the sports industry?

CN: My dad is one of the biggest sports fans I know and he got me into watching and playing a variety of sports from a very young age (including basketball) ever since I could remember, Sports were a huge part of my life and taught me some of the most valuable life lessons. I intended to carry those learnings and my passion into adulthood when my days as an athlete were over by making a career of it.

Hoboken Girl: Do you see more or fewer women becoming involved in the sports industry?

CN: Definitely more women are becoming involved – but there should be more! The industry is shifting, from the hire of the first female Commissioner to a pool of professional female coaches. I also think that women are getting a lot more visibility than in the past, which is causing a ripple effect and inspiring more women to get involved and get their foot in the door. 

Hoboken Girl: What was one of your favorite moments in your career?

CN: One of the most rewarding experiences was witnessing the success of the NBA and WNBA Bubbles during the height of the pandemic – both were a huge undertaking for the League and teams in all aspects.

Hoboken Girl: What advice would you give someone looking to break into the sports industry?

CN: Be confident, willing to work hard, and know what you bring to the table. This is a super fast-paced environment so you have to be flexible and willing to step out of your comfort zone. You will be challenged, but challenges bring growth. The hard work and dedication are worth it if this is something you are passionate about and want to grow in your career.

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Taylor is an {overly} proud Jersey girl, who has been lucky enough to call Hoboken home for the last three years, and Jersey City for two prior. Originally from a small town in Hunterdon County, Taylor received her degree in multimedia journalism from Duquesne University in Pittsburgh. She also spent some time in Miami, but always knew she’d find her way to Hoboken. Taylor has a career in sports, digital, and social media strategy in the NYC area. A lover of all things local, she has a long list of favorite restaurants and coffee shops where she spends a good chunk of her time. You can also catch her running on the waterfront, walking her new pup, watching reruns of Real Housewives, or making a trip to HomeGoods