Women are rising up the ranks throughout professional football, earning positions of power in a space that for too long was ruled almost exclusively by men. We're seeing more and more women breaking barriers in the sport, but what are the stories beyond the headlines? Who are the women shaping and influencing the NFL today? Answering those questions is the aim of the Next Woman Up series. While the conversational Q&As are edited and condensed for clarity, this is a forum for impactful women to share experiences in their own words. Without further ado, we introduce:
Nadege Pluviose, New York Jets
Position: Director of Client Relations
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How did you get your start in a career in the NFL?
My love for football really started at Penn State. When you go to a university like that, you happen to fall in love with football and football gets engrained in you. With that, I was fortunate enough to intern for Penn State Intercollegiate Athletics under the marketing umbrella, so I got to see the Penn State White Out build to what it is today. After graduating, I applied for the Jets position online and started in inside sales and worked my way up -- like a number of people have with the transition from Giants Stadium into MetLife Stadium. Our group was in charge of relocating season-ticket holders, answering questions, doing seat tours and previews and things of that nature.
I think starting out in sales humbles you because you hear "no" often, and we actually didn't have a customer service department when I first started. For us, we didn't accept credit cards back then. Season-ticket holders received their invoices in the mail and they needed to send a check to be cut by said date, so it was very transactional. With the introduction of personal seat licenses (PSLs), it opened a world of things like contracts, PSL agreements, payment terms, payment declines and other questions. Those were all things we weren't dealing with previously, so I was able to start the customer service team and expand it from there.
Oh! Wow. What was it like starting a new department of that magnitude?
When I first started, I was dealing with a lot of credit card declines. Again, this was the first time we were accepting credit cards or accepting payments in bulk fashion, and someone needed to start calling people when their credit cards were unable to be processed. We were trying to get their payments rectified so their accounts were in good standing, and it continued to answering questions about contracts and who was going to be handling accounts. So, a few people and I started to form a team that primarily focused on customer service and answering questions after the sales process happened.
It has grown into two separate departments. As of right now, I oversee client relations and retention and there is a ticket operations portion as well. We deal with anything from ticket renewals of season-ticket holders on an annual basis to questions about digital ticketing now, and there's also a loyalty program. There are so many facets about customer service that have changed over the years, so that's a little bit of my job in a nutshell.
I want to go back to when the Jets moved from Giants Stadium to MetLife Stadium. How does that process work when it comes to season-ticket holders?
There was a team that formed right before I started that was primarily focused on moving season-ticket holders in order of seniority, so a season-ticket holder who had been with us the longest got priority to select the new seats in the new stadium. We went from oldest to newest, essentially, and would outbound call these individuals, and it was a lot of cold calling, trying to set up meetings and/or appointments at the old stadium and walking through a construction project at the new stadium. We started off wearing hard hats and suits and escorting people around the new stadium to give them a preview of what that would look like. It was a huge undertaking.
I can imagine. Like with most things, I would also think that the prices of season tickets went up with the move. How do you keep people interested in investing in the season tickets?
It's a challenge, for sure. Everyone had to get used to the idea of personal seat licenses -- a newer concept at that point. Now it's a bit easier because so many other teams have done it. But because it is such a drastic jump with the licenses and ticket cost increase, it was something that our fan base had to get adjusted to. That's the challenge that I think anyone, at least during that time, had to deal with.
However, the sale is the love of the sport, the team, the camaraderie. It's everything that involves your game-day routine. Fans want to be there cheering on their team. It's all the heartstrings.
What is the most challenging part of your job?
There are things that are out of my control, unfortunately -- specifically, team performance -- but I can try to control everything else around it by making sure a season-ticket holder has a great game-day experience, whether that means concessions, everything that involves their Jets rewards, parking, etc. There are so many factors of a game day that play into whether or not someone had an enjoyable experience, and only so many of them I can control before something goes negative. Team performance always happens to be brought up, which is unfortunate, because we want to make sure our fans have the best time no matter what.
That makes sense. Now, what would you say you're most proud of?
I'm most proud of my entire career. I never thought I would make it this far in sports. I wasn't sure what I was going to do in the industry, but making it this far and making a mark on the Jets and the NFL, it's not a small feat.
What is your favorite moment with the Jets?
With my job, I form a lot of relationships with season-ticket holders over the years. I get an opportunity to watch people become parents or grandparents and introduce a whole new set of Jets fans to a whole new world. My favorite moment is inducting the new Jets Fan Hall of Fame class each year. Starting in 2017, we have inducted a few members into the Hall of Fame at the end of each season, and each year, the Jets family grows a little bit. With that, I get to form great relationships and provide our fans with a lasting experience they'll never forget. I think this truly makes the job all well worth it.
When you look ahead, what's next for you?
That is such a good question, and I have to say I don't know yet. That's also the beauty of working in sports. You don't have to plan your next move tomorrow, two years from now, five years from now, what have you. Everything can change in such a New York minute that I don't know yet.
I do know that I want to continue to make a difference and continue to pave the way for those who come after me and make sure it's a little bit easier for every woman to find her way in sports.
Along those lines, have you seen the industry change for females since you started with the Jets in 2009? If so, how?
For me, there have been so many changes over the last 10 to 12 years, especially on the football side between female referees and coaches. It's eye-opening and so refreshing to see everyone make groundbreaking moves.
Do you have any mentors who've influenced you along the way, and what was their advice?
The biggest mentors or influences are actually my parents. My parents were born in Haiti and are immigrants, and they have worked their way to provide a successful life for my brother and me. Not only that but they have always taught me to go for whatever dream I want. If you believe it, you can achieve it. And to keep going with that same conviction. I was never told I couldn't do something. Instead, it was how would you accomplish it? Because of that, my work ethic and strive to do great things have come to fruition.
They must be proud of what you've accomplished. Do you do any mentoring yourself?
I do. What's great is I have had a few people reach out to me for advice, and I always try to pay it forward. That's the best thing I can do for anyone up-and-coming, especially in sports. I have gotten the opportunity to go back and speak at Penn State a few times. One of my college mentors, Matt Checchio, has asked me to speak at their Sports Business Day. I am a firm believer that you have to pay it forward and try as hard as possible to help people try to achieve the next level of success.
Along these lines, what advice do you have for the next group of women in sports?
I tell them to keep going and grind as much as you can. If there is someone I can introduce them to who can help them achieve the level of success they want, or if there is a connection I have, I have no problem doing that just to make sure they succeed in their own path. But do not give up, continue to try and make sure you leave your mark on the sports industry as best as you can.