Women at work: Dawn Aponte, former NFL executive

Women at work: Dawn Aponte, former NFL executive

Ever wonder what it's like to walk a day in someone else's shoes (or spend a day in someone else's job, as the case may be)? Us too! In our "Women at work" series, we're talking to some of the most accomplished women we know about how they got to where they are in their careers, what advice they'd give their younger selves, and any tips & tricks they've picked up along the way.

The basics
Name? Dawn Aponte
Job? RSE Executive, Strategy and Business Development (Sept 2016 "“ present); previously NFL Executive (25 years)
Age? 45
College major? Accounting

The nitty-gritty:
What does your typical work day look like?
The day-to-day of the football operation in the NFL is generally seasonal, depending on where we're at in our football schedule. Overall, my job was to handle anything transaction-related, including negotiations and discussions with player agents, compliance matters, operations issues, and league matters. In the off-season, my role dealt more with planning and strategy related to building our player roster, any financial and contractual decisions, and dealing with free agency and the draft. During the regular season, the days were the most structured " consisting of meetings, practice, daily transactions, gameday and other operational issues, and strategy discussions related to future planning. Unplanned and unforeseen events, such as player injuries or off-the-field issues, were things that would derail the daily in-season routine.

In my current role, I am involved with a number of different projects at RSE, one of which is the development of the newly created Drone Racing League " the sport of the future.

You have the very interesting task of creating a sport from scratch at Drone Racing League, what drew you to the opportunity in the first place?
While I have seen the NFL change and evolve over the years, the foundation and framework were built long before I began working in football. The opportunity to be involved with building an entirely new sport from the ground up was unique and intriguing.

How did you get your start working in the sports industry?
Complete happenstance. The accounts payable person at the New York Jets was going on maternity leave and at the time, I was interning for someone who was aware that the CFO was looking for a summer intern to cover. I was an accounting major at the University of Delaware, so it was a perfect opportunity. After that summer, I was asked to return the following summer and then offered a newly created full-time position as a staff accountant when I graduated college. So what began as a 3-month internship turned into a 25 plus year career.

Your industry tends to be heavily male-dominated, what advice do you have specifically for women interested in working in sports?
I wouldn't focus on the male-female ratio, but rather your passion/desire to work in the sports industry " in whatever capacity that may be. If you have the passion, commitment, and ability to do a job, you will earn the respect and support of others.

What advice would you give your 25-year old self about navigating your own career?
I was never fearful, however, I did focus heavily on my "credentials and experience" as to whether or not I'd be qualified for a certain job. And often times, probably overanalyzed what was necessary. So my advice to my 25-year old self would be: Don't be afraid to take calculated risks and don't underestimate your capabilities. If you have a desired goal and can see a path for success, go for it!

For part of your career in the NFL, you served as chief contract negotiator, what is your best piece of advice for getting what you want in a salary negotiation?
Regardless of whatever type of negotiation you are engaging in, the most valuable advice I've ever received and use religiously is to LISTEN more than you speak. The better you understand the other side and what is important to him/her, the better equipped you will be to accomplish your objectives in any negotiation.

Who have been your biggest role models in your career?
My biggest role models have been my parents. What they instilled in me throughout my life helped to build the foundation for how I have pursued my goals " personally and professionally. They encouraged me to consistently challenge myself, and taught me the importance of hard work and integrity.

Quick fires:
What's your favorite sport to watch? To play? To watch, football. To play, golf.
If you could magically learn any new skill, what would it be? Patience
What did you want to be when you grew up as a child? An accountant
Best book you've read this year? The go-giver

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