Although they see me as an entrepreneur today, people don’t often realize that I spent 14-plus years working for other people at other companies before starting my own. I learned from bosses. I learned about myself through every challenge, and my confidence grew every time I overcame an obstacle. If you want to be a Boss, remember, especially if you work for someone now—It’s OK!
Learn from them. Learn from everyone you can and respect the fact that they’re giving you a paycheck. The hard work you put in will come back to you, so earn your trophies in every job you have and build your reputation now. When starting your own business, you’ll want that good business karma to come your way—believe me.
The Raiders’ front office was so impressed by my work ethic and passion for the whole organization, even as an intern who worked for free the first few months, that the late Coach Willie Brown and our GM at the time, Michael Lombardi, asked me to be the player development coordinator. It was a new role Coach Brown convinced the front office he needed, and I was his first choice. He wanted me to help with incoming rookie players. I’d have an opportunity to train them on how to speak to the media, and I’d help them get acclimated to this whole new world of professional football after signing with the team.
Another champion of mine in the Raider organization was Jerry Knaack, one of the best writers I know. He encouraged me to write for the Raider website and help craft Raiderette bios and stories. Jerry was such a great teacher, he criticized my work often, telling me to dig deeper because he knew I could do better.
Mike Taylor, the big boss in the PR department, also trusted me with so much. He’d basically let me do anything and everything I could to learn how the department was run. His faith in me meant the world. I also did work under Mark Shearer and the team behind the Raider Image stores, just to put in more hours.
In a matter of months, I went from being an unpaid intern to becoming a cheerleader for the team, working in the office during the week, helping with the Raider Image, and doing everything and anything I could that the Raider organization would allow me to do. All this with a two/three-year-old daughter.
Sometimes I would take Yvette to the office with me, stacking boxes in the doorways so she wouldn’t run around and get hurt. I had to prove to the guys in the office that just because I was a female and a mom, I could still work just as often and as hard.
But, bringing Yvette to work had its setbacks. I remember one time she marked up my frickin’ wall with a brown Sharpie pen. I said, “Oh NO, Mike is going to kill me.” But it was the opposite. Everybody loved Yvette; she became part of the family.
Warren Sapp, a Hall of Fame player, even helped me out with her. She’d run up to him, arms up and all, he’d pick her up and walk around the halls chatting with the PR staff. I’d tell him, “I’ll be right back. I need to go grab something.” He’d walk with her and they’d greet friends in the front office. The Raiders were and always will be my family. Yvette and I grew up in those years I worked there.
The culture was something I wanted to emulate at a future company I’d start. The late Al Davis, owner of the Raiders, once said, “The fire that burns brightest in the Raider organization is the will to win.” Those words have always stuck with me. The Raiders gave me a chance to show them, myself, and my family that I could still win, no matter what.
I knew I would follow my dream to work for myself and become my own Boss, but now it was necessary to learn from others to master my profession. After my time with the Raiders, I moved on and followed my passion for tech. I missed it and I wanted to combine it with this new knowledge of football and entertainment I’d gained.
I knew my skillset was rare and I had a much bigger calling waiting for me.
What I’ve learned in each and every step of my career is that you need to master each role given to you and to learn from mentors who have already been there and done it before you can move on to the next challenge. That’s what I did, and it worked. Becoming solid at each level made it easy for me to be a mentor myself. Anytime someone more junior was hired under me, I’d help them become solid in their role because I’d already done it. That’s how you win as a team.