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:
Tina D'Orazio, Philadelphia Eagles
Position: Senior Vice President and Chief of Staff, Office of the Chairman/CEO
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How did you get your start in a career in football?
After I graduated from Syracuse, I was really fortunate to work in production and media in New York City, and I had great experiences at MTV Networks, VH1 and Hearst Magazines. Then I came to Philadelphia and landed at the Eagles within a few months. I didn't work with any other sports teams and wasn't really thinking about working in sports. That said, sports are something I'm very interested in, and it's very entertaining. Like you said, working in sports is a passion project, and I actually chose Syracuse partly because it's a big sports school. I've always been very drawn to sports, even though I was very bad at them.
Naturally, when the opportunity with the Eagles came to me post-New York City, I treated it like any other media company I worked for. Having that background and staying in an entertainment space was something I was very excited about, especially moving to a smaller market and finding opportunities here. It really fit with my background, even though it's not a traditional sports background. If you look at some of our other senior vice presidents at the team, they have similar experiences, and owner Jeffrey Lurie is looking for diversity of thought across the board.
Having been with the Eagles since 2004, can you explain what your role was when you started and how it has expanded?
I've been with Jeffrey the whole time, but I started working game days, helping and supporting him as his right-hand assistant. We would do anything from inviting guests and dignitaries to his suite all the way up to organizing the Super Bowl, because that first year was a Super Bowl year for the Eagles. Within three months of being on the job, I was thrust into a Super Bowl. It was baptism by fire.
Through the years, it's graduated a little bit into more high-level stuff. It's still the things I did in 2004 and 2005, but at a more elevated level. On a day-to-day basis, I'm working with our internal team on the priorities of the league and the Eagles, like the latest team-wide marketing initiative, design, hype videos, new banners and things like that. We've added a lot to the plate as Jeffrey grew as an owner with new challenges and opportunities, and there was a lot of personal growth for me as well, as he brought his progressive pace to the organization. This includes Jeffrey's personal philanthropy and the Eagles Autism Challenge, which is our team initiative that's raised over $10 million in three and a half years. In Jeffrey's mind, he always has to do something that's a little bit more and outstanding, and to his credit, we are giving this money to research-based institutions that go through an aggressive scientific process. We've done a ton of work in this space to give back to this community.
I've grown with Jeffrey as he's taken on new projects that aren't always football-related but tied to it sometimes. His passion projects are film and entertainment, and documentary films are something that he's very committed to and enjoys making. He's won two Academy Awards and started a company called Play/Action Pictures, which obviously has a little flair for football and film, so we've been busy with that over the last two or three years. I'm helping support that structure with hiring and leading that project. It's not so much football-related, but the themes and subjects are very applicable to players.
When you look back over everything you've done, what would you say you've enjoyed the most?
For me, it's always about building and re-building things, seeing a project at its inception and seeing it through. We've had a couple of rebuilds in the organization, and I was part of three head-coaching searches thus far, with Chip Kelly, then Doug Pederson, and now Nick Sirianni. I've been through all of those and could support those rebuilds from finding the coach to, obviously with Doug, winning a Super Bowl. It's great to see that, knowing the formula that works and looking back on it as a model for the organization.
Can you describe what it's like being part of a head-coaching search?
This was mind-blowing to me, coming from the media world. Who hires a major executive of a company within two weeks flat? You have this short period of time for the search, and that's it. Super Bowl is another one of those instances where it's a race to the finish.
I'm not giving input of which candidates to bring in, but I'm really at the nuts and bolts of it, getting those candidates to where they need to be and getting all of the details sorted. Jeffrey did have me included in the search for Doug Pederson. Each time a new head coach is hired, different executives are brought in, and Jeffrey loves to have a lot of different thoughts and people at the table. Basically, the organization brings different candidates in every single day for a week to 10 days to two weeks -- whatever it takes. ... It's an exhaustive process in which you're interviewing people for hours and hours and days at a time. You have all hands on deck to get to the end goal, which is finding someone you think can bring the organization to the next level, be successful on and off the field, and really complement the culture and ideology of what your sports organization is. It's super important, and the process gets done in a record amount of time.
Looking at your career path, do you have any mentors who've inspired you along the way?
There have been a ton of mentors along the way, but I would say Jeffrey is the biggest mentor of mine. He's pushed me to the next level and taken me along for the ride. He's always been supportive and encouraged me to take on bigger, greater things. I work alongside a great team of people, and to have that family dynamic outside of your own family and with relationships at work is so nice.
How have you seen the industry change for women?
There are many women that also work in this company. It wasn't like I walked into the Eagles as the only woman and broke through barriers. It was already being done at the time. Four out of the seven senior vice presidents are women, along with five vice presidents and 10 directors. Everyone is really supportive in this inclusive environment, and that comes from the top down. It really starts with Jeffrey and the culture he sets. He's very much for a diversity of thought and people who are going to provide great insights and challenge some of his own notions when it comes to any major decision for our football team.
Naturally, our team has developed and will continue to develop over time when it comes to diversity and inclusion, but we were well on our way years ago. That's a credit to all senior leadership. To be honest, it's men who help us along the way. It's men who have to be supportive, especially in an industry that is heavily male-dominated. We need those inclusive men. Obviously, Jeffrey sets that culture from the minute anyone comes into the organization, and other leaders embrace and carry it through.
The football side is the next step, because on the business side, we're pretty well integrated. We're starting to see that more on the football side, and that's how the league has really developed over the years. Sarah Thomas was a referee at the last Super Bowl. Now we're seeing women become the first coach or first scout, and that's really exciting. To (Eagles general manager) Howie Roseman's credit, Catherine Raîche has been promoted to vice president of football operations, and Ameena Soliman has been promoted from personnel intern to a pro scout, so we're trying to do our part. It's great to see all the teams in the league put effort into having diversity of thought and include women in all areas. It's a cascading effect, and it's now normal to see women in these roles.
You're right. It's been great to see progress. Now, what would you say to a female looking to pursue a career in football?
Find what you want to do and put your time in. It will pay off in the end, and if it's something you truly love to do, the hours are not going to matter. The time is not going to matter. It will eventually pay off years down the line when you have a successful position. ... People are constantly watching and seeing what your work ethic is. If you have a great work ethic, it's something employers are looking for and when a role opens up, you just might be thought of.