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Mary Jo Silsby (Hope)

Entertainment Business, 2006, MA Non-Profit Leadership, 2015


Associate Director of Venue Operations, National Basketball Association (NBA)

Briefly describe your career path.

After graduating from OCU, I took a job with Gamma Phi Beta as a collegiate leadership consultant. I traveled the country for a year, visiting chapters and doing things like leadership training and officer development. After that year, I got a job in Oklahoma at the Boathouse Foundation as the Volunteer Coordinator in the Events Department working on things like the regattas downtown. My connections with OCU made that happen. I was there for three years and over the course of time was promoted to Director of Events. In the summer of 2010, I received a text message from another OCU graduate letting me know that the Event Manager position was open with the Oklahoma City Thunder. I applied, and six weeks later I started my job as their Event Manager. I was there for 6 years, and in March of 2016, I left the Thunder and went to work for the NBA, in part due to the connections I’d made with the league through interactions on the team side. Now I’m part of the events side of the league nationally and internationally, and I’ve been in this role for about a year and a half.

In five sentences or less, describe what an average day for you might be like:

The NBA is an international brand, so we do events all over the world. If I’m not traveling somewhere and actually putting an event on (e.g., traveling to, loading on, setting up, rehearsing), I’m in the office on conference calls, sometimes internationally and at weird times. My day is very full of administrative planning to put together events, talking to partners on the team side to organize, or actually doing an event onsite in South Africa or Spain or Cleveland, Ohio. Ultimately, no day is the same and every event is different. Working across time zones has taught me a lot about working differently with different places and cultures.

What advice would you give your college self about pursuing work in your current industry?

Volunteer. You always raise your hand to do what is asked – that’s how you learn and recognize what is important at an event. Always be the first one to volunteer. Also, get involved with whatever is going on in entertainment – I see sports as part of that world. Doing as much as you can at any level – on campus, in your home community – in the events world the more hands on experience you have the better. Until you mess it up once you won’t know how to do it.

Half the battle is showing up and being present, and I learned that at OCU. 

What is a lesson learned at OKCU that you have been able to apply to your career?

One thing that always stuck out to me was that Dean Bedford told me not to be too efficient because I’d end up doing things twice. In the entertainment business, things are always changing, so if you do something too early you’ll probably have to do it over again. I’ve seen this professionally and I think of that quote a lot. Everything else I learned at OCU is about working hard and showing up. Half the battle is showing up and being present, and I learned that at OCU. The other thing is networking. I would have never worked with the Thunder if I hadn’t networked at OCU and kept those contacts. I would have never worked at the Boathouse Foundation or Gamma Phi Beta. Only once in my life have I been like, “I need to find a job.” Things have come sort of naturally and I think a lot about that. A lot of people don’t have that – I think of my husband or my brother and they’ve been looking and I think, “That’s life.” But I’ve never really experienced that and I credit much of that to OCU, especially the dance school, where they create that culture of understanding it’s job to job to job. Keeping every door and window open was something I was taught and I love that.

What is the most significant thing that’s happened to you since graduating?

Aside from getting married, probably moving across the country after living in Oklahoma for 15 years. Starting again like that has taught me a lot about life.

Where do you see yourself in 10 years?

When I look back on my path, the thing that has always been constant is a desire to grow and change. If I had been too focused on one job or one path, I wouldn’t be where I am now. I think the same is true for my future. I want to continue being open to opportunities and going where life takes me and doing what I love. It’s hard to predict what that will look like or where it will be, but I know that I’ll continue working hard and volunteering and pursuing my passion.

What is your favorite OKCU memory?

There are so many that finding one to pinpoint is hard to describe. Probably the friendships and connections I made generally – it’s more an overall happy memory, rather than one specific thing. If I had to narrow it down, probably my membership in Gamma Phi Beta and other organizations on campus, my hours sitting in Alvin’s studying. Those all merge together into a really happy memory of OCU.