GladiatHers® Executives is a series that highlights some of the top women in sports who are influencing the sports industry and beyond. These high performing women share how they achieve success and have impact. Meet Thayer Lavielle: EVP, The Collective at Wasserman
As EVP, The Collective at one of the most power sports agencies in the world (Wasserman), Thayer Lavielle showcases current and future pioneers in women’s sports. The Collective is the division within Wasserman that raises the visibility of women in sports, entertainment and culture by delivering unique strategy, insights and ideas for talent, brands and properties focused on empowering and speaking to women. Lavielle is responsible for leveraging all facets of Wasserman’s services through The Collective and applying them across Wasserman’s brands, properties and talent business. Her work as an executive is demanding but she took the time to sit down with GladiatHers® to share how she’s been able to find success in the sports industry and to provide some keys for our readers to find their own success.
Lavielle’s foray into the sports world did not start on the sidelines. She developed a passion for sports as an athlete, growing up in a home with five brothers. When it was time to choose a career though, neither sports nor marketing were at the top of her list. Early in her journey, marketing was not recognized field of study or practice. As Lavielle would describe it, “It [marketing] wasn’t really a class, it was something you picked up on the job and figured out.”
There is a common misconception in the sports industry that you have to start in sports to have a career in sports, however, a number of industry professionals debunk this myth by starting in places on the opposite spectrum of sports. Lavielle is no exception. She majored in Religion and French, taking her first job in France as an intern at ABC. She returned to the US to work for ABC in New York. At ABC she worked on several broadcasts such as World News Tonight and Good Morning America. Lavielle credits her time at ABC with teaching her how to hustle and prioritize, two keys to her success in the sports industry.
Admittedly though, Lavielle didn’t begin to hone in on her storytelling skills, a key for marketers, until she moved on to public relations, “You would think I would it (my ability to storyteller) would’ve developed be in news, but it wasn’t, I really learned in PR [public relations].”
Her noteworthy work in public relations within the fragrance department at L’Oréal positioned her for a promotion working in marketing. While most people would be ecstatic at the thought of a promotion, Lavielle was a little less than confident in the new opportunity. “My initial reaction when my mentor asked me about the opportunity was, ‘Why?’ I honestly had no interest. In my mind all they [marketers] would do is come in and crunch numbers. They had this cost of goods books and I was like ‘I don’t know what marketing is’. . . it feels really math focused and no thanks.”
Rather than go with her more intimidated reaction, she took a leap of faith, went for it and has been successful ever since. Lavielle credits her mentors and sponsors with that success. She was surrounded and supported by a CFO and other executives who became great mentors, really breaking down the position in a way that was applicable to her. “They were so patient with me,” Lavielle recalls. Lavielle encourages women in the industry to find their own mentors and sponsors if they are interested in career growth.
Finding mentors and sponsors is especially important for mid-level women as making the jump to executive status can become more competitive and demanding. Building a network and having mentors and sponsors can help navigate and overcome those obstacles. Lavielle describes a mentor as “the one that talks you off the ledge. Mentors are there to help you grow professionally and offer advice for work issues, etc. A sponsor helps you advance in the industry by providing recommendations and opportunities. It’s great to have both on your team and in your rolodex throughout your career.”
Not only does she encourage mid-level women to get mentors and sponsor but Lavielle encourages other executive women to become those mentors and sponsors. “Executive women, give back and remember that you were once where these other women were.”
Pivoting from the news to PR to marketing may have been initially daunting but each pivot created the foundation and network she needed to begin working for Wasserman. Those career pivots, while new and unexpected were necessary to get to executive status. For young women attempting to take their careers to the next level or considering their own pivots, Lavielle provides this insight. “This is how I look at jobs [when considering whether to accept a new one]. . . does the job that sits in front of me interest me? Do I feel like I am going to learn something or get excited about it? For me it was always about, what do I need to learn. . . Find out what you want to learn, and that may might not be in your comfort zone. Be fearless ladies, be fearless! What do you have to lose?!”
When taking your career to next level, Lavielle also cautions that it’s important to trust the process, to cultivate a genuine desire to be valuable to your team/mission and to be of service. In a society that praises the woman up front Lavielle encourages, “It’s ok to just be the Indian and not the Chief. The reason you’re in the job, is to do that work, the better you do that work, the more you can receive.”