International Women’s Day Q&A Series: Behind the Scenes with… Ali Coleman

Ahead of International Women’s Day on 8 March, we are launching a new Q&A series taking a look at some of the hard-working women who keep things running behind the scenes at GIANTS Netball.

Ali Coleman – Corporate Partnerships Manager

What does your job entail?

I manage the relationships with our corporate partners. Our partners want to form a partnership with our brand and from that they have certain goals and objectives that they want to achieve in return for their investment. I help them identify the best ways to do that and then facilitate that for them. Our team helps them reach their objectives, whilst helping them to support women in sport, which is a passion at the heart of their choice to work with us.

It really is about stakeholder management. I’m a relationship manager at the root of things. I’m the go to in between the client and in between our internal staff. There is an aspect of creativity to that – trying to think outside the box and come up with different ideas, but a lot of it is about building relationships and implementing plans.

I look after partners that cover the GIANTS, Swifts and grass roots of Netball New South Wales. These include HCF, Bing Lee, Nissan, Woolworths, Genea, FDC Construction & Fitout, Western Sydney University, ACT Government, Coca-Cola Amatil, Brokenwood, Castlereagh Imaging, Mizuno and Lorna Jane.

How long have you been working with GIANTS Netball?

It will be two years in April.

What attracted you to this specific role?

I grew up playing netball. It’s a passion of mine. I worked in sport previously and when I had applied for the role, the Suncorp Super Netball League had just started that year – it was 2017 – so it was a really exciting time to join the sport and be a part of it. There was lot of potential for growth and opportunities.

What is a typical day like for you in your role?

A lot of emails. A lot of phone calls. A lot of direct face-to-face communication. A lot of asking for favours. A lot of meetings. A lot of presentations. A lot of liaising with different venues and clients. Just a lot of liaising really. And lots of negotiating. There’s always a big ‘to-do’ list.

What skills do you think people would have to have to succeed in your role?

It does require a lot of juggling and multitasking. I think you definitely need to be patient and you need to be willing to compromise. For example, we will get told from a client ‘we want to focus on brand awareness and this is how we want to do it’ so we get excited and think the ideas are great and then we come back and maybe our internal team doesn’t think it’s so great because it doesn’t fit in with our brand and what we want to do. So, it’s trying to work with both parties to come up with a solution.

Did you study anything in particular before working professionally?

Yes, I started University doing a Bachelor of Health and Science. However, I deferred further and went travelling and it took a few years to come home again. When I got back home, I knew the job I was in wasn’t really what I wanted to do and I started an online course in Business Marketing. But then I got the job at Netball NSW and didn’t feel like I had the time to put into continuing that.

Are you a netball fan?

I grew up playing netball – clearly not very well! I started with Avalon Netball Club, which no longer exists, down on the Northern Beaches at Manly-Warringah. So, I played there and I played during high school for my school and that was at Ku-ring-gai. And I’ve played Night Comp at West Pymble and Willoughby. I don’t play at the moment though – I want to but I don’t have the time.

What position did you play?

Defence. I always grew up paying Goal Keeper but I actually prefer Wing Defence.

What other sport do you love?

I like other team sports. I don’t have one specific sport. I don’t enjoy one-on-one sports as much. I’ll get into it for about 15 minutes and then I’m done. Anything competitive and fast paced for a team will get me watching it.

What made you want to work in sport?

I’ve always loved sport and the way that it brings people together. It really brings out people’s passionate nature and competitiveness and I think it’s great to support other people.

Can you share a little bit about your work history before joining the team?

I started my professional career at Chelsea Football Club. I started on reception and within eight months I got a promotion to the corporate hospitality team and then after about four months I got another promotion and that’s when I became a Client Services Executive. So, my job there was all about account management – less stakeholder management and more one-on-one relationship building. I managed over 130 seasonal hospitality clients and was in charge of renewing £3 million worth in revenue each season.

We had a lot of match days. One year we had 33. And sometimes you would have three games in a week, where you could have a Sunday, Wednesday night and then a Saturday. It was really fast paced and you’d be working 6-7 days a week sometimes with very competitive targets. You worked hard but you played hard.

I was with Chelsea for five years and I left at the end of 2015 and went travelling until the beginning of 2016. Then I moved back to Australia and I thought I wanted a break from sport, so I worked for an entertainment company and whilst it wasn’t really for me, it’s how I got into commercial. So, it was a really good introduction to working in partnerships and the challenges you come up against internally and externally.

Do you think the sports environment in the UK in itself is very different to Australia?

Massively. It’s very different.

There’s so much more money in sport over there and I think with that comes other opportunities and other challenges.

There was a very different culture (at Chelsea) than here, especially from a female’s perspective because – and this has changed in the last couple of years because there is now a female director – I had a female department manager but there was no one higher that her that was a female. And that role seemed to be as high as she could go.

And they did a lot of work for women working in sport to try and encourage and build the confidence of women there, but it was very evident that perhaps there was progress to be made.

The clients that I dealt with were all high net worth individuals. A lot of them were quite old fashioned in the sense that they see you’re a woman so they call you sweetheart or darling or something like that. I felt like I had to work harder to prove myself to get that respect.

I feel that the culture within Netball New South Wales is very unique to sport in Australia and I think being led by a female CEO and having three out of five women as General Managers is very encouraging as a female.

Do you see the sports landscape changing for women especially surrounding opportunity and exposure?

I definitely do. Within sport in general I think it doesn’t necessarily come down to the fact that a man is chosen for that role because they’re male and not female. I just don’t think there’s enough women going for those roles and that I think comes over time through building confidence and interest and changing cultures. I can’t imagine why a woman would want to work in some sports in a high position because of the culture they have there. But netball does have a welcoming culture and positive culture for women.

There seems to be steps being taken across the industry, but hopefully more steps are taken in other sports to have more of a welcoming culture in the future. Certainly, things have changed but not maybe where it could be yet.

The opportunities are for netball to change and grow are developing. Getting the media exposure and continually pushing for that, I think that’s a big part of it and an important thing. And then there’s higher wages for netballers – granted they have developed significantly over the last couple of years – but I think there’s a still a ways to go.

What does it mean to you to be able to work in a sport that does have a predominantly female participation base?

I love it because I think it’s great to see young girls playing together and learning how to work as a team. That’s the other brilliant thing about netball, the fact that you need every position on the court and there’s not one person that can do everything. And you’re able to form friendships and have fun as well.

Do you have a hero and why are they your hero?

My mum, she is one of the strongest people I know. She is independent and brave, but also very kind and compassionate. She’s also a lot of fun and always has a positive outlook.

What is your passion away from work?

Probably three things. I love travelling, gardening and puppies.

My other half and I travelled to many different countries together, especially whilst we lived overseas and are always looking for our next adventure.

I’m also a bit of a crazy plant lady. My favourite plant I would say has got to be String of Pearls but I love watching them all grow and slowly take over our apartment.

And what motivates and inspires you?

I work in a wonderful small team – there are always laughs to be had but we all support each other which I’m very grateful for.

I think what makes this place so great is the people that work here. It’s always great fun with initiatives such as our very serious Lunchtime League and more recently the Netty Games.

I also have wonderful clients. Partners that are genuinely passionate about netball and women’s sport. That’s really important to me – to see that they want to get involved, that they want the team to win and want the players to be successful within their own rights. They’re really supportive.

Away from work it’s a mix. I love hanging out with my partner and family. They’re a big support network for me.

Is there something about the GIANTS Netball brand that you really connect with?

I like that it’s a challenger brand. I think, being a new team but being led by experienced professionals in the way of Kim (Green) and Julie (Fitzgerald), I think it’s really exciting to try and do something a bit different and bold.

It’s exciting to make history and be a part of something at that early stage and to help grow it and actually lead the direction for something in your own area of expertise.

Is there something that’s special and memorable about the brand and the team, maybe a memorable moment?

Julie Fitzgerald is wonderful and I think she sets the culture for the team and their inclusiveness, but also that value of hard work and setting high expectations and holding people accountable. That coming from the top down, from a team perspective, I think is really important.

My favourite moment was the Semi-Final at the Quaycentre in 2017 against the Magpies when KB (Kristina Brice) shot the winning goal and everyone went ballistic, including myself. We were shouting, jumping, hugging each other.

It’s pretty special to get to that place in the first year. It was so great. It was genuinely like we’d won the Grand Final.

You just didn’t think they were going to do it and for them to just that one extra goal. You can’t script those moments.