When Stephanie Durante was asked in the fourth grade what she aspired to be, her answer foreshadowed a unique career in the making. Durante joked that she can still dig up the yearbook that lists her dream occupation as "the first female player for the New York Giants."
Now the National Football League's Vice President of Game Operations, Durante joined Madelyn Burke on Her Playbook podcast to detail her path to success and day-to-day undertakings at the league office.
Durante admitted that she too had questions about the game operations field as a 22-year-old hoping to break into the sports industry. She recalled her mother's advice upon receiving an offer to join the league office as a game operations assistant: 'Who cares? It's a job.'
Durante took a leap of faith and entered the league in an unfamiliar field. "It was the best entry level job I could've asked for," she reflected. "It was like a small family, and it allowed me to learn and understand at the base level."
16 years later, Stephanie Durante is in the very same department that kick-started her career. In her role, she safeguards "competitive equity and integrity" by overseeing every aspect of the game itself: policy compliance, education and member club training.
Durante spoke candidly about the importance of strong female role models in her life. Both her mother and aunt worked for the Giants, so Durante was "always around this business." At the age of 12, she alphabetized her aunt's scouting reports, unsure exactly of their purpose. By 14, she packaged and mailed season tickets. Then at 16, she transitioned to childcare on game day.
The women she encountered in her early years shaped her perception of the sports industry: "It wasn't always a thing in my mind necessarily that it would be odd or different for a woman to work in this field."
Today, Durante's work is expanding the game of football on a global scale and increasing the NFL's brand internationally. She spoke about the process of launching the first ever NFL game in Munich, Germany and shared that the travel aspect of her field is one of the reasons why game operations is even more fitting for her than she initially realized.
She also spoke about the challenges of her career, from planning an entire season in the midst of a global pandemic to transitioning NFL clubs into Super Bowl operational plans. At the end of the day, the outcome reaps great reward.
"It's not just a career; it's a lifestyle," Durante added. "You have to want to do this all the time. There's not traditional work hours."
As for other women aspiring to a career in sports, Durante's advice is simple. "Get involved now (with) things you can do today to help you for later on…So, putting in the time and the dedication and having a passion for the game and meeting those people today will help you down the line."
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