The Femi Allen Wasserman Interview
Femi Allen Wasserman is so used to being first that it doesn’t even seem like it’s rare for her to be a pioneer in any position she holds. She is VP of communications of DraftKings Inc., and company spokesperson, as well as the only African American female executive in the daily fantasy sports industry. Being first is not unusual for Wasserman.
If you are involved in fantasy sports, then you’d understand its popularity. If you don’t, then know that with more than a million registered users, DraftKings is on track to distribute more than $200 million in cash prizes in 2014.
So, how does a former director of product development for Capital One Financial get involved in fantasy sports? Well, The Industry Cosign caught up with this busy lady to discuss how she splits work and family and being a one-of-a-kind in a field where she doesn’t see any faces like hers in the ranks.
What drove you to become involved in fantasy sports, something dominated by men?
Well, I’ve always been in industries dominated by men. I was a math major and worked in finance before DraftKings, so being a minority in more ways than one was never a concern for me. However, I’ve also been a sports fan since I was very young. It started with watching NFL football on Sundays with my dad, so when this opportunity presented itself, I was beyond excited.
You are currently the only African American female executive in the daily fantasy sports industry. How do you deal with having that distinction?
It’s not something I consciously deal with. It’s just something I do. As an African American female professional in a STEM field, I’ve been a lot of “firsts” in my life, as have many others. The biggest lesson I’ve learned is that just because something hasn’t happened, doesn’t mean that it can’t. And you can be the one that does it.
How do you stay passionate about what you do and what keeps you focused?
First, what I do is a lot of fun. I love the industry and I love the people I work with at DraftKings. That’s so important, and it makes everything else I have to do that much easier. I stay passionate and focused because I really enjoy the feeling of a job well done. I always have. There’s a high that comes when you win, and I work hard to continue to experience it.
Tell us about DraftKings Inc. What is the company about and what is your role?
DraftKings is the largest US-based host of daily-fantasy sports games. Daily fantasy sports is similar to the fantasy sports leagues that we’re all familiar with, except that the “seasons” are shorter. For NFL, you draft every week, with the player pool determined by the games that are being played that week. And you can win big! We award several million dollar top prizes a year, and this year will pay out over $200 million in prizes overall.
I head Communications and am the spokesperson for DraftKings. I’m responsible for developing and executing our strategy and positioning for earned media. In that capacity, my role comprises event planning, managing internal and external communications, customer relations, and branding. I also handle media interviews.
How do you handle the day-to-day duties of your job?
I spend a good portion of every day reading and consuming media. I read everything related to the industry, including articles about us, competitors, and the industry overall. I also actively monitor social media. Another portion of the day is performing analysis on previous media pieces published. I want to see whether or not articles hit our key demographics and/or sent new traffic to our site. Finally, I also develop communication strategies for media coverage based on upcoming initiatives.
You are a married mother of five children, you work full-time, and it’s not an easy position. What’s your secret? How do you function (that’s if you do function) in juggling between being a mother, wife, and businessperson?
I actually don’t work full-time. Thanks to an incredibly flexible organization, I work half-time, and with their blessing, have sub-contracted an agency to complement what I do. I think this is important to point out because there are many work arrangements that can work for professionals with families – sometimes all you have to do is ask and provide ideas. I think as mothers, we think we have to be superwomen – we burn the candle at both ends so long and fast that before long we have nothing left to give.
I have five children – three I inherited, and twin boys I contributed. My twin boys are both autistic and participate in many hours of therapy a week. My husband is a small business owner and 15 families depend on him to earn a living. So, when we began discussing starting a family, we were in agreement that I would come up with an alternative approach to my career so that we could give the time to our children that we both thought was of paramount importance. I had to figure out a way continue to advance my career in a way that left enough time for my family, and as importantly, myself. That took creative thinking, networking, flexibility, and a willingness to ask for help. Even at half-time, it’s tough, but we have a balance that works for us. I’ve reinvented myself and my career, and done so in a way that means that I still get to fully be a part of my household.
What advice would you give anyone who has an interest in the fantasy sports industry?
Go for it! It’s a fast growing industry, so there are jobs to be had, but it is niche. Network, join online fantasy sports forums, attend conferences, and comment on Twitter. Recruiting in this industry can be unconventional, but the flip side is that the leadership is typically more accessible than in more traditional industries. Reach out and ask!
Do you participate in fantasy sports and if you do, how does your score sheet typically look?
Unfortunately, I don’t play as much as I used to. I’m limited to private games at work, and I typically place last, so I won’t be giving any tips here. Did you see the part where I said I have five kids?!