Thinking on Your Feet and Learning to Improvise [rain or shine], the Journey of Kara Schuster

By: Katie Willis, @_KatieWillis

Kara Schuster, Consumer Event Coordinator for PGA of America

Front Office Sports is honored to have sat down with Kara Schuster, Consumer Events Coordinator for PGA of America. Kara was kind enough to have offered up her time and insight into the importance of thinking on your feet to come up with quick fixes, maintaining a healthy work/life balance and finding a mentor to bounce off ideas. In her current role, Kara is in charge of leading and directing golf experiences and activations around PGA of America championships and special events as well as the event marketing and promotions.

Growing up and throughout your college career, can you explain what experiences/jobs led you to want to work in sports and land your current role as Consumer Events Coordinator at PGA of America?

“I grew up in Colorado and my sport was soccer. I ended up playing Division 2 soccer at Palm Beach Atlantic University. Although my background wasn’t in golf, I’ve always had a passion for sports. I started working in e-commerce but it wasn’t as exciting as sports. It was mostly online and I did some social media marketing management in terms of web development projects. It was in the office behind the computer. So, it wasn’t what I do now which is being outside and running tournaments.”

“Through a networking event, I got connected with the PGA by a friend. After, we established a better relationship and rapport. He was instrumental in setting me up with the HR team. From that, you can see how networking and relationship building is definitely important.”

“I went through the college recruiting process for soccer so I think that was helpful (in applying for jobs). Through that process, you have to send out your highlight clips and connect with coaches like you do at job fairs. You begin to see what they have to offer. I went through the interview process but it was through sports at first. (That experience) helped me to maintain relationships over time, which I could convert to a job skill.”

You talk about transitioning from the e-commerce marketing position you had in college to a job in the sports industry, can you talk about that?
“For me, I already had a job at the time (of graduation). I didn’t look into other opportunities. However, I loved working in sports and knew it was something I wanted to do. I wish I would have started working in the industry earlier. When you’re exiting college, you take an entry level job in sports. I’d take that opportunity over a little bit better paying job if it’s really what you’re passionate about.”

In the beginning of your start with the PGA, what was the biggest thing you found yourself having to learn?

“When I started, I knew some things about golf. For me, it was learning more about the sport and going through the programs to better my game and foster more connections on the golf course. Industry wide, we do events with NFL teams, WNBA and NBA, etc. so as much knowledge as you can soak up about other sports, it will, only help you in the long run.”

What’s an average day in the life of Kara Schuster?

“It depends on the time of year when we’re doing events around championships. I’ve already started planning for 2016 and looking at where our championships are going. It involves starting to research possible event partnerships and organizations to work with, figuring out new things to promote our programs, such as our ‘Get Golf Ready’ program. In addition, our activations while keeping brand consistency to plan and market event promotions as well as new spins to expose people to our PGA programs.”

When you arrive on site at an event, describe the process and steps you and your colleagues go through to prepare for tournaments/championships?

“Once you arrive, equipment collection is a very important part — making sure everything we shipped and ordered is there and on site. If it’s not, then it becomes finding a creative solution of what we need to buy or if we can do without it. Sometimes we can’t do site visits in advance but when we do, whether it’s a baseball stadium or office space, we make sure it’s usable and if there are any potential blind spots for set up. Also, making sure we have staffing and uniforms. Volunteers need to know what they’re doing for activation and promotion or if there’s any logistical information. We go over credentials and contacts to make sure everything’s squared away and make sure we’re prepared as much as we possibly can be so we’re ready. Sometime we have to think on our feet in those moments.”

You’ve emphasized the importance of coming up with creative solutions and ‘thinking on your feet’ sometimes. Can you recall a time where you’ve had to put that skill to use?

“Specifically this summer, we had a clinic in Indiana. It was calling for rain. However, it wasn’t raining before the event. We went going back and forth, ‘Should we cancel or should we not.’ We decided to postpone the event. Then, at the start time, it started to rain and it poured the whole time. We started bringing out extra coffee, tents, and umbrellas. We focused on trying to accommodate people despite the weather. It ended up being one of our highly attended and most memorable events of the summer. In those moments, you realize what you’re doing is important and appreciated.”

A lot of professionals stress the idea of having a work/life balance. Can you talk about what you do to maintain that balance?

“It’s really important to be successful at work and work really hard. Having goals and interests in things outside of work is important as well. Personally, I play in a soccer league one night a week which is fun. I have goals outside of work like studying for the GMAT to go back to grad school and continuing my education. All in all, it’s pursuing other interests so you don’t get fully caught up in work.”

Can you talk about the importance of mentorship and how it has played a role in your journey?

“I have a professional and personal mentor. My personal mentor is my mom, who I am always running my ideas by. Seeing her work really hard and always manage to engage people is something I admire. I still will bounce ideas off her to this day. Also, I definitely have full support from my boss. Because he used to have my current position, he has been very helpful. He’s always been there and has shown me, ‘maybe you don’t find the answer here, but consider this angle.’ He’s brought me up in the initial, sometimes overwhelming process of transitioning into this job.”

Any parting wisdom/advice:

“Have a mentor and someone you can speak with to promote you and to bounce ideas off of. If you don’t have those relationships organically, seek it out from someone at work you can learn from. It’s all about trying to foster and build a relationship with people who you can learn from.”
“For people who are searching and trying to learn more about getting into the sports world, seek people out from companies who you’d be interested in working for, whether that includes reaching out to someone on LinkedIn, etc. If you look to talk to someone with a job you’d want to be in, you can learn more about what you would do. Most people are willing to carve out a couple minutes and help someone out.”

We would like to thank Kara for her time and insights and we wish her the best of luck in her future endeavors!

You can follow her on Twitter here or connect with her on LinkedIn here!