Post by Sarah Likens
Update: Allison Maki will be arriving on campus later in March to share with students her experience working with the Detroit Lions. Look here for further updates.
Albion College might have a smaller student body and campus, but that doesn’t stop Britons from graduating and making a splash in various industries. Allison Maki ‘97 is one example of this.
Upon graduation, she worked for Ernst & Young for seven years until she took a position with the Detroit Lions. In 12 years with the organization, Maki has been able to make an impact and create opportunities to further her career. Maki was named Chief Financial Officer in May 2015, (one of eight women to hold the position in the NFL) and six months later, she was promoted by owner Martha Ford to Interim Chief Officer of Operations, (the only woman at the time to run an NFL’s team business operations) until the new president of the organization was named.
I had the chance to speak with Maki about her career and time at Albion; here’s what she had to say.
Sarah Likens: What caused you to want to leave Ernst and Young to work for the Detroit Lions?
Allison Maki: I was ready for a change from public accounting. The Lions were one of my audit clients, and I knew the people there. I was interested in the type of work, and it was a great fit.
SL: How was solely working for a professional sports team in Detroit different from working with past clients?
AM: It’s a well-known business that is talked about and scrutinized much more than many other companies.
SL: How was the transition from CFO to COO, and what has been the most surprising aspect of the new title?
AM: I served as interim COO until our new President was appointed. During this time, and even still today, I feel I’m spending more time on operational issues. We’ve tackled issues ranging from traffic patterns to potential stadium renovations. The most surprising part of the role was addressing the team. It was interesting to talk at a team meeting and have the attention of players who might not realize the efforts that the business side makes for the Club.
SL: How did it feel to be promoted to CFO and six months later, named the interim COO for the Detroit Lions by Martha Ford?
AM: It was an honor. I was excited and humbled to be asked by Mrs. Ford to assist in directing our Club.
SL: You were once one of eight women CFOs in the NFL and then the only woman running a team’s business operations. What’s it like to be in an industry dominated by men, especially as
a C-Level executive?
AM: I don’t think it’s an issue unless you make it one. Women in the NFL have made huge strides.
SL: How would you say your time at Albion College contributed to your career?
AM: I’ve learned that there is often a technical side and a people side in most careers. The technical side can usually be taught. The people side isn’t something quickly picked up. It takes time to develop these skills and Albion does a fantastic job with that. In addition, there is a strong alumni network that exists, and you’ll find that to be true post-graduation. And as a side note, Albion has three CFO’s in major sports, including Steve Quinn of the Detroit Tigers and Hal Roth of the Colorado Rockies.
SL: To you, what is so valuable about liberal arts education?
AM: The chance to be exposed to so many different things. I supervise various departments, from finance to facilities. The Albion experience is somewhat similar. I had a business law class the same semester I had a “dinosaurs” course.
SL: You have now been with the Detroit Lions for 12 years. What has been the best and/or worst part of working in the NFL?
AM: The best part is seeing the power of the Shield! The national revenues are growing at amazing rates and the sport is constantly evolving. The worst part is losing.
SL: What advice do you have for college students looking to enter the sports industry, especially women?
AM: Take advantage of internships, and see what is out there.
SL: What can Albion students expect to hear if they come to hear you speak March 3?
AM: Insight into what it’s really like to manage. I’m hoping for great questions from students too!
SL: Is there anything else you would like to add about your time at the Detroit Lions, your position or your time at Albion College?
AM: We had a former Albion College player on our roster a few years ago. The NCAA Division III is alive and well!