Interview with Debbie Aleff
Date: May 5, 2012
Name: Debbie Aleff
Major, minor, and graduation year: Communicating Arts - Major Theatre Management-Minor 1994 - BS awarded
Job Title: Director of Ticketing
Organization/ Place of work: DECC - Duluth Entertainment & Convention Center
You're a Director of Ticketing at DECC, what does that entail? What are your duties or responsibilities?
-Way too many to list. There is not one typical day. I manage about 10 -12 employees, schedule shifts, manage the day-to-day operations of the DECC & AMSOIL Ticket Offices. If I'm not closing a show, I'm building one or just catching up on the day to day activities in the box office. I also help with the Event marketing for our shows which includes helping them with advertising and promotion. I also work on the DECC's Facebook pages.
What are the highlights of your job that you enjoy most?
-Almost everything.JIt is not a boring job because it is always changing. I enjoy working with promoters on their shows and the entire DECC team.
What are the challenges that you face with your job that are not enjoyable?
-Overload & Burnout. This can be a very challenging and stressful job at times. If you can't multi task, this is not the job for you. Some days I have 4 - 5 tasks that need to get done. Being able to prioritize is a huge key to this job. Once you have prioritized your day, you're hit with something else that is more urgent and then you re-prioritize. Since we are in the event business, you also have to give up nights, weekends, and holidays for events.
How do you spend your work days? Do you spend a lot of time office/lab/meetings/outside?
-Mostly on the computer. If I'm not doing my office work, I'm on the Ticketmaster system building a show, setting holds or selling tickets. I do have many meetings to attend via phone conferences or in person with promoters, staff, our resident partners (UMD, DSSO & Ballet).
How did this type of job/field interest you and how did you get started?
-I found out quickly that I stunk as an actress at UWS. John Munsell, one of my mentors in my life, asked me to work in the box office (plus I was taking his Theatre Management Class) and I fell in love with the "front of the house".This earned me a student credited position of Assistant to the Artistic Director which Mr. Munsell created for me. I helped him teach the Theatre Management class for three years until I graduated. I was responsible for the day-to-day operations of the Box Office, Guest Services (Ushers), Marketing & Public Relations for the shows, did the fundraising for the Theatre Dept and I had a standard staff of 8-10 students (pulled from the students who were taking the class) who I trained, graded and evaluated.
What qualifications did you need to obtain this job?
-As in any field/career, experience will get you further and higher on the ladder of your chosen career. This is the case in the Ticket Office. Many of my colleagues in this position have been in the ticketing field for at least 10 - 20 years. I put in my dues at UWS and then started working at a Summer Stock Theater in Door County, WI and I continued to apply for more challenging jobs at bigger venues. You need a lot of patience, knowledge of your building, your ticketing system, and are able to think ahead. Most job descriptions for my title require at least a BA 4-YR college degree, 5 years experience working in a venue box office with ticketing systems, promoters, multiple venues, & larger staffs. You need to be able to supervisor a staff, multitask, be experienced with finances, computers and be able to work alone and on a team.
What personal qualities or abilities do you believe contribute most to success in this job/field?
-Patience. Good sense of humor. Thick skinned. Must be flexible with your personal life. If you are looking for a 9am - 5pm job, this is not it.
What organizations were you involved in during your college years that helped you towards your career?
-See how I got started up above. I was also involved in Props and Theater classes
What degrees are appropriate for this line of work?
-BA - 4 YR or Theatre Management - Major.
Where and/or what do you hope to be in 2-5 years? 5-10 years? What are the keys to this career advancement?
-To be still at the DECC, it is a great place to work. The DECC was just recently named Top 100 Companies to work at in the state of MN.
What was the best piece of advice you received and from who that helped you towards your career?
-John Munsell - "You can't act!" But I loved the theatre so I found something else and I haven't looked back.
Do you have any advice or "words from experience" for a college student interested in this job/field?
- Gain Experience. It can be challenging and stressful at times, but it is a very cool ride. You get to meet so many people, artists, band members, and see some great shows. I'm constantly still learning from other people in the industry, keeping up on trade magazines and new technology. The world of ticketing is constantly changing and if you can't keep up, you will be left behind.
If you knew all this back in college, what would you say were the most important classes? Is there anything you would have paid more attention to? Any additional classes you would have taken?
-One of the best classes I took was Beginning Acting. You learn great techniques to help get over shyness and be able to speak to people with confidence. I learned more from this class than from a typical speech class. No offensive to my Speech teacher, but it really helps you open up and have fun. I recommend this every time I get interviewed.
Accounting classes - I would have probably paid more attention.
In college, people claim that a bachelor's degree isn't enough anymore and that you need a master's or doctorate degree to get your foot in the door. What's your opinion?
-UWS Theatre Management program - I heard is great. This was not offered when I was there. I have always said that experience far outweighs education in this field, but you have a stronger advantage with a 4-YR Degree.