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Future Trends, Sport Business | Nov 4, 2020
A window into the working worlds of people from across the sports industry now that nothing is as it was.

Jillian Frechette is the SVP of Marketing at NHL franchise the New Jersey Devils and their Prudential Center venue. She also leads brand at parent company HBSE.

She oversees five teams distinct teams responsible for everything from content and creative to in-game presentation and grassroots and community. She lives in South Orange, New Jersey, with her husband, their two-year-old son and eight-year-old daughter.

How are you feeling now on a scale of 1 to 10?

I’m at an 8; I could push it to a 9 if I was a little less weary. Today is the election in the US. We’ve had a campaign in market for the last 90 days, deployed through the platforms of the New Jersey Devils and the Prudential Center and it’s wrapped around getting out the vote – generating awareness, providing information, and – for a more regional group – providing awareness that the Prudential Center is actually a location to vote today. I’m a Canadian so I can’t even vote, but it’s really exciting and I’ve been waiting for this day for quite some time. We’ll see how it all unfolds but I’ve got a healthy dose of anticipation and excitement.

Will you watch it all night as it all unfolds?

I’ll be watching a good portion of it. I’ll be looking at a few different things including our platforms and the coverage we’re providing.

Who was the last person you spoke to before me?

My son Luc. He’s two. He could hear me rolling around the house and wanted to be up. He’s a morning guy.

Where are you working from?

I’m 100% working from home. There’s no split. The evening of March 11th Harris Blitzer executives made the decision that we would not go into the office any longer so that was the last day I travelled into the office and functioned in my normal capacity. We had a planning group that had been meeting for a few weeks prior to March 11th just mapping out contingency plans and thinking about what we would do when our workforce was uprooted. Since then our office has opened up a little bit and we have roughly 20% of our staff leveraging our office space in Camden and Newark. I have chosen not to go back in for the next little while. I’m doing really well in most things – I’m able to do what I need to do using Microsoft Teams or Zoom or the good old telephone so I’ve decided to stay put.

What’s your work set-up and environment like?

I live in South Orange, New Jersey, about a 30-minute drive to the Prudential Center, and I work in my attic in the guest bedroom. It has a beautiful window and I can sit in that window nook and watch the leaves and the changing of the seasons. And I’ve had the ability to be shut off from my household a little bit. My husband has an office on the second floor and we’ve got a 2-year-old and an 8-year-old so sometimes the ability to run upstairs and close the door is really important depending on what I’ve got going on. The attic transforms on Friday mornings; I move furniture on Thursday night and I teach a corporate HBSE yoga class on Friday mornings.

 

Jillian Frechette is the SVP of Marketing at NHL franchise the New Jersey Devils who compete at the Prudential Center venue.

 

What does your husband do?

My husband is a consultant and works for a firm in New York called AEA and his life is wrapped around arts and culture. He restores heritage buildings. He works internationally and arrived home from a trip to New Zealand on March 6th and hasn’t been away since. He is working from home right now; he’s got a big project that continues on in New Zealand and the he’s got a project in Upstate New York. The challenge for us is in working and juggling kids. I have the advantage, I would say, in that I work from 8.30 until about 5.30 or 6, and then he takes the night shift, disappears into his office, and he also works Saturday and Sunday. That’s how we manage keeping children alive and fed and all of that good stuff while also nailing our work.

“The challenge for us is in working and juggling kids. I have the advantage, I would say, in that I work from 8.30 until about 5.30 or 6, and then he takes the night shift, disappears into his office, and he also works Saturday and Sunday. That’s how we manage keeping children alive and fed and all of that good stuff while also nailing our work.”

Has the way you and your husband run the business of your life together changed?

The one thing that has stayed constant is that we have always been homebodies to an extent, and he’s a fabulous cook. Everything else is different. Typically my daughter would go to school and my son would be in some kind of day programme, and I would go to the office and my husband would either be travelling or working from his home office. Our daughter goes to school three days a week in a tented set-up on our patio outside. Her education is being delivered by the school virtually. Mondays and Fridays she’s in the house somewhere in front of a Chromebook managing her studies, which she’s pretty good about, and then Tuesdays, Wednesdays and Thursdays we have a heated commercial grade tent on our patio and she and three lady friends take in their lessons together.

How have you changed as a manager?

I think I worry a bit more than I did in the past. I think the lines are blurred with some of my staff as to what’s personal and what’s professional. My kids go to bed at 8, and then my husband teases me because between 8 and 10 I’m texting a lot. And it’s because we don’t have the opportunity anymore to trip over someone on the way to the lunch room, on the way to the restroom or just in the corridor in the office setting. And those little touch points I really miss – staying on top of everything. I also try to slot in a few Zoom calls here and there just to see people’s faces, but there are some whose workload has been quite intense and I always want to make sure that they’re doing ok.

How have you changed as a person?

I would love to say that I’ve developed more patience but I’m not sure that’s true! I’m thinking a little bit more about how I show up. We don’t have these buffers any longer. It used to be that I would jump in my car and I’d have a 25-minute buffer where I could start to think about what I had on for the day, what meetings I had, who I would be talking to, what I would be talking about, and you had the ability to transition. But now it’s much different. On the drop of a dime I’m running upstairs to fire up Zoom and four minutes prior I was mopping up Cheerios and milk. On the flipside, I don’t have that transition in the evening anymore. I run downstairs after my last meeting of the day and it’s full-on kids. So I think I now try really hard to think about where I’m at and how I show up because I no longer have those buffers to ease into the day with.

How do you run a meeting now?

I have become more particular about agendas. Our days are quite regimented and scheduled and there really isn’t a lot more room for more meetings. So I’ve become quite particular about my team thinking through in advance what they want to talk about, what they want to accomplish, and making sure they provide those agendas in advance so that their teammates can come in the right mindset, I can come in the right mindset, and we know what we’re working towards.

What does a typical day look like?

Today is a bit of a strange day because our offices are closed so that our staff has the ability to get out and vote. A typical day would be waking up around 6.30; coffee and breakfast with my son – we’re the two morning people; around 7.30 my daughter and my husband join and by 8 o’clock I’m up the stairs getting myself organised for my first call and my husband takes over with the kids. 8 to 5.30 I’m on calls. I try to have lunch with my kids but it doesn’t always work out. On Thursday I go straight through with a CMO call at noon on the dot, so my daughter is usually good enough to bring me up a sandwich. It can be Monday and then all of a sudden Thursday really quickly. I do manage to squeeze in a yoga class six days a week. We have a peloton, which I love, but only manage to get on once or twice a week. But as long as I’m moving everyday I feel like that’s win. We take a lot of walks and on weekends family bike rides are mandatory. It’s getting chilly so I don’t know how long that will last, but we’ve had family bike rides fired up since March.

How do you focus?

If I’m frazzled, it’s a hot shower every time. It sorts out the world. But I’m pretty good at being able to jump right in and dig into whatever the matter at hand is. Travelling up those eight to ten stairs to the attic has become my transition and when I hit the top I’m able to dive in and focus on whatever’s going on.

“Travelling up those eight to ten stairs to the attic has become my transition and when I hit the top I’m able to dive in and focus on whatever’s going on.”

How do you cope with stress?

Consistent yoga has been very beneficial to me. It’s not everyone’s cup of tea but in terms of managing my own mental health and stress and anxiety, if I miss a day I really feel it. I look forward to Fridays which is the day I actually lead a class. We’ve done 32 consecutive Fridays since our office was shut down. I’ve needed the group that joins me as much as they’ve needed me and now that we’ve hit 32 and just think we have to keep going.

How do you unwind?

A nice glass of wine. I do like to move so I usually run outside with my kids as soon as 5.30 hits; I like to move around, stretch my legs and get some fresh air. It’s getting cooler but I have confidence in myself as a Canadian to tough it out.

If you woke up tomorrow and it was January 1st 2020 again, what one thing would you do differently?

I might consciously decide to work an hour less. I think the challenge of Covid is that we’ve had three to six plans for every scenario and we’re quite exhausted by having that many plans for every scenario. How fabulous would it be for me to be getting ready for a hockey season with one plan; one detailed plan that had all kinds of good bits in it. And I look forward to the day that that comes. I’m certainly not complaining because I really think Covid has given me and my team the opportunity to be a bit bolder and braver but we definitely have planning fatigue.

Who is the next person you’re speaking to after me?

My good friend Lara and then after that my husband.

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