As the general manager of the BOK Center and Cox Business Convention Center, Casey Sparks wears a lot of hats, managing everything that goes on in both facilities, from operations and events to booking, ticketing and finance.
With that kind of purview, challenges are bound to arise.
“We’ve always said, ‘As long as you have events coming, all your other problems are small,’ ” Sparks said. “That’s kind of funny now.”
The COVID-19 shutdown hit the entertainment industry and event venues hard and early, and Sparks speculates that they will be among the last to return to any normalcy.
Even in a job that is different every day, security concerns have brought regular changes for years, especially since 9/11 and even more so since a gunman opened fire on a music festival in Las Vegas in 2017, killing 58 people. But the coronavirus is a “very different enemy,” she said.
Sparks has worked in the entertainment management industry since 2002 and said it was a “little bit of timing and good fortune” that set her on this path.
As a young girl, she “wanted to be a dance teacher and an FBI agent. And I was determined to figure out a way to do both.”
Women in the workplace have long tried to figure out how “to do both,” and the workplace hasn’t always been receptive.
“More and more women are starting to stand up for themselves in many ways in the workforce … or standing up for each other, which is even more exciting to see,” Sparks said.
Still, she prefers not to think of it in gender terms.
“I struggle a little bit with being recognized as a woman leader,” she said. “I think we all want to see a world where it doesn’t matter.
“I try to let my performance determine my fate.”
Sparks said she aims to bring compassion and transparency to the job.
“People will follow you more if they know the why behind the what,” she said.
“Transparency also means being vulnerable — I do my best to show the human side of me,” she said. “That makes you authentic. And people want to follow a leader that is authentic.”