How Amy Trask Became the First Woman to Run an NFL Team

Raiders Football helmet

“When you think you can’t work any harder, find a way to work harder”

Amy Trask fell in love with football when she was in middle school. Years later, she landed a gig working for her favorite NFL team, the Los Angeles Raiders. She climbed the ranks — eventually becoming the team’s CEO, the first woman in the league to ever do so. We continue our Women in the NFL series in partnership with Sleep Number with a conversation with Amy about her book You Negotiate Like a Girl and how she became a fearless leader. Read our conversation below:

Katie Couric: How did you discover your love and passion for football?

Amy Trask: I attended a football game when I was in the 7th grade and that is when I fell in love with the game. It struck me then and it remains my belief to this day that football is a very cerebral game — similar to the game of chess played by very large, very strong, and very fast men.

You started working for the Raiders as an intern. How’d you get the job and what got you to your role as CEO?

I attended Cal Berkeley as an undergraduate and fell in love with the Raiders while I was there. The team was just down the road in Oakland. I returned to Los Angeles for graduate school the same year that the team ultimately moved to Los Angeles.

During my first year of graduate school I called the team and asked if I might be an intern. The answer was “yes,” and I was an intern for almost two years while in graduate school. I was ultimately hired on a full-time basis roughly a year after I graduated. I never had an eye on advancement, I never had a plan as to how I might advance, I was simply thrilled to be part of the organization and would have been delighted to contribute in any way I could.

I had the tremendous fortune of working for a man who hired without regard to race, gender, ethnicity, or any other individuality, which has no bearing on whether someone can do a job and he encouraged me to grow within the organization.

Like you said, you were the first woman to be the CEO of an NFL team. And in your book, you talk about your experience as a woman in a male-dominated environment. What were some of the biggest challenges you faced as a woman working for the Raiders?

I am often asked if I believe I was tested because I was a woman. I never thought about that during my decades with the team. People are tested all the time — because of their race, their gender, their age, their educational background, their seniority, etc. So maybe I was tested. Let’s assume I was. Well what’s the best answer when one is tested? Pass the damn test.

The series is called women of the NFL. What would you tell young girls who want a career in at a place like the NFL?

I would offer three pieces of advice, the first two of which are gender neutral:

  1. Work hard — work as hard as you can and when you think you can’t work any harder, find a way to work harder
  2. To thine own self be true — it is the best advice I have ever received in my life
  3. Stop thinking about the fact that you’re a girl (or a woman). It has never made any sense whatsoever to me that one would enter any setting or any situation hoping that others wouldn’t think about your gender while thinking about your gender. I didn’t spend a moment of my time or expend any effort or any energy thinking about my gender during my decades in the National Football League and I still don’t.

What’s the best piece of career advice you’ve ever gotten?

The best advice I have ever been given was, as noted above, to thine own self be true. My mom told me that from the time I was a very little girl. As mom’s can do, she repeated it over and over and over and as kids can do, I rolled my eyes. But it is the best advice I have ever received — not only for my career but as for life in general. My biggest mistakes have been when I have not been true to myself and I have been my best when I am true to myself.

Do you have a fantasy football team? If so, who’s on it?

Nope. Nope, nope, nope. Fantasy football is not my cuppa tea, so to speak.

You’re currently an NFL analyst for That Other Pregame Show on CBS Sports. How do you maintain a healthy lifestyle and ensure you get enough sleep during football season?

Yikes — I don’t. I have never been good at sleeping whether during the football season or otherwise. I am well aware that sleep is of critical importance and that my inability to sleep is something that I need to fix.

This interview has been edited and condensed for length.

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