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From humble beginnings to career fulfilment

Working as a Senior Partnerships Lead in Collingwood’s partnerships department, Erin Dooley narrates her journey from humble beginnings to working for one of the biggest sporting clubs in Australia. Erin revisits her past, starting off as an ambitious twenty-year-old navigating the working world, to now having an established career and juggling work whilst being a devoted mother. Her story is one of passion, courage, and the importance of taking leaps of faith.

Before becoming an integral part of Collingwood Football Club’s Partnerships team, Erin reminisces on the beginnings of her adventurous career journey. Born and bred in Geelong, Erin attended Deakin University where she studied a Bachelor of Laws, but always had the goal of being a sports journalist.

During her degree she was offered a position through the university’s placement program with the Geelong Cats. Erin innocently giggled as she shares, ‘I did everything from going around the stadium handing out merchandise to wearing the mascot suit.’ After being at the Cats for a few months, she transitioned into a six-month marketing position, that turned into a three-year role.

During her time with the Cats, Erin gained a breadth of experience working in the events, sales, and sponsorship team.

She found the experience more worthwhile working on the ground and getting real life experience compared to only studying. Nearing the end of her degree, Erin gracefully left the Cats and had her “sights set on moving to Melbourne.” Erin grins as she recalls herself at age twenty being ‘excited to move out on my own in the world’, and quickly accepted a position at a creative agency.

However, although the money was great, she didn’t feel like it was a supportive environment, and was dreading going into work. This caused her unfortunate departure from the role, but it taught her the lesson of the value in workplace culture.

Then, at age 24, Erin moved back home to Geelong and featured on a TV game show “The Mole” and gained financial stability to assist in fulfilling her dream of working in sport in London. With a one-way ticket in hand, ‘I worked hard to network on LinkedIn before I officially moved, and I was set on working in Football.’ Being one of many Aussies who moved to England with an AFL background, she connected with someone in the industry that made a similar move, who was working at Premier League Club at the time.

‘He happened to know that Westham was hiring people to help with their new stadium transition’, and Erin found herself as part of the corporate strategies and sales team. ‘I was an Aussie girl, working in London, knowing nothing about football, in a male-dominated industry. But I made some lifelong friends, travelled on the weekends, and made the most of it.’  Nearing the end of her two-year visa, she had the choice of staying in London for another three years, or was it time to head back home?

Whilst packing up to move back to Australia, Erin saw ‘Collingwood FC had a position pop up in the events team and thought I’d put my hat in the ring and get back into AFL land.’

Collingwood was always on Erin’s radar and was lucky enough to be offered an alternative position as a commercial partnerships manager for the Netball Program. “It was 2016 when we signed the netball team and women’s sport was just starting to explode, so I thought it was an exciting opportunity.” Erin saw the important work the Club was doing and was pitching to clients the “One Club Package” because ‘we believe that if you want to work with the AFL team, you need to embrace our Women programs too.’ Continuing her work in advocating for the Club in partnerships, when asked what the best job decision throughout her journey has been, she candidly replies, ‘every decision that has been for the best, where all that I have been scared of.’

With it all said and done, when asked if she envisioned her career as it is today, Erin honestly replies ‘No, I didn’t. I’m not where I thought I’d end up position wise, but I knew I wanted to do something with people. I feel like my strength is creating those relationships, and I genuinely really love hearing other people’s stories.’

With such a colourful and worldly experience within the industry, when asked what made Collingwood different from others, Erin expressed that, ‘it’s the fact that there is so much happening. If you seek them, there are so many opportunities here, like our working groups.’ Having worked in an unsupportive workplace in the past, Erin also resonated with the work culture and values that the Club upholds. Working in partnerships, she feels that ‘you have to live and breathe the values to be authentically discussing and pitching the Club.’ Furthermore, ‘when the times are tough, the team isn’t always winning and you’re working those really hard and long hours, we still have to be able to have a laugh and know that we are in a safe place to be yourself.’

Having entered the working world at age twenty, it was interesting to hear how the industry has changed over time. Erin brightly shares that a major change has been the revolution of ‘women’s sport growing into such a giant in Australia. At a club level, the AFL and every sporting body in Australia are embracing women’s sport, such as the Matildas, and it’s great to see.’ These improvements also provide a sense of reassurance that when her daughter grows to that same age, ‘she can do as much or even more if she wanted, whereas that just wasn’t a thing when I was twenty because AFL alone was the only marketable sport.’

Thinking of her young daughter and her own experience, she shares her thoughts on why its beneficial to see more women at the top. ‘As women, we have such a knack of social and emotional intelligence as well as channelling great empathy.’

When it comes to leadership roles, Erin believes that ‘it has become more about the human and less about the outcome of a project, and I think this is where women have such a superpower.’

Having been in situations where she was one of few women working in a sporting organisation, when asked why women should support other women, she answers ’empowering each other is important because I think women tend to fall into the trap of viewing each other as competition. We need to be celebrating other women of their strengths and putting their name in the ring for great projects that they would succeed in.’

Thinking of an experience where women supported women, Erin quickly praises Collingwood’s Women in Black and White (WIBW) committee as being a great example. Giggling, she admits ‘although sometimes we don’t get much done in those meetings because of how much we love to chat with each other, we inspire, and I like to think we bring a supportive energy for women back into the club.’ Erin is one of the pioneers of the WIBW being originally created in 2019 from an International Women’s Day event. Once the world went into lockdown, the WIBW was formed as a remedy for the women who were feeling disconnected. Using ‘Microsoft Teams’ to communicate, they had different guest speakers and connection pieces.

‘The feedback was so great, and it was a gathering that wasn’t about work, and it turned into something powerful. To bring the program from online into the club and now having new faces lead it along the way, the essence of it has remained the same. When I do eventually leave Collingwood, it’s heart-warming to think that we created a legacy for the Club.

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