Point Park M.B.A. Alumna the Only Female Director in the NHL Friday, October 21, 2011
Meet Jennifer Bullano, director of communications for the Pittsburgh Penguins
Jennifer (Bullano) Ridgley is now vice president, media relations for the Pittsburgh Penguins and part-time professor for Point Park University's School of Business.
Jennifer Bullano's climb to the position of director of communications for the Pittsburgh Penguins didn't happen overnight. The Point Park M.B.A. alumna used her skills and education to break through the "glass ceiling" of the male-dominated sports industry. She had to gain strong experience in the field of sports while proving herself — and her ability to successfully work with male athletes — every step of the way.
According to last year's records, Bullano, a native of New Castle, Pa., was the only female in the National Hockey League at a director-level position. "She is a role model for women who want to work in sports," remarked her boss Tom McMillan, vice president of communications for the Penguins and a Point Park journalism and communications alumnus. "I can put Jen in charge of something and I never have to worry about it."
As director of communications, Bullano was the only female in the Penguins' 2009 Stanley Cup celebration photo and got to take home the cup for half a day. She is also the only female to travel with the team on away games.
"I feel like I have grown up with these guys. We have a great team and I have had many incredible opportunities," she said.
Bullano's main responsibility is to coordinate player and coach interviews with multiple media outlets. She also played a key role in helping to facilitate the Emmy award-winning HBO reality show "24/7 Penguins/Capitals: Road to the NHL Winter Classic." It was Bullano's job to get the players to wear microphones during games and allow the cameras into their personal lives. This included asking former Penguins forward Mike Rupp and his family to be taped on Christmas Day.
"It took a little persuading but I told him it would be a great way to have his family's holiday memories recorded," explained Bullano. "The HBO show was a great experience and such a catapult for the sport of hockey. Many people have come up to us and said that hockey has never been portrayed in a better light."
Prior to her role as director of communications, Bullano served as both an intern and manager of media relations for the Penguins. While working full time, she graduated from Point Park with an M.B.A. concentrated in sports, arts and entertainment management. Before that, Bullano was a guest relations and VIP tours hostess for celebrity athletes and their families visiting Walt Disney World. She earned a Bachelor of Arts degree in communications with a minor in business administration from Penn State University.
"Her decision to go back to school was ambitious and showed she had a lot of dedication to her career in the field of sports," commented McMillan, who first met with Bullano after receiving a recommendation about her from Bob O'Gara, Point Park professor of public relations and advertising.
According to Bullano, she chose Point Park for graduate school because of its urban environment, well-connected alumni and the University's links to various career opportunities in the sports field.
"My M.B.A. education has allowed me to better understand the operations of different departments within the Penguins such as marketing, corporate sales and customer service," said Bullano, who completed the MBA degree in two years through the program's accelerated track.
Steve Tanzilli, J.D., director of the sports, arts and entertainment management program at Point Park, said: "Jen was a terrific student who had a clear vision of her career path and was willing to enter into a prominently male-dominated industry."
For women who are pursuing a career in the sports industry, Bullano's advice is: "Get as much experience as you can and don't get discouraged. It takes persistence and patience. It's important to have tough skin and a sense of humor, too."
Follow Bullano on Twitter @PensPRLady to get an insider's look into the locker room, road trips and the lives of the Pittsburgh Penguins players and coaches.
Also, check out the ESPN article "Penguins' Jennifer Bullano a commanding presence."