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20 Questions with Renata Hays

Sept. 2, 2014

Name: Renata Hays
Position/Institution:
Assistant Athletics Director, Branding and Licensing, The University of Oklahoma
Number of years in your position: 5
Alma Mater(s): The University of Oklahoma
Hometown: Bartlesville, Oklahoma

1) Why did you become involved in ICLA?
When I first accepted this position, I knew very little about licensing. I started on the job in early May, so luckily I came on board just before the summer Convention and was able to attend. It was a bit overwhelming, but it was so helpful to meet everyone up front and get a "crash course" on licensing up front.

2) What is your favorite part about being a member of ICLA?
The people. Our members are so generous with their time and are so willing to help each other out.

3) What is the biggest challenge to working in a university environment?

It is very rare in an organization that so many people have the ability to communicate and shape your brand. Especially at a university, when a significant number of those people are students and are constantly transitioning in and out, continually educating internal stakeholders on our branding and licensing guidelines can be a challenge.

4) What do you consider to be your greatest accomplishment to date?

We were flattered to have been chosen for this year's ICLA Synergy Award. The fact that we were honored by our peers makes it very special.

5) What is the most important skill you have developed in your career?
My first job out of college was a position in a rotational program, which helped me learn how important it is to consider different perspectives.

6) Who has been the most influential person in your career?
I've learned so much from so many people along the way that it's really hard to narrow that list down to one person.

7) What is one item you cannot live without?
Coffee!

8) What is your favorite place to visit?
New York City

9) What is your favorite sporting that event you have ever attended?
My very first college football game was Nebraska vs. OU in Norman in 2000, when the schools were ranked #1 and #3, respectively. Up until that point, I thought I was going to the east coast for college. When OU won, and I saw firsthand the excitement and passion of the fans and of the student body, I started to consider going to OU for school.

10) Why/when did you decide to pursue a career in collegiate licensing?
To be honest, I stumbled into this position. My current supervisor was my supervisor when I was a student worker at OU, and when this job came open, he contacted me. Before then, I had not considered a career in licensing. Now that I have worked in this industry for several years, I really enjoy it and would like to stay in it.

11) In your mind, who in this industry can serve as a good role model?
We have many people in ICLA who have been in licensing for many years, and they are always great resources. We also have newbies who may have come from other industries or who have recently graduated and are very passionate about licensing who can also be role models as well because they provide different perspectives and ideas.

12) How has your involvement with ICLA influenced your career?
It has impacted my career tremendously. It's great to have a group of people that are willing to share their experiences and ideas and explain how the dynamics at their respective campuses shape their decisions.

13) What educational or business experiences best prepared you for a career in licensing?
I was very fortunate to start my career at the NFL. There are very few organizations that have grown and protected their brand as successfully as they have, and their approach has definitely influenced the way I approach my job here at OU.

14) What challenges do you face when working with students or vendors?
Educating them, and continuing to educate them year after year, is the biggest challenge.

15) Would you please explain a professional success and how you implemented it?
I wouldn't classify this as a professional success, but I was completely blown away by the support from the ICLA membership after the tornadoes that hit Oklahoma in May 2013. The support that our community received from licensees and other schools made such an incredible impact.

16) In your opinion, where is collegiate licensing headed in the future?
Our industry has gone through some significant changes in the last five years. My hope is that collegiate licensing keeps some of that "local" flavor that makes it so unique while at the same time becoming more strategic with our decisions and exploring opportunities that grow our brands and our industry. That balance--making decisions that are best for our institutions while recognizing the symbiotic nature of our decisions at a regional or national level--is understandably difficult but, I think, achievable.

17) What is the best piece of advice you have ever received? What advice would you give to someone looking to enter the field of collegiate licensing?
At my last job, one of the EVP's once asked our group, "If you were to get hit by a bus going home from work today, and someone had to do your job for a while starting now, would they know what you did?" Only a New Yorker could be that blunt, but I do think he made a good point. There are many nuances in licensing and factors and history that influence the decisions and guidelines that we make on our campuses that we sometimes forget to write those things down and share them with the others. Having that information documented is an incredible resource for the person who will follow you and will ensure that the progress and momentum of your program is not lost in a personnel transition.

18) What was your biggest professional failure/mistake and how did you learned from it?
I learned the hard way of the importance of properly vetting your speakers.

19) What percentage of your work-week is spent in your office? How do you maintain balance between your professional and personal life?
I don't get out of my office to survey the market as much as I should, but now that I have a larger support staff, I have made that a personal goal. Outside of work, I've become very active in yoga over the last two years. I make it a priority to leave the office by 6 p.m. at least two days a week to make it to class. Yoga is meant to help clear your mind and become more self-aware, and I've found that the time I spend in class helps me relax and detach from work before I get home.

20) What are you most looking forward to at the next ICLA Convention or Winter Symposium?
Each time I attend, I always walk away with at least one idea that was shared by another school. Our members are always willing to share ideas and best practices, which is just another reason I love ICLA.