Sheena Way began her career in the entertainment industry at 15 when she was hired at a record store in her native Vancouver.
“I loved all the new music,” she recalls. “At the time, the business was run by the record companies. They brought us to concerts all the time, and I was like, “It works for me!” I loved concerts. ”
She quickly moved from just attending concerts to working on them, moving on to managing artists and then promoting concerts.
In the end, Way ended up on the side of the venue, organizing live music and other entertainment for the Vancouver Canucks and later with rival Edmonton Oilers.
She has now moved from the hockey world to the NBA and is part of the Golden State Warriors executive team.
She was hired last fall as VP of Content and Programming at the Chase Center in San Francisco.
We recently had the opportunity to speak with Way about her career as well as how she worked during the pandemic.
Question: Tell me about the two departments you manage at Chase Center?
A: One of them is content programming. So it brings the Chase Center to life – concerts, political events, anything non-Warriors. The other is the special events team. It’s outside, mostly in Thrive City (the area around Chase Center) – bringing Thrive City to life.
Question: What’s the coolest thing about your job?
A: Possibility. We have really great leadership that pushes us to create and dream and then figure out how to contribute to it. You are not put in a box where you need to figure out what you can do in that box. This is how to remove the cover and what to do? What do people want? And how do you bring it to them? How do you make Chase Center and Thrive City in really fun and exciting ways?
Question: What’s the hardest part of your job?
A: I need to listen a lot and find out what the city wants and how to work in accordance with the recommendations of all residents of the city – I mean from the government. Listen to them and then interpret them in creative programming. Just being a really good silent listener and then understanding exactly what that means.
Question: Was there anything from your upbringing that helped you prepare for the work you are doing now?
A: My parents influenced me a lot. My dad ran a big company, so he was very business-minded. My mom was a model and artist.
I think it gave me the creativity to work with live music as well as the business savvy to make good deals for every show – making them smart; a win-win between ticket buyer, promoter, artist and building. You really have to unite in everything. You can’t inflate the price of your fans, but you have to make enough money to pay the bills.
Question: How did you go from working in a record store to your next career step?
A: I started meeting with many people in the Vancouver industry. I started from the sidelines, managing several artists. And one of them got a little radio hit, and that opened up the world of radio to me. And they started touring, so that opened up the agency side of the business to me. And I really liked it. I liked the way they made deals. I liked the way they thought about the artist. It felt like a really strong bond – almost like a marriage. It wasn’t about booking the next three shows that make X money. It was about “What are we going to do in 1-3-5 years of your career?”
Question: After all, you would work at GM Place in the Vancouver Canucks. But then you left and got a job at the Edmonton Oilers. Why did you make this move?
A: I wanted to open the building and thought, “We’ll see when this happens.” Edmonton appeared. My husband was in the same business. He used to work for (Seattle) Seahawks at their stadium. When we got married, he came to Canada and worked for BC Place, which is across the street from GM Place. So (Edmonton) invited us both to come and open this new arena together. It was like a joint deal between a husband and wife, who was loved by the media. They thought it was the coolest thing.
Question: What brings you to the Chase Center?
A: It’s time to open another site. It’s time to move the markets. I said I wanted to be (in Edmonton) 3-5 years and stayed there for almost four years. I wanted a big market.
I got a call from a headhunter about this job. I thought, “Great. These are all problems. This is a completely new place. This is a very successful team – just like the Oilers. The Oilers have won five Stanley Cups. The Warriors have won six championships. ”
This is a private team that previously rented a site, but now has built its own establishment. So they’re going to bring in a bunch of employees who were only in the rented space, so they had nothing to do with the musical side of things.
I’ve been through this training before and we came out very well. So I’m like, “I think I know how to convey this. I think I know how to share many of these strategies. ” I have many important lessons and lessons learned from my recent work. But now we are in a much larger market, but this market is not much different from where I come from – Vancouver.
Question: When did you first realize that COVID-19 would have such a huge impact on the entertainment industry?
A: I think from behind the gate. I think we all knew – March 2020 – that until there is (vaccine), we would have problems putting people next to each other in the same place.
Question: How did you maintain your work during the entire time the building was closed to the public?
A: Everything will go back online. I just didn’t know when. So I thought, “Okay, so what are we going to do for now?” I spoke to all the promoters and each promoter had several problems. Some had a laundry list and some had a couple of things. I listened to every promoter and recorded everything.
It was a small investment. We spent money on a place that just opened – what? – five months. But we had time to do it.
Question: What steps have been taken to ensure that people feel safe when returning to the venue?
A: We knew cleaning should come first. So our corporate sponsorship team has signed a contract with Clorox. And it was great because they do 360-degree cleaning in every seat and, like in every single room.
Fortunately, since we’re brand new, we have an HVAC system that blows fresh air out completely four times an hour – and in the house six times an hour. So all the air is gone and (replaced) with new air. This is a big deal.
Sheena Way 5 things:
She finds motivation in Bruce Springsteen. “This guy can just give it his best. It makes you work harder than you’ve ever worked. It is so inspiring. ”
Her first concert? “They were Iron Maiden and Twisted Sister at Pacific Coliseum in Vancouver. (Laughs.) Twenty-foot Eddie! ”
She loves jazz. “I could listen to jazz in the morning, afternoon and night.”
After working for many years in ice hockey teams, she was able to successfully convey her sporting commitment to the NBA. “I am very excited about basketball.”
On weekends, when she is not working for a concert or other event, Way can most likely be found cycling with her husband in some scenic spot like Napa, Pacific, or Marine.