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Nicolina O’Rorke – NBC Sports & Columbia: Elevate Your Game

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Nicolina O’Rorke, Chief Financial Officer, NBC Sports Regional Networks

Alumna of Columbia Business School (MBA, 2005) and Georgetown University (BSBA, 2000: Finance and Accounting)

In July 2015, Nicolina O’Rorke was named CFO of NBC Sports Regional Networks, a division of NBC Sports Group consisting of nine regional sports networks delivering more than 2,200 live sporting events annually, along with breaking news, comprehensive analysis, digital content, and original programming to over 43 million homes. She leads a team of more than 40 finance professionals, and her tenure at NBCUniversal (NBCU) has spanned a decade in eight finance roles supporting NBC News, MSNBC, TODAY Show, Nightly News, Meet the Press, and others. Her education, start in investment banking, work ethic, and reliable network have all contributed to her rise.

What do you love the most about your job?

It’s very dynamic and spans beyond finance. My team supports a portfolio of local cable sports channels where we touch everything from day-to-day operations, to team partnerships, to long-term strategy.

What attracted you to sports, which some may view as male-dominated?

There are many fascinating things about the sports media business—rights fees, team economics, league rules, etc.—and the businesses built up around it. Sports media is as much about producing great content as it is about securing valuable rights agreements with teams/leagues and owners. Our regional sports networks are focused on super serving fans with everything related to their home teams in their hometowns.

And I love what sports represents to people. It can be as broadly appealing as the Olympics or the Super Bowl—pop culture events that transcend sports. Or it can be something narrower—the subject of obsession for hardcore fanatics. Sports is tradition and a collective experience. I grew up in an Aggie household: my parents graduated from Texas A&M. We follow college football very closely, as do my husband and children.

Women don’t have to go into traditional fields or functions. It’s interesting for anyone to work in sports and finance industries. More women are entering these areas than ever before, there are more opportunities for them, and there is recognition that having more female voices is good for the business.

Where did you start your career?

I worked as an investment banking analyst for three years and got an offer to stay on as an associate. I worked a lot and learned a ton, but I didn’t see myself making my career in that space. I wanted to work for a company where I could feel ownership of the business and help set strategies to grow that business.

What inspired you to pursue your MBA?

I always thought I would get a graduate degree. My parents have graduate degrees—it’s part of our family’s DNA. I initially thought I’d get a law degree and even took the LSAT. After working in investment banking and realizing I wanted to make a career switch, I decided to go for my MBA.

How has your MBA has helped you?

The classroom setting is a safe zone to ask obvious questions and practice your style. It’s more forgiving than the work world.

My MBA also broadened my network. The people I met in business school are some of my closest friends. And I met my husband there. This network is naturally a great sounding board as you face big career decisions—especially the women. We help and challenge each other.

Do you have tips for other MBA women?

Be vocal and take more risks. Even in classroom dialogue, women aren’t as willing to put themselves out there to actively participate. If you’re ever going to take a risk, do it in business school.

And don’t be afraid to leverage that network. I met my first boss at NBCU when she came to speak in my strategic media class.

If you had to pick a career “wow moment,” what would it be?

It would be landing my current role. It goes back to the advice—don’t be afraid of tapping into your network. When this position opened up, I was interested because it’s a space I wanted to work in and where the company had been investing. It was a competitive process, and I leaned on my network to prep for interviews and recommend me for the role.

How do you keep your personal life as full as your work life?

My boys are ages 2 and 4. I travel for work regularly. I have to find balance in the moment and think of balance achieved over time. My team knows I try to protect my family time.

My husband is also a partner in my life. Things feel truly 50-50. It’s one thing to be supportive in words; it’s another in actions.

Immediate family members in her household: Husband and two boys, ages 2 and 4
Recent Forté volunteer experience: New member exploring ways to get involved
Her role model: Someone like Kathryn Bigelow really inspires her. She’s the only woman in history to win a Best Director Academy Award (for The Hurt Locker). And she did it working in a very male dominated genre, the war movie.
Words of wisdom that inspire her: “We are what we repeatedly do. Excellence, then, is not an act, but a habit.” – Aristotle
Song that makes her turn up the volume: “Beautiful Day,” U2

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