Toyya Lassere's cool job: U.S. Bank Stadium guest experience manager
Toyya Lassere's route to her job as guest experience manager at U.S. Bank Stadium in Minneapolis, the site of Super Bowl LII, began as a teenage entrepreneur. She went from the apparel industry to radio to records to corporate entertainment to stadium management. Once a part-time usher and ticket scanner at the Superdome, Lassere will be in charge of ensuring the 65,000 or so spectators enjoy the NFL's signature event.
She's used to challenges.
Shuttling between Chicago and Los Angeles as a kid (her parents were separated for a time), Lassere quit college shortly after she started at 17 to start a clothing business in the Bahamas with two friends, staked by a $5,000 loan from her dad. Two years later, she moved back to the U.S., earning a bachelor's degree in communications and film production and a master's in cinematography at the University of New Orleans.
A receptionist job with a Los Angeles radio station led to a gig as a promotions assistant with Solar Records, the famed black-owned label. Eventually, Lassere managed one of the label's recording studios, working with artists such as Whitney Houston, Dr. Dre, Snoop Dogg, L.A. Reid and Babyface. That led to about a decade in the film and entertainment industry with Disney, 20th Century Fox and Warner Brothers.
By then, her parents were living in New Orleans. Her father died in 2009, and two years later Lassere quit Warner Brothers and moved to New Orleans to be near her mother. She arrived without a job.
"I left a really good job at Warner Brothers," she said. "I really took a leap of faith. I had about a year, two years of savings in case I couldn't get a job."
Intrigued by a newspaper ad for part-time ushers at the Superdome, managed by SMG World, Lassere applied and was hired. She advanced from usher to usher supervisor to manager's assistant to event manager, where she helped create the Superdome's guest services department. When the Minnesota Sports Facilities Authority chose SMG to manage U.S. Bank Stadium in 2015, SMG executive vice president Doug Thornton and stadium general manager Patrick Talty tabbed Lassere as guest experience manager.
"I lead a team of over 700 event-day staff and a full-time staff of five," said Lassere, whose crew includes ushers, ticket scanners and fan ambassadors, among other guest facing team members. "My duties include making sure we're living our mission, which is delivering services and positive memorable experiences for our guests. In the stadium on any given event day, there are about 3,500 [total] team members that combine to create those great experiences for our guests. I have to make sure those people are well taken care of as well."
In her own words, Lassere talks about how she goes about business and why her long days are so rewarding:
We treat every event as if it's the Super Bowl ... no matter if it's a corporate event meeting or a 66,000-person event.Toyya Lassere
Super Bowl preparations
The SMG philosophy is that we treat every event as if it's the Super Bowl. Every client deserves that level of service. That's the candid truth about it. Every client that comes in this building can expect that same treatment, no matter if it's a corporate event meeting or a 66,000-person event.
This is my second Super Bowl with SMG. My first was 2013 with the Superdome. I'm assured it will be an exciting time, just on a bigger scale. Every day in this building, we're preparing for the next Super Bowl.
For the Super Bowl, my day will be between 16-18 hours. There's a lot of planning, a lot of preparation, small details that we definitely have to button up and make sure we're ready to roll. There are so many people that have never been in this building before, so all the little details have to come together. In a typical day, it lasts 12-14 hours.
Got extra Super Bowl tickets?
You can imagine. People are always asking, "Hey, are there any special events that you can get me into, and can you get me into the game?" My answer is always the same: "You can come to work and take my job and work 16-18 hours, but I can't get you a ticket."
The Vikings ... sigh
I've got three markers -- Chicago, Los Angeles and New Orleans. Though I'm a Bears and Saints fan, the Vikings are our partners, so it's very difficult not to feel bad about the Vikings not making it. When [Stefon] Diggs made the catch, I was on the main concourse moving stanchions for egress with the assistant general manager, Jerry Goldman. The moment was surreal -- Jerry jumped five feet off the floor.
We're like a family. I wish they could have made it, but SMG had three teams in the playoffs -- the Jacksonville Jaguars, the New Orleans Saints and the Minnesota Vikings. The success would be all-around for anybody [if any SMG team reached the Super Bowl], but it couldn't be."
Rewards and challenges
I'll start with rewards first because it's such a rewarding job.
I'm very process-improvement driven. I love being able to identify ways to do things better. We may be thinking we're doing it well. I like to push it to go above and beyond to see how we can make it even better, every single detail. I really love seeing all those efforts that we put in come to be, and seeing the positive feedback on the team members. It's rewarding to see what happens after we put the team together, pull off a purely successful event, and achieve a positive event for our guests and team members alike. That's the rewarding piece of it.
The challenge is to make sure we're always on the cutting edge of not only technology, but any process that can make us better. And making sure I'm making the right decisions for my team. I always want to make sure that what I'm doing is the right thing.
Advice for job seekers
Hard work is the name of the game in any business. But when you get into the people service, you have to find true happiness and true rewards from serving people. It's not a money-making gig. It's not something you're going to get rich on. Your reward is going to come from working hard and delivering service to your guests and your team members.