What I’m Known For: ESPN Talent Producer Katie Miervaldis
In our regular column, “What I’m Known For,” we will highlight public relations, lifestyle entertainment and media industry authorities, leaders and influencers. We are excited to share their stories, well-won life experiences and advice.
We are honored to have ESPN Talent Producer Katie Miervaldis on the blog today, sharing her experience and dispensing her hard-earned advice. From Jimmy Fallon and Tina Fey to some of the sports industry’s biggest names, Katie has collaborated with and wrangled her fair share of important people. And through kindness, perseverance and plain old hard work, Katie found her place in the industry.
KG: Katie, you have an unbelievable resume. You’ve worked on top-rated shows, for some of television’s biggest companies and for major names. How did you get into Talent Production?
KM: It started more than a decade ago. I double majored in Economics and Art History at Lafayette College. I was good at math, loved art and played sports so I found myself in this gray area, trying to find a career that combined my passions and my skills.
Right out of college, I began working as an NBC Page – which consisted of giving tours to sometimes enthusiastic, often bored, visitors combined with working assignments throughout the company. NBC was my dream network because I always wanted to pursue a career surrounding the Olympics. This felt like a serendipitous step towards that goal.
Shortly after starting at NBC, I landed the coveted position as the Desk Page for “Late Night with Conan O’Brien.” While I had an Olympics-or-bust mindset for my career, working on “Conan” introduced me to the entertainment side of the business and it was my first opportunity to work with celebrities. I recognized that I wasn’t intimidated by or nervous around them. I felt like, “I’m a person. You’re a person. Let’s get this job done.”
The Page Program is only a 12-month deal, so halfway through, I was looking for my next move. Searching the Page Program alumni contact sheet, I came across a woman who worked at “Best Week Ever.” I loved the show so I cold-emailed her. She agreed to meet for coffee and I remember leaving that Starbucks a few weeks later feeling like I had met someone who would change my life. And she did.
Within several months, she notified me of an open PA position at “Best Week Ever,” I got the job and I had the pleasure of working with her for over a year before she moved to the NBC show “30 Rock.” About a year later when she notified me again of another opening this time on “30 Rock” I didn’t bat an eye at applying…even though minimal details were given.
After interviewing I found out that the job was to be Tina Fey’s personal assistant. I was hired in 2009 during Season 4 of “30 Rock,” and worked as Fey’s assistant for four and a half years – through the remainder of the show, “Bossy Pants,” Mark Twain honors and many movies – my job was to help with anything and everything…and it rocked.
As the next chapter unfolded, I was hired in 2014 as the Talent Coordinator for the fledgling year of “The Tonight Show Starring Jimmy Fallon,” and while that continued my work in the entertainment sphere, I never lost my passion for sports.
After eight years in Manhattan, I needed a change. I found out about an open position at ESPN, and I now work at the network as a Talent Producer. I work with a team of nine people, booking and producing guests for shows across 30+ platforms. We really help shape the voice of the network, especially in moments of breaking news.
KG: That’s an astounding career path you! What’s the best career advice you would provide for anyone who wants to pursue a career in this industry?
KM: The best career advice I can offer – and what has always been necessary for me to believe – is to follow your heart. Your career decisions are not always going to be popular. Everyone questioned my decision to leave “The Tonight Show” and move out of NYC. But, just because it’s the popular or “easy” decision, doesn’t mean it’s the right decision for you.
Obviously, be smart. Make sure you can still support yourself and you aren’t taking too much of a risk. Plan ahead, follow your passions and take leaps particularly when you’re young. If it doesn’t work out, at least you can always say you did IT…which is usually that one thing you always say you want to do and avoid doing because it’s intimidating.
KG: What would you tell people who are thinking of pursuing a career in sports or entertainment?
KM: You must have thick skin. You will hear the word “no” over and over again. Honestly, you will hear it most of the time. Be creative and resourceful, and don’t take it personally when you hear “no.” You just have to move on.
While part of your job is to reach out to agents to book talent, I am certain people reach out to you every day to pitch their clients for ESPN shows. What’s your biggest pet peeve and how can people pitch you successfully?
My biggest pet peeve is entitlement – at work or in life. I work my tail off every single day and I haven’t been handed anything.
So, when someone pitches me for a show and I hear “Naturally, you want my client,” I immediately shut down. Though they are usually famous in some capacity, they may not be right for ESPN. If someone doesn’t have a tie to sports, they may not be relevant to our network and that’s okay! It’s like dating. You can’t take offense if things just aren’t a right fit sometimes.
If you are pitching ESPN specifically, remember we are a sports network with an entertainment element. Make sure your pitch is relevant and ties in to what we cover. Do your research and be detailed about your client’s passions. And always be respectful (in life and work).
KG: Since it’s January and we have the New Year (and our new blog!) on the brain, I have to ask: What are your goals for 2018? Do you have a New Year’s resolution you want to share?
KM: I’m in grad school right now and am about one-third of the way done with my business degree. My resolution for 2018 is to fully dive in to my classes and get a large portion accomplished before the next new year.
Because of the degree I am pursuing, I’ve also made it a goal for myself to pitch more business ideas to the executives at ESPN. I want to be a part of a different conversation within the company.
KG: And this is our favorite question: What’s your life mantra?
KM: A few years ago, I was struggling to find a purpose and a place. I visited my former college roommate and her mom and aired my struggles (talking helps me think). My friend told me to remember that I, alone, am enough.
So, my mantra became: “I am enough.” It sounds basic, but in times of personal strife, it reminds me that I need to give myself a break, that I don’t need to achieve every goal right now to feel at peace with myself and that I don’t need anyone or anything to define me. I truly am enough.