Otago alumna Nicky Britten says she has to pinch herself every morning when she walks into work at the spiritual “home of cricket”, Lord’s Cricket Ground.
The commerce and physical education graduate now works as a Cricket Operations Executive for the England and Wales Cricket Board.
Nicky says her studies, and numerous extra-curricular experiences at Otago paved the way for her current success in “top order” sports management and administration.
How did Otago help to shape your life and career success?
My five years in Otago provided me with an invaluable platform to prepare for a career in the sports industry.
From an academic perspective, my focus had always been to get a degree in both Physical Education and Commerce. Sport was my passion growing up so combining my interest in physical education with commerce studies was important to ensure I gained an in-depth understanding of sport management while learning about a diverse range of subjects. A bonus was my Honour’s year which, although not planned, was extremely beneficial in challenging my thinking about issues existing in sport.
I also became heavily involved in multiple sporting roles and so could relate lessons learnt from study to work situations, and vice versa.
With a strong academic background and plenty of relevant work experience, it was the perfect combination to help me land an amazing job straight after university.
Highlights and interesting memories of your university days?
There are so many highlights with most, of course, involving sport in one way or another;
My two years at Knox College were great as I was able to enjoy the College’s quirky traditions while making lifelong friends. The highlight came in my second year when we beat Selwyn College to bring home the Cameron Shield after an eight-year drought.
My football club Otago University AFC (OUAFC) became my Dunedin family and led to my involvement with Football South and New Zealand Football across a range of management, coaching, administrative and playing roles. The club had a great balance between competitive football and a busy social calendar.
Having the opportunity to do an internship at Otago Cricket was one of my biggest highlights. I helped deliver community programmes, learnt more about the community sport sector and supported the delivery of domestic cricket matches. During my internship, I also created a tournament called Super Sixers which was aimed at non-cricketers. Working alongside Unipol, 100 students were encouraged to play cricket. I believe the event is still included in the college sports programme. The team at Otago Cricket were very supportive and the internship led to further work at the organisation.
In my fourth year I volunteered for both the Cricket World Cup 2015 and the 2015 FIFA U20 World Cup giving me my first proper glimpse of working on major sporting events. Little did I know a few years on I would be working on the next Cricket World Cup! One vivid memory I have is coming back to my flat after an U20 match and it had been pouring with rain all day. I walked into my room to see two strategically positioned buckets completely full of water – a testament to the poor student flatting conditions!
Working at Arana College as a Sub Warden in my last year was a special way to give back to the college system – there was never a dull moment.
One memory that will stay with me involved a trip to Blenheim managing a couple of rep’football teams. Unfortunately, it just so happened my honour’s dissertation was due the same week as the tournament. With such a busy schedule and not wanting to miss an opportunity to improve on what I had written, I ended up sitting in the clubrooms at the field pressing submit on my laptop while the girls were out on the field playing footy. Sometimes I look back on how much I managed to fit into my daily schedule and wonder how it was possible; all I know is I wouldn’t change a thing!
Any standout lecturers?
The lectures I had with Steve Jackson were my favourite as we covered so many interesting topics in class. Trying to understand patterns of human behaviour has always fascinated me so it was great to challenge some of the behaviours often seen in sport. I did my Honour’s project because of these lectures and had Steve as my very patient supervisor!
I loved the academic challenge that came with taking Mike Sam’s sport governance and policy papers and Doug Booth’s history of sport class was a favourite to learn about the political significance of the Olympics.
The best part of doing a degree in Physical Education was the broad base of knowledge gained. From anatomy, physiology and exercise prescription to gym, dance and PE camp, it really helped me develop into a well-rounded student. The lecturers were instrumental in making the programme so enjoyable.
What are your career or personal highlights?
Growing up I had always been a big cricket fan, so to go straight from university into an events role at New Zealand Cricket delivering Black Caps matches was a dream job. It was a steep learning curve but my favourite aspect was interacting with the different venues as well as being exposed to diverse team cultures. We had Pakistan, Bangladesh, Australia and South Africa tour that summer and it is a great reflection on the cricket community to now be reconnecting and working with some of the same people as back then.
Working alongside the ICC to deliver the U19 Cricket World Cup 2018 was another career highlight. To have seen first-hand the passion of aspiring cricketers was a real privilege and you can’t help but feel proud to see many of those players now joining their national teams. In Whangarei for the group stage, we had the most amazing Afghanistan and Ireland supporters come to each game and their passion for their country, team and the sport was inspiring.
Another highlight was leading the delivery on the White Ferns/West Indies series last summer. The White Ferns team and management alike were top-class and it was the perfect opportunity to see how big women’s cricket could be if it had a similar level of exposure to the men’s game. Hearing people in the UK now still talk about the Women’s Cricket World Cup Final and how it was one of their highlights of 2017 is a great indicator of what could be replicated in New Zealand for the 2021 Women’s Cricket World Cup.
Now I am lucky enough to walk into Lord’s each day and throw all my efforts into planning the 2019 Men’s Cricket World Cup. It’s another dream role, focusing on the technical elements of delivering a cricket tournament while interacting with various stakeholders to ensure their experience is world-class. To work on one of the biggest global sporting events is not something I expected to do so soon in my career but as a result of my time in Otago and my previous roles, I have been fortunate enough for this to become a reality.
What are some of the challenges facing cricket that you encounter in your role?
I think the key challenge is the same that you see across all sports. There is so much sport content for viewers to consume and in such a saturated market that the challenge is trying to convince people to choose and watch your product. For CWC19, our marketing team is doing a great job to promote the tournament and there are plenty of exciting events lined up as we get closer to tournament time. It’s all about how we engage the audience and think about the bigger picture to ensure we are contributing to actions that go beyond the World Cup itself.
What advice do you have for current students or students considering studying at Otago?
Studying at Otago is such an amazing experience and the best thing you can do while you are there is make the most of the opportunities you are presented with. It is up to you how you spend your time but there is a lot to be said for getting involved and doing your bit in the community. Whatever you choose to do, make sure you are passionate about it, go outside your comfort zone and have fun.
At this stage it’s hard to know what my next role will be let alone where I will be further on in my career. At some stage, I like to think I will be more involved in sport governance, and I haven’t ruled out further study and perhaps an MBA. For now, I am enjoying taking every opportunity I can to learn from the very experienced event organisers around me. No matter what I do, I want to make sure I have a positive influence on others through the way I approach life.