Originally aired on January 28 @ 12:30 AM - 1:00 AM EDT
As Vice President, Global Business Operations and Strategy for the National Basketball Association, Diane Gotua leads the development of inorganic revenue opportunities to grow and diversify the NBA’s business internationally through strategic partnerships. Diane has played a critical role in the formation of various transformative partnerships including the formation of NBA Africa, the establishment of the Basketball Africa League (BAL) in partnership with the International Basketball Federation (FIBA), expansion of the G-League in Mexico in partnership with Capitanes, establishment of the Reliance Foundation-Jr. NBA program in India, and the NBA Experience at Disney Springs in Orlando.
In 2019, Diane served as interim Managing Director for NBA India. Prior to her assignment in Mumbai, Diane served as general manager for USA Basketball (USAB) and directed the league’s efforts in monetizing USAB’s commercial rights across media, sponsorship, merchandise, and events.
Prior to joining the NBA, Diane served as Assistant Vice President within Barclays Capital’s and Lehman Brothers’ investment banking groups where she executed a number of transactions for global industrials and communications, media and entertainment clients. Prior to Lehman Brothers, Diane was an analyst at the International Monetary Fund in Washington, D.C.
Diane received her MBA from New York University’s Stern School of Business, with concentrations in finance and strategy, and her bachelor’s degree in economics from Ateneo De Manila University. Diane currently resides in Connecticut with her husband and their three children.
Women in Tech
Hi, everyone. Welcome back to this week's episode of Yes We Can. I'm just so excited to be here with Diane Gotua. Hi, Diane. How are you? Good, Michelle. It's great to be here with you today. Thanks so much. I cannot wait to talk about basketball and the NBA and the global expansion and how you ended up finding yourself at the league after a great career as an investment banker. But before we get to that, just a couple of housekeeping items. Thanks, everyone, for tuning in. If you have any questions for Diane, you can put them. There's a little prompt on how to do that, and I'll try to get to them. But if not, you can also send ideas of people you'd love to see on the show. Just email me at yeswecanatCloudflare.tv. I love getting your emails. It's always very fun. So let's dive in. So, Diane, super excited because you were an investment banker, and I know a lot of people who started their careers as an investment banker, but then you found yourself working at the NBA, which I'm a huge basketball fan, big Steph Curry, Klay Thompson fan. I live in San Francisco, so I love the Warriors. And you've now been at the NBA for nine years. So maybe you can start by telling the audience, how did that happen? Did you always know you wanted to work there, or what was the story behind that? Oh, it's actually a great story, Michelle, but believe it or not, a recruiter from the league reached out to me on LinkedIn about the opportunity to come and join what was then called the strategic development team. So there were four people in that team then. I was the fifth person hired, and I was in banking, right? I was in banking. I was a new mom. And so I had already been, started to think about shifting into corporate. And yeah, I literally got a message on LinkedIn. They were looking for someone that had IB experience, financial modeling, valuation, and just facile with numbers, but also an international background. I was born and raised in the Philippines. I have lived half my life there, half my life here in the United States. And the Philippines is one of a short list of places in the world where it's literally God in basketball. So when I got that, when I got that message, I obviously took the call. And I remember my first interview was a week prior to the holidays. This was in 2012. My son was about nine weeks old. And so I started the recruiting process then. And my first day at the league was April 2nd, 2013. I remember. So it's a little short of nine years, but yeah, it's been, it's been a great ride. I love that. It's just so amazing how, you know, a recruiter at the NBA kind of found you on LinkedIn, reached out and then you replied. And it kind of led to this whole other chapter of your career that you didn't even know kind of existed. And there's something really empowering and special about that story. So thanks so much for sharing that. So, so you've been at the league for almost, almost nine years and you've had many roles at the NBA. So maybe just start by kind of giving a quick overview to the audience, some of the roles you've had. And then I want to move into the how the NBA thinks about their international presence, because it's so amazing as we were getting ready for this. I didn't, I am a little bit embarrassed to admit, I didn't realize how global the league is, but before we get to that, maybe just share with the audience, some of the roles you've had. So that first job, they wanted someone to go with numbers, like tell us a little bit about that first job and then some of the other. Yeah. So I started, so it was called strategic development then, but it really was our corporate strategy team. And so I spent about three years in that group and that team, what we really did was work on cross-functional projects. So it can be corporate development. It could be thinking about, you know, which markets do we really want to lean in on? It could be thinking about, you know, a perfect example is this basketball Africa league, and we can get into that later, but, you know, which is our first ever pro league outside of the United States. So identifying those types of opportunities. So that group is usually heavily involved in those types of projects. So spent three years there. And during those three years, I really spent a lot of time focused on international, international strategy. And we had a reorg. And so this was probably in 2016, our deputy commissioner and COO, now Mark Tatum became responsible for our international business. And given I had spent a lot of time on that part of the business, I then reported into him and have been reporting into him for the past five years. And he's been a great mentor of mine and really huge supporter. And, you know, having worked for him for the past five years, I've held various roles. So at one point being responsible for USA basketball. So we serve as the exclusive agent for USA basketball, any monetization opportunities, whether it's marketing partnerships, media opportunities, all of that, we generate revenue for USA basketball. I lived for eight or nine months in Mumbai leading the team there prior to our first ever set of India game. So this was in October 2019, when we had our first ever games there. So was responsible for that team, a lot of flying back and forth. And then most recently, focused on on Africa, which is really the new frontier for us. I mentioned briefly, Basketball Africa League, which I'm extremely excited about, again, the first pro league that we have outside of the United States outside of North America, sorry, because we do have the Raptors in Canada. But and also the formation of NBA Africa, which involves selling a portion of our Africa business to external investors. So yeah, it's definitely been very interesting. I've learned a lot in the past eight years that I've been here, met a lot of different partners, did a lot of travel. You know, I started keeping count. And I've been to, I think it's over 30 countries, 40 cities across 30 countries. And we are, Michelle, you said it earlier, we are very global. And actually, that is something that I, you know, I'm extremely proud of, because we're very global, very inclusive, very progressive, very forward looking, right. And, and we always, you know, thinking about strategy, we think about many ways that we keep our fans in every corner of the world, really engaged with our product. And so if it's about making sure that our games are accessible, that we have wide distribution, if it's making sure that we have content that is in local language, if it's also, you know, working with influencers, so that our fans can really relate and to, to the content that we put out there, you know, that does underpin our strategy. And then of course, also focusing on grassroots development, right. So making sure that young boys and girls have the opportunity to play the game, because we do see that participation is a huge predictor. So if you play the sport, it's a huge predictor of fandom. And so we definitely focus on that and do that through our junior MBA program, which is in over 100 countries worldwide. And so we have programming there, whether it's actually in-person or virtual. Wow, that's amazing. It really is global. I mean, it's, it's, I, again, I really did not appreciate how global the league thinks and, and how many countries you, you touch and all, and all the things that have to line up behind that to enable that. So that's pretty amazing. So you said you were in India to launch your league there, the first games there, which is such a neat experience that you lived in Mumbai for 10 months. Like, what was that like? And how did you get that? How did you get that job? Like, did you raise your hand to do that? Or how did that story? Yeah, so I actually worked very closely with the managing director of India prior to the game. So we were working on a growth plan for the market, because for any global company, you need to have a meaningful presence in, in India, right? And we've, we've definitely identified that market is a huge opportunity for us. And so he had left to found a startup, which is a great opportunity for him. And having worked very closely with him, knowing the market and myself also being very passionate about, you know, seeing success there, I did raise my hand, it was, you know, a lot of people definitely, you know, ask, like, how are you going to make this work? I am a mother of three. So then I actually had two young kids. And so it was a lot of travel. But during those few months that I was there, you know, they actually spent the summer with me. So they had that, that experience of living in Mumbai and building relationships and, and just experiencing a completely different part of the world. And so, so I raised my hand. And because I also knew, right, like, and I'm very logical when I approach decisions. So I did a pros and cons, give get type of diagram. And I just felt obviously, with the support of my husband and my family and friend, and then also thinking about, okay, how would we make this work, if it was something that I pursued, there's a learning opportunity, being able to lead a team there, and executing on something that hasn't been done before. It was just it was too compelling of an opportunity to pass up. And, and with the support of my boss, I was able to to lead the team and successfully stage those games. Wow, that's so amazing. I want to, I'd love to drill down a little bit on your decision making process, you give us a bit of insight, because this is something that's just, I feel like a lot of us are faced with opportunities all the time. And you can't, it's so much easier to find a reason not to do something, it's a lot harder to convince yourself to go do it. And so maybe you kind of gave us a little bit of insight where you had a pros and cons or gives and gets. And you talked to, of course, your husband and your family and your boss, understanding kind of, okay, here are the things I need to make this work. Just take us, tell us a little bit more, take us back to that moment, like what else maybe, again, because I think there's a lot of people on this call listening to you right now, Diane, who are like, well, actually, I have an opportunity, like, how should I think it through? So maybe you could help us understand how you made this decision to help all of us make better decisions in our life. Yeah. Look, I think any decision, right, is you think, I mean, for me, I was definitely thinking about long -term and I looked at the opportunity as one, a really big learning opportunity for me. It's not every day that I would get presented with a chance to actually get operational expertise and be in market, right? Because a lot of what I was doing prior to my stint in India was very, you know, strategy, right? It wasn't somewhat limited in actual execution or operational experience. And so I kind of knew that in order to be the leader that I want to be ultimately and where I want to be in the future, that I needed that operational experience. And so I took that into account as well. And then, you know, obviously the cons of travel, of, I mean, the challenges even of uprooting myself and going into a market where I already had some business relationships, right, having worked on the growth plan. So having some familiarity there, but still having to establish new relationships and actually lead a team and motivate a team and be that bridge between that team in Mumbai. We have a few people in Delhi as well, but in New York, knowing how we operate and working very closely with our events team. I just, you know, it wasn't like a perfect formula, but I did take that into account and just knowing where ultimately I want to be, right, in my career and as a leader, I, yeah, it just, it made sense. Like in terms of risk, like I felt that what was there for me to lose, right? I mean, there were definitely sacrifices that I had to make in the short term, but ultimately in the longterm, it would be beneficial for me personally, professionally, and also for the company and for the team. That's amazing. Good for you. What an incredible experience and hard, I mean, now obviously in retrospect it was successful, but in the moment, I'm sure incredibly difficult decision. So thanks for taking us through that. The other part sometimes I hear, because it wasn't, as you said, like it was something different than you were doing. It was much more operational in a country that was far away. I mean, Mumbai is far from New York city. Like that's really far culturally different, something new early. It wasn't proven yet. I mean, did you ever doubt yourself Diane? Cause that's the other thing I hear a lot about. It's like, I was nervous. You, people stop themselves. Did you doubt yourself? Michelle, every, look, I don't, I don't want to say every day, but, but yeah, that's probably true that there are moments, right. And I catch myself and yeah, I questioned like, can I do this? And, but see, actually that's the perfect example. That is really the perfect example of, even if you doubt yourself, what if you do it, like you just jump in, give it a shot. If you fail, okay, too bad. You learn. If you succeed, great, then you know that you can do it. And so I feel like, so for sure I, you know, I definitely have doubts, but then, then I look back and I reflect on these experiences and what I've managed to accomplish. Again, I don't want to take full, like just credit just myself, right. Cause there's a full team behind everything is to accomplish anything meaningful, right. Requires a team. And basketball actually teaches you that. But, but yeah, it's just, it's pushing yourself and just jumping in and then, and then you look back and then you say, oh, I managed to do that. So I should be able to do this next thing. And so you just have to overcome that doubt and you just, you just go for it, even if it's uncomfortable. I love it. I love it. I love it. Just go for it. There's definitely a poster on there, but with your name on it, it's good to go next to your basketballs behind you on your bookshelf. I love that. Okay. So let's fast forward to that. That was India, which is wonderful. And then talk about another continent. Now you've expanded, you're helping with the league's expansion into Africa, which you mentioned a little bit, tell us more about that. And then how is it similar to your experience in India and how it's different? Because I mean, that's a huge continent. Want to hear more about this? Oh yeah. I mean, India is one country, right? Africa is over 50 countries, different languages and I mean, just vast area. So Africa, actually my first time ever traveling to Africa was in 2016. And so I guess two things that I've really been focused on and worked with it. So I'm part of the core team that established a partnership with FIBA. We have a JV with them on the Basketball Africa League. And then more recently again, selling a piece of our business to outside investors. And in terms of similarities, I guess, between India and Africa, I think a couple of things it's infrastructure wise, right? I think definitely some ways to go in Africa. And so part of what we're doing is enabling that, building that infrastructure, working through partners. But I think a stark difference, Michelle, is the talent that is coming from the continent. So if you look at our player pool now, so within the NBA, there are 450 pro players that play across 30 teams. Today in this current season, there are over 50 that have ties to Africa. So either they were born in Africa or their parents are from Africa, but they have ties to the continent. And we're just seeing that number grow year over year. And so I think that that's one big difference. And then also, if you think about the time zone, so part of the reason why we had set up Basketball Africa League is because one, we've definitely seen the opportunity, very young market, tech savvy, have a passion for basketball. A lot of the different countries there actually rank basketball as number one or number two sport in terms of their interests. And so having a local product we've seen in other markets in the world, having a local product in prime time, local content, is a huge driver of our business. And so putting that ecosystem in place and putting that league in place was definitely a key piece of our strategy. I love that. You mentioned the tech savvy piece. I'm curious a little bit on this note, just pulling that a little bit of how does the league think about technology? And you mentioned the reaching fans and the distribution. I'm just curious a little bit more about how does the league think about using technology to enable this very global presence that you've built? Yeah, it's definitely at the forefront of everything that we do at the league, right? I think a huge focus of ours is really finding out how we can engage and really connect with our fans in every corner of the world. So that means making our content, whether that's a live game or non-live, as accessible to that fan, whether they're in a time zone friendly market or a non-time zone friendly market, whether they just consume our content on social media, whether they actually go out and buy a subscription to our League Pass product, whether they tune in and still watch the game on TV, on broadcast, and then working with our partners to enable that accessibility and also make sure that we are relevant, right? And so that these fans continue to consume our content. So it's a huge priority right now for us is really rethinking our next gen product. So right now we have our currently past product, but finding better ways to refine that product so it's more personal, it's more customized, and that it really caters to what that one fan really likes. And I think technology and just the proliferation of mobile phones as well and data, using data to personalize and customize that experience and to engage our fans better is definitely a huge, huge focus of ours. I love it. It feels like there's so much there. It feels like you've just, I mean, you use the word, using your words, Diana, about how forward -thinking the League is and you're doing a great job. Kind of, wow, I didn't realize, and it's so inspiring to hear all of that and empowering, but it also feels like so still so early what else is left. And I could imagine looking at my app and getting a very personalized, like these players and their backgrounds and with music that I like, with the replays that I want to see for the teams that I like, like that's really feels like we're just at the beginning of the fan experience. For sure, for sure, Michelle. I mean, and that's the thing, right? Like I think that you're able to really build that relationship and have that relationship be as sticky as possible. If I continue to give value to you, right, and if I continue to serve you with content and products that appeal to you, if you have kids, okay, like I know, all right, maybe, okay, what, you said you're a Steph Curry fan, then I'm going to make sure, okay, I'm going to give Michelle, Steph Curry highlights. I'm going to make sure she knows when the next, you know, jersey drops and all that stuff. And so I think, honestly, I think it's really critical and that focus on innovation using technology and data is critical for us. And I think for any company to, there's just so much media right now to consume. And so in order to compete, I think it's just really something that we need to continue to do and be better at. I love that. Okay. So I want to switch gears. I'm now I'm very excited about this. And my son likes to watch all the highlights. He's like, can I check the highlights, mom, and the scores? Anyway, but it's so fun. Okay. So switching gears. So you've done so well at the MBA. You're an amazing leader there. You've done so many different sorts of things and you've taken us through some of your chapters of your career. So congratulations, Dan, on everything. But in addition, you're also the executive sponsor for one of the ERG. So ERG stands for employee research group. We also have employee resource groups at Cloudflare. And you're the executive sponsor for the group that helps with Asian employees, right? Like the, the, I think you call it the Asian professional exchange, which is, which is wonderful. And I'd love to spend a few minutes hearing about your experience. What does that mean to be the executive sponsor of this ERG? And because there's a lot of leaders who listen to this, this call. And I think that leaders get asked to be executive sponsors all the time. And a lot of don't even know what that means or how to do it well. So maybe you can tell us a little bit more about how you think about that responsibility. Sure. I mean, honestly, Michelle, I was just, I was very fortunate to be tapped as a, as an executive sponsor for the group. But we have, as a sponsor, as an executive sponsor, what it really means is providing that voice to our senior leadership team and, and serving as a bridge between like the actual core team. So we have an amazing group of leaders, you know, Gotham, my lead and Brian who work with our constituents and think about programming and identify, you know, their issues that may be the constituents race up to, to the team, but, but we really support them. And so when, so it's, it's really, it's really being a voice, but the actual work is being done by, by that core team. But it's, it's making sure that we actually, any issues that they do raise, that we make sure that those issues do get addressed and, and you know, that there are resources provided to the causes that we have in the programming that the group pulls together. I love that. That's great. I think having the voice and making sure people are top of mind and reminding, I think is really important. So what, so let's say somebody's thinking about becoming an executive sponsor at an ERG at their organization, any advice you have for them on, on how to think about it or how they could do it, what the difference between doing it well and mediocre might be? Yeah, I think that look, first of all, definitely take on the role if you're really passionate about what the group is advocating for. And so you're able to really relate and, and that you care. Cause I think that that's a huge thing for me is that I think I'm able to speak more passionately and be a louder voice because I am part, I am very much part of that group, right? And these issues are issues that I face that my kids face. And, and so I think that's one thing is that you, you definitely should have a keen interest and keen passion for the group that you're advocating for. And then secondly, I think it's, you know, it's, it's leveraging partners. So it's not just working internally within the company, but also looking outside externally. So our ERG is great. Like we have programming, we work with baseball, we work with, with football, with the NFL and MLB. And then we actually get there, you know, we do panels with them. And so it's leveraging partners and other groups outside. So it's not insular. And so that you're able to, you know, advocate much stronger and, and also actually even give, give variety to your constituents and, and also allow for networking opportunities. So I think those two things are really key. I love that. I think that there's a lot of wise words in what you just said, Diane. So thank you so much for sharing all that. It's when you're genuinely excited about something, it's a lot easier to, to, to be passionate and do a good job around it. The, you know, in addition to, to being a sponsor for, for the, the, the Asian professional exchange at the MBA, you also really believe in helping women. And I think that's something that I'm also really passionate about. And I think that there's a lot of leaders who are thinking about how can I help open up opportunities for women on my team or other underrepresented minorities? So do you have any words of wisdom or advice on, on, on some examples where you've seen other leaders do that? Well, that might be helpful for the audience to hear. Yeah, I think that, you know, we, we had a recent lunch and learn for women's network. And I was a speaker for that. And I got asked a similar question. It's, I mean, very specific example, right? If you're in a zoom or you're even an in-person meeting, usually women don't speak up. I mean, yeah, they just usually don't speak up. So it's literally, I think sometimes that if I'm one or two women in, in that room that I, well, first of all, you, you say, you, you speak up if you have something to add to the conversation, but, but having the courage to actually say something and sending that example, I think then kind of, you know, other, other women see that and then they kind of emulate that behavior or, or if you're leading the meeting and say you're a woman and you're leading the meeting, literally asking the question of the other woman in the room and say like, what do you think? And so encouraging them to speak up. And then, you know, a lot of, I'm sure there are a lot of instances in many different companies where there aren't, you know, if, if, if there's an opportunity that comes up and, and just thinking of, of, and names get asked and, and, and thinking of, you know, providing opportunities, even if it's stretched assignments to, to other women and just, and, and, you know, providing their names and giving that them that opportunity, if they're not in that room, I think is another way to do that, to, to provide support. I think that's great. I often, I get asked, Hey, do you know anyone for a board seat or this? And I constantly making sure that it's a balanced list of both men or women or underrepresented minorities. And if it's not, then I'm like, wait, I can do better. Like that's, I would just, yeah, I think that's a really good, good reminder. Yeah. You know, and even in, you know, as like in projects, right? Like, okay. Thinking about, well, we should really get a woman investor to be part of this consortium, things like that. And, and, but obviously every, like every suggestion or every recommendation, right? You're not just providing names for the sake of providing names. Everyone is, is, is capable and they're ready for that role for that job. But just being more deliberate and being very intentional, intentional of thinking about. Yeah. Whether it's women or underrepresented groups. I love that. And we're out of time. We could have covered so much more. I know. I know. How did that happen? But it did. You are wonderful. Thank you so much for everyone for tuning into yes, we can, then congratulations and everything. This was so much fun and the league is very lucky to have you. Thank you, Michelle. It was great. It was great to join you today. Great to meet you. Thanks everyone for tuning in.