Joanne Pasternack J.D. ’99 was part of the Women in Sports Symposium, sponsored jointly by the Stanford Graduate School of Business and the San Francisco 49ers, in November. An all-star panel of women described what it’s like to have a career in the professional sports industry.
As a youngster, Joanne Pasternack thought she knew exactly what she wanted to be when she grew up—first an Olympic figure skater and then a pediatrician. Instead, she has ended up in a totally different realm—professional football, where she works as the director of community relations and philanthropy for the San Francisco 49ers, helping to raise millions for charity.
Several of the panelists came to the sports industry through circuitous routes. Before assuming her current role with the 49ers in 2008, Pasternack worked as a senior analyst with the City of Mountain View. Armed with a law degree from Santa Clara University, she helped the mayor and other city officials write speeches and analyze legislation. “It was a very comfortable job,” she said, but it wasn’t exciting.
She had grown up as a competitive ice skater and did a stint as manager of international corporate relations for the Special Olympics, so Pasternack decided to go for the 49ers” position because of her zest for community relations and passion for sports.
As part of her duties, Pasternack arranges for players, former players, team owners, and 49ers employees to participate in service projects, such as building playgrounds in underserved communities or heading to Ronald McDonald House to play board games with young patients. “That’s the really fun part of the job,” she said.
When searching for prospective college interns, Pasternak doesn’t focus on students’ grade point averages. Instead, she’s impressed by candidates who have played on a sports team or taken a leadership role in a campus club or sorority.
"I’m looking for somebody who’s able to come in and take a leadership role, but who also understands how to be part of a team,” said Pasternak. “That’s far more important to me than what they majored in.”