Naz Sabripour took a shine to venue management and never looked back. As executive director of the Pasadena Convention Center, she ensures that visitors have a special experience when attending events, whether it’s “America’s Got Talent,” a yoga expo or an anime weekend.
“It’s about local residents and visitors coming to Pasadena, enjoying the best shows in our venues and all of what our city has to offer,” says Sabripour.
Sabripour’s journey to Pasadena began overseas but only briefly. Born in Iran, her family moved when she was an infant before the 1979 revolution. With family in Louisiana, they immigrated to the Deep South where her father studied business. At age 10, Sabripour was on the move again, this time to Texas where she developed an interest in organized events.
“Once I graduated from the University of Houston in business with a concentration in marketing, there was an opportunity for me to start working at the George R. Brown Convention Center in Houston as an event manager,” says Sabripour. “I honestly had no idea what the industry entailed or what the job was about. That’s what started my career in venue management. I fell in love with it and continuously wanted to learn and achieve more.”
That thirst for knowledge led her to earn a master’s degree in public relations from the University of Denver.
“While in Denver, I was helping a meeting planner for a conference management company that this woman-owned and it gave me a different perspective of events more on the client side of planning,” she explains.
The experience helped Sabripour discover her true love: venue management. Client-based management involved more travel and putting on shows, whereas venue management allowed Sabripour to work in one place and become “an expert of facilities.”
“I realized the only time I truly felt fulfilled and happy was when I was working at a venue and that kind of atmosphere, which really resonated with me,” says Sabripour, who arrived in fall 2007. “Once my studies were done, there was an opportunity here in Pasadena and I gave it a shot. It opened the avenue for my growth overseeing the event management department. I was surprised at how well I adapted here.”
She found Pasadena to be a city with an abundance of diversity, culture and shopping experiences, all within walking distance. “That’s what I really fell in love with,” she says.
“For the size of the city, it has quite a bit to offer that is comparable to other major metropolitan cities. There is a little bit of everything for everyone.”
Sabripour was promoted to executive director on July 1, 2019, taking charge of all facets of the center’s operations and service department, providing a high level of customer service, ensuring client needs are met, and interacting with visitors on weekends.
“It’s a constant demand of meeting expectations,” she says. “I truly love what I do so I’m grateful every day.”
To those interested in a career in venue management, Sabripour cautions that it isn’t the glamorous job it appears to be. “It’s important to understand what we do because it isn’t always glamorous with red carpet shows,” she points out. “There is an appeal to this type of job, but with lots of hours and hard work. It doesn’t portray the amount of hours and dedication that goes into it. For a person to be successful, I would say you need to understand the ins and outs of the industry and do it for the right reasons.”
Shows often start very early in the morning and end after midnight, requiring availability and readiness to deal with challenges that suddenly pop up.
“You have to truly understand customer service needs, and have a high level of organizational and people skills,” explains Sabripour. “In any position, whether front line or management, you are constantly interacting with guests that come through the doors. Ultimately, we are ambassadors for the city.”
Sabripour recently achieved the designation of Certified Venue Professional (CVP) and is a member of the International Association of Venue Managers (IAVM) and the International Association of Exhibitions and Events (IAEE).
“For me, it’s about empowering others,” says Sabripour. “My fulfillment comes from developing and nurturing them.” She believes in leading with kindness, listening to her staff, and making them feel valued. “Compassion and integrity are all characters of a true leader. I think it’s truly important to inspire others. For me, it’s my skills, my knowledge, and my experience that should define me as a business leader.”