Team player: Picking sparring partners and mentors with Sky Deutschland’s director of inhouse operations Louisa von Lenthe

Sky Deutschland’s director of inhouse operations, Louisa von Lenthe

To women thinking of moving into sports broadcasting or pushing forwards in their careers, Louisa von Lenthe, director of inhouse operations at Sky Deutschland, says: “Just do it! Take one step at a time, watch and learn from others and find people who you can really trust and who will be honest with you.

“No one can be successful by themselves, but especially as a woman in a male dominated area, you need a trusted “crew” of colleagues and partners. And then just don’t let anyone stop you!”

On what the coolest thing she has worked on in the course of her career, Lenthe enthuses: “Oh, there are so many things; I guess every phase of my career had its highlights really.
“Being in a stadium every weekend was very exciting for a while, being part of a project team setting up a broadcasting centre was intense but came with a lot of learnings. COVID and the restart of the Bundesliga after lockdown was very special as no one had ever been in a situation like that before, and being part of the Special Olympics World Games broadcasting crew last summer definitely also makes the cut; the spirit at that event was just so special!
“But the more I think about special moments, the more I would say one of the coolest things is actually quite simple; being part of a team that delivers a high quality product each and every matchday throughout the year. That’s the coolest thing!”

From politics to sport
Lenthe’s path from school to university and eventually into the TV business was quite coincidental. After finishing school, she decided to pursue event management studies at university but she soon became bored. She completed the course however, and went onto study politics. During this time she worked part time at ZDF giving studio tours. ZDF later offered her a job at the 2012 London Olympics. “And that was it really,” she notes. “After that I had my mind set on working in the sports TV business.

“Being the only woman (or one of very few) at the table often means a little bit more work at the beginning to get noticed, believed, accepted and understood. But once this moment has passed, no one forgets about me anymore. Luckily, I have found colleagues and sparring partners I can trust and who I can turn to in challenging situations”

On that first job, she says: “My role was quite simple, just running errands, but spending three weeks with the production crew made me realize that this was the career path I wanted to pursue. I simply loved the mix of emotions – the adrenaline rush of live broadcasts, the anticipation and planning leading up to it, and the excitement that came with it.”

After that she applied for an internship at Sky Germany as it was the only other sports broadcaster in Germany that she knew of. “When I got the internship I was really happy about it, but didn’t really know what to expect to be honest. But apparently it was very good, because I have stayed with Sky Germany ever since.”
Lenthe has been with Sky Germany for nearly 11 years, moving through several roles within the sports production department. She explains her job progression: “I started as an intern, then became a floor manager for approximately three years, followed by being a project manager for another three years, then head of playout services for a further three years, and now I’m heading the inhouse operations team.”

New challenges

As to how she decided to move roles to inhouse operations. Lenthe explains: “I was looking for a new challenge, as I was in my former role for nearly three years already. Furthermore, I wanted to lead a team which is responsible for managing technical workflows, creative graphic designs, and being closely involved in the storytelling of our shows – all at the same time. My team today is very broad, when it comes to skillsets and I really like having such a diverse team.
“I guess the hardest part about my new job has been understanding the transition from managing tasks to managing employees,” she goes on. “The transition wasn’t just hard for me; it was also challenging for everyone around me. They had to adjust to seeing “Louisa” in a new role, which added an extra layer of difficulty. While I was skilled in managing projects, overseeing a team on a daily basis was a whole new challenge. It meant refining my communication, conflict resolution, and employee development skills.”

On what the role brings to her, she says: “This sounds like such a typical answer from a manager, but I actually mean it: the team. I honestly I really enjoy getting to know all the different characters within the team and working with them to deliver the best possible sports broadcast experience.”

Sparring partners

Lenthe comments on the main challenge she has faced during her career: “One of the constant underlying challenges I face in my professional life – and I can only say that as myself as I don’t want to generalise it as a “women’s experience” – is being the only woman (or one of very few) at the table often means a little bit more work at the beginning to get noticed, believed, accepted and understood. But once this moment has passed, no one forgets about me anymore. Luckily, I have found colleagues and sparring partners I can trust and who I can turn to in challenging situations.”

She goes on to consider the most challenging aspects of working in live sport: “The most challenging thing about working in live sport  is probably finding a good balance between work and personal life. But that’s not just a challenge for me, but for everyone involved. The job is focused around delivering live coverage of sports, which tends to happen mainly at the weekends or in the evening hours.

“My boss once said to me: “This can be the best job you will ever have, but you have to be aware that you will mostly be working at times where all your friends meet up to watch live sports”. That obviously doesn’t mean that I personally have to be available 24/7 in my role, but when you know your teams are working you don’t really switch off the phone. But if you enjoy working under pressure, providing a high quality coverage of an emotional product and have this team spirit of everyone aiming for the same goal in a very tight timeline, working in sports broadcasting really is the best job you can have.”

Looing ahead, artificial intelligence (AI) is the technological advance that Lenthe predicts will prove to be the biggest disruption in live sports broadcasting going forwards. She says: “On a day to day job level AI will be the biggest gamechanger in upcoming years. Not just because new and crazy things we can’t even think of yet will be possible, but it will also help us in simplifying workflows, taking out the time consuming steps inbetween, and might even help us cope with challenges such as the lack of available workforce, constant higher demand of content, and more.

“Additionally to the AI development, which will touch on every aspect of our lives I believe, I personally think that the biggest gamechanger for the industry itself will be the further development of cloud-based systems. Scalable, easy to use (most of the time), accessible from anywhere and more and more pay as you go licence models, will give the industry the flexibility to adjust to the needs.”

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