Soccer's Highest-Ranking US Female Executive Shares Her Story

Why It Matters:

  • In celebration of International Women’s Day, we interviewed Ena Patel.
  • Patel recently joined Colorado Rapids as Director of Player Personnel.
  • She shared crucial guidance for women in the workforce.

Ryan Besch tkc.profilePicture Written by: Ryan Besch | Transamerica
May 15, 2018

4 Min readClock Icon

How far would you go to achieve a dream?

When former tax professional Ena Patel joined the Colorado Rapids as Director of Player Personnel earlier this year, she became the highest-ranking women executive in a technical role in Major League Soccer.

In celebration of International Women’s Day, we sat down with Patel to discuss her path from law school to the front office.

“I grew up in a pretty traditional Indian family filled with doctors, engineers, finance majors,” Patel said.” There were definitely ideas of a ‘traditional path’ that my parents had for me.”

Patel received a juris doctorate at Loyola Law and went on to earn a Master of Law from Northwestern University. After spending considerable time in her field, Patel found herself at a crossroads.

“Even though I spent several years in the Bay Area practicing international tax law, my underlying dream was not going away. It wasn’t until I landed this role (with the Rapids) that I stopped looking for my ‘next.’ ”

In the Rapids’ front office, Patel feels right at home. Her responsibilities include handling player contracts, salary budgets, compliance with regulations, and soccer operations for the team. Rapids Executive Vice President and General Manager Padraig Smith summed up Patel’s value in a press release.

“Bringing in a sharp, legal mind who can oversee our contractual processes and complex league mechanisms is a really important part of ensuring that we’re fielding the best possible team … Ena’s the final piece of the puzzle for us on the front office side.”

Despite the tall expectations, Patel remains grounded and insightful. When asked if she could provide any tips for women in the workplace, she passionately weighed in.

“When I was younger, I thought networking was attending events, handing out resumes, meeting as many people as possible,” Patel said. “Over the years, I realized it’s not about the number, it’s about forming meaningful relationships for the long-term.”

Focusing on quality over quantity, Patel nurtures lifelong connections with friends and colleagues around the world. While building a healthy social circle is certainly beneficial, she also shared some career advice — including salary negotiation.

In a survey published by Glassdoor, only 32% of women negotiated their salary, compared to 48% of men. Patel’s advice is simple and to the point.

“Always ask for what you want,” she said. “Don’t ever be afraid of that. The worst they can say is no, right?”

After conquering law school and the intricacies of international tax law, Patel finds herself at the doorstep of opportunity. Still settling into her role, she maintains a healthy outlook on the future of the Colorado Rapids.

“We’re trying to build a culture of excellence, to build a perennial playoff team,” she said. “Ultimately, the goal is to bring the MLS Cup back to Colorado.”

Things to Consider:

  • Follow Patel’s lead on networking: quality over quantity.
  • Never be afraid to negotiate your worth.
  • Share this article with friends and family to spread Patel’s message.

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