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How Maryann Turcke went from civil engineer to a top job in the NFL

Maryann Turcke knows that her collection of career job titles seems out of the ordinary. But in the details, her path becomes clear. During her career, Maryann has moved up, down, sideways and even made a right turn, with an MBA from Smith School of Business at Queen’s University, to get to her current job as chief operating officer of the NFL. Here, she shares how she did it, and her best advice for those wanting to follow in her footsteps.


By Hailey Eisen



In what may seem like an unusual career trajectory, Maryann Turcke began as a civil engineer in Kingston, Ontario — working in bridge design and construction — and ended up, three decades later, the highest-ranking woman in the National Football League.

Her path has taken her up, sideways, and even down as she’s moved into different roles and industries, both creating her own opportunities and fearlessly taking on those presented to her. It’s a strategy she recommends to the women she mentors, as well as to her own two daughters.

“My advice to women is always the same,” she says. “In order to distinguish yourself from others, it’s important to be brave enough to try things outside of where you’re traditionally comfortable.”

Maryann’s first move out of her comfort zone came in 1996, the first year Smith offered a 12-month MBA program for those working in science and technology. She had already earned undergraduate and master’s degrees in engineering and had been working in the field for five years. She’d also had her first daughter and was looking to make a career change. Maryann decided that earning her MBA was the perfect way to get started.

Looking back, it was exactly the opportunity she needed to make a right-angle turn out of engineering and into business. After earning her MBA, she worked in management consulting, then in technology, and eventually as a freelance consultant — which gave her more time at home with her two daughters. It’s a time that she remembers fondly.

“Some of the best advice I was ever given was to make sure, during your career, that you take time to enjoy life outside of work — to fight for it if you have to.”

Returning to the corporate world, Maryann was hired by Bell Canada Enterprises (BCE), and after three years was given a major promotion. “This was another pivotal time in my career as the CEO moved me from a VP to an EVP — skipping the SVP step — which was never done. He put a lot of faith in me — giving me a massive team of 12,000 guys and trucks.”

Her next move, however, was unconventional. Maryann was approached by Bell’s CEO with another offer, this time to join Bell Media.


“Some of the best advice I was ever given was to make sure, during your career, that you take time to enjoy life outside of work — to fight for it if you have to.”


“I ended up working for a peer of mine, which was a big risk for me career-wise. It was a sideways, downward kind of move, and I struggled with that decision,” she explains. But Maryann emphasizes that taking such a risk and learning something new can’t hurt your career, “I knew it would be fun and I’d learn a lot.” She eventually became the president of Bell Media, putting her on the radar in the sports and entertainment industry.

She sat on the board of Maple Leaf Sports and Entertainment (owner of hockey’s Toronto Maple Leafs and basketball’s Toronto Raptors) and dealt with the NFL (Bell was the football league’s broadcasting partner in Canada). That eventually helped her land a job with the NFL as president, NFL Network, Digital Media, IT and Films, based in Los Angeles.

It was another new industry, and the job came with certain challenges. “I had an accelerated learning curve when it came to understanding the cultural importance of the brand and football itself here in the United States,” she says.

What she didn’t find, however, was a male-dominated workplace. The NFL is committed to diversity and equality, she says. “I’ve actually never worked with more women in my career as I do now at the NFL.”

Now in her third year with the NFL, she is the chief operating officer, working out of the league’s head office in New York City. Maryann holds a great deal of power within the organization — a privilege she doesn’t take lightly. She’s committed to elevating and enhancing the portfolios of emerging executives as the NFL works toward a commissioner succession plan.

She also recently took on the role of chair of the advisory board of Smith School of Business at Queen’s University. Maryann says Queen’s runs through her blood: Her father was the university’s head of civil engineering; it’s where she earned her undergraduate degree and MBA, and both her daughters studied at Smith.

“Watching the school evolve over time has been really satisfying,” she says. “Especially when it comes to data and innovation — this is a really important time and I’m pleased to be part of it.”

Today, Maryann is able to reflect on her career with pride and gratitude. “It may seem like an odd path,” she says, “but looking back on how it all unfolded, it totally makes sense now.”


Smith School of Business has helped countless business leaders make their own right-angle career turns. Learn more about Smith’s suite of MBA programs here.