Thayssa Plum took the Master of Advanced Studies in Sports Administration and Technology at the International Academy of Sports Science and Technology (AISTS) in 2011 and began working for Fifa ahead of the 2014 World Cup in her home country of Brazil. She is now the body’s senior media relations manager, based in its headquarters in Zurich.
Why did you choose to do pursue postgraduate degree in sport management?
I was working as a sports journalist in Brazil for a radio station, and we had just been awarded the two big events, both the World Cup in 2014, and the Olympics in 2016. I realised that we had this huge opportunity as Brazilians, and I thought that I need to better prepare myself, I need to understand, to study this business. I always had this idea and understanding that Europe was the place to be when it comes to the sports industry, so I was also very interested from a cultural point of view, to exchange and understand more about the culture, to get to know new places.
And then what made everything actually possible was that AISTS offered a scholarship. For me it was still not possible to afford one year living in Switzerland, which is an expensive country, plus the tuition fees. But AISTS offered a scholarship for women coming from developing countries, and fortunately I qualified for a grant from the June Canavan Foundation, and it changed my life and all my perspectives. When I came to Europe in 2011, I thought I was coming to prepare myself to be a better journalist, because I would understand more about the sports business. But then once I got here and I started experiencing the backstage, I realised how amazing it was and how rich and I really enjoyed it. I decided to shift from a career in journalism to a career in sports events and communications.
What was it in particular about the course at AISTS that appealed to you?
Of course, in Brazil, I was completely focused on football, because that’s our biggest passion, but I really love the Olympics as well and I thought it was amazing to have this connection with the International Olympic Committee, and the fact that it was based in Lausanne, the Olympic City.
The curriculum was very interesting to me in terms of event management. I think also what really attracted me was the international make-up. Our class was 30–35 people, and there might have been four or five Swiss people and all the others came from Brazil, China, Canada, US, Colombia… I have friends literally from every single part of the globe. And that exchange was extremely interesting and a really big asset for starting out in the sport industry which of course is very global.
How do you feel the course prepared you for a career in the sports industry?
It’s really important to stop sometimes and study and look at things with a more critical eye. When you are just doing your work every single day, either the way I was as a journalist or in the industry, you don’t get chance to stop to critically look at things and think about where this industry comes from and where it is is going. So I think the way it prepared me was that it provided me a set of cues in relation to sporting events, in relation to project management, but also put me in a position where I could be a little bit away from the day-to-day life and look at things with critical eyes.
Also what is very important in the market is networking, and the course, with all the alumni and also the people in my current class and the lecturers we had, definitely provides you with a network of very interesting people that you can speak to. Now, constantly I receive emails, messages from current students that are interested in seeking some advice about how to work in football, because there is this connection and as soon as they say, I am a student or I’m in alumni from AISTS, that opens the door for them, and it definitely opens doors for me as well.
How does being an alumni of AISTS continue to impact your career to this day?
Definitely through networking. You’re basically connected to hundreds of people in the sports industry, all over the world. I’ve been for more than five years now at FIFA, but if you are looking for a job and you see that there is an alumni in a company, you can immediately get in touch and get some more information and advice. Besides that, they also offer workshops, they offer events where you can really talk again to the students, to alumni and to the industry and always meet new people.
AISTS also offers a mentorship programme, which has been interesting for me – I had three or four mentees now that I’ve been in touch with, and all this exchange hopefully helps them but it also helps me in terms of of my knowledge, my skills, my professional development, and I see that as extremely enriching to keep that network as we as we move forward in our careers.