National Geographic photographer used to be the cool thing to say when anyone asked kids "What do you want to be when you grow up?" That was in the 80's. In the 2000's I heard more and more children answer with "I want to be a sports photographer!" (My kind of kids!)
Jessica Tobias is living that dream. She joined FC Dallas in 2017 as a Senior Graphics Designer but was quickly able to take on the role as team photographer. Jessica takes many of our daily training photos as well as images that we use in advertisements.
Her career narrative is one of a true sports fan who is lucky enough to get paid to do what she loves.
How did your career path lead you to your current position with FC Dallas?
I think my career path really started to lead to the sports industry when I worked for the Williamsport Sun-Gazette. I started in the entertainment and lifestyle department writing features on bands and local interest pieces, but always enjoyed the stories that had a sports angle. I asked to transfer to the sports department, and before long, I was fully engulfed in sports journalism. On top of being a reporter, I worked my way into becoming a staff sports photographer.
During the time I was transitioning into the sports department, I was also working for Little League International as a lifeguard at their summer camp in Hillsgrove, PA. I would drive almost an hour both ways to get out to camp, so I decided that while I was there, I would learn everything I could about the maintenance aspect of the camp. Mac, who managed the property, was patient and a positive influence. He taught me everything from basic mowing patterns to running a backhoe. I had so much fun that I even considered adding a two-year turf management degree to my college course load. I worked at Green Acres for three years, and every year when camp was over, I would transition over to the headquarters complex and lifeguard during the Little League World Series.
When the opportunity came up to work for Penn College in the college information and community relations department as a student photographer, I took it and ran. I really grew as a photojournalist during the three years I was with the department and took every chance I could to cover our sports teams. The first year I was there, they sent me to the Little League World Series to do a photo story on an alum who was volunteering with the grounds crew. After Little League’s public relations director, who had been my editor at the newspaper, saw my photos, he asked me to consider joining the marketing staff during the Series the following year.
Since 2013, I’ve been invited back every year as a staff photographer. I truly enjoy every minute I spend during those 10 days and I always learn so much from working alongside some of the best talent in sports media. I’ve created a lot of great relationships through Little League that I would never be able to replace or replicate.
During my senior year of college, I took the stadium operations/food and beverage internship with the Williamsport Crosscutters. And while it was a lot of long hours and hard work, I loved it and got to experience another facet to the sports industry. It was after that internship that I knew I belonged in sports and while the full-time job opportunity didn’t come in Louisiana, I still worked with the Acadiana Cane Cutters and The Daily Advertiser as a sports photographer part-time.
What’s a typical day like for you on the job?
I’m not sure there is such a thing as a typical day because it’s always changing! I get to work on a variety of projects ranging from large scale stadium graphics, website images, fliers, posters, merchandise, and photography. I do like to get here early when the office is empty to work on projects that require a lot of focus though.
What’s gameday like for you?
I usually get here around 2 or 3pm to get caught up on email, make sure match posters have been distributed, roster cards are set aside for executives and start gear check. I clean equipment if needed and put together my setup for the game depending if it’s an afternoon or night match. After that, I make sure the shot list is up-to-date and then review the list with my intern. Then it’s all about getting the shot list done and capturing the action on and off the field. After the match, I do a full photo edit and upload for news/social. I’ll sit with my intern and review their top shots from the night and help with any editing questions.
What’s the biggest misconception about your position?
The biggest misconception is that we can design things in 10 minutes. In reality, some of the graphics take weeks to develop and go through a lengthy approval process depending on the scale of the project.
What do you enjoy most about working for FC Dallas?
The fact that this organization has an open-door policy is pretty incredible and it certainly helps you do your job effectively in the long-run. I also like that ideas are not shot down. If you do the research and have all the facts together before presenting, your ideas can be heard and considered. I also love the variety of events I’ve been able to photograph other than our FC Dallas matches. Like the US Women’s National team friendly against Russia and EdgeFest.
What do you like to do when you’re not working?
I love to run and compete regularly in races ranging the DFW area all the way to Austin and San Antonio. Last year, I did a stadium run here with a group called November Project Dallas and have since completely fallen in love and am and I’m forever thankful for their constant encouragement and friendship. I freelance as a web designer and UI/UX designer and researcher for an agency in Fort Worth. I also started volunteering with the Dallas Sports Commission.
What advice do you have for someone who wants to work in your industry?
Whether you’re going into an agency or a team, there is no substitute for hard work. Learn everything you can about the design industry from printing processes to following top contributors and attending conferences and workshops. Design is always evolving, and you need to stay up-to-date to be able to effectively design and contribute.
Same thing for sports. Learn, experience, and volunteer in as many different areas as possible so you can understand the industry as a whole. When you’re hired by a team, take on opportunities to work with other departments and learn the organization as a whole. The more you learn, the better you’ll be able to communicate ideas and strategy across departments.
About My FCD Life
My FCD Life focuses on the people at FC Dallas who are sports industry veterans who are passionate about their careers and passionate about soccer. Interested in having someone featured and learning more about getting a start in the sports industry? Let us know who you would like to see featured in an upcoming edition of My FCD Life.