Enterprise has a long history with football success – and even some NFL talent – but currently one Enterprise native, Michelle (Robinette) McKenna, is standing out in the NFL off the field as senior vice president and chief information officer.
McKenna was born and raised in the City of Progress to Jackie and Sharlon Robinette and graduated from Enterprise High in 1983.
“I have lots of great memories of Enterprise,” McKenna said. “I was a majorette and in the band of course, and I have lots of great memories of Friday night lights.”
After graduating from EHS, McKenna went on to Auburn University where she earned a bachelor’s degree in accounting and worked in the athletic department, as well.
In fact, in 2017 McKenna was one of the leading candidates to be Auburn’s new athletic director before withdrawing her name from consideration in January 2018.
“I’m just so happy to be where I am now but it was definitely an honor to even be in consideration,” McKenna said. “I worked in the athletic department there during some really great times and worked with Coach (Pat) Dye. I’m very connected to Auburn and always will be.”
Following college, McKenna worked for the Walt Disney Company for more than a decade in a variety of different positions. She started out in finance but her love for technology soon took over.
“I’ve always been someone who likes to figure out how things work,” McKenna said. “I was always that kid that helped my dad work on his cars and liked to figure out how to do all kinds of things.
“I’ve always had interest in engineering. I was working in the finance area at Disney World and was put in charge of some projects that had technology dependencies in the late 90s and I just really loved it and moved over to IT from finance in 1999, right about the time of Y2K and got sucked into it. I’ve been a part of and led IT organizations ever since.”
McKenna worked as chief information officer at Universal Orlando and Constellation Energy before her love of technology met her love of football in 2012 as she joined the NFL.
“When I grew up girls didn’t play football but we were raised to love it and be a part of it,” McKenna said. “I felt like I could do anything I wanted and it’s great to see the growing and changing face of athletics everywhere.”
McKenna said that it’s an honor to her to be considered someone that little girls that love football can look up to, but said that there are women all over the sport now.
It’s an honor to be at the NFL for sure and there are so many of my peers that are women that I work with that are even coaching on the field and officiating now,” McKenna said. “The face of the game is definitely changing and evolving.”
McKenna’s responsibilities in the NFL involve practically every facet of the organization as the league and the sport gravitates more and more to technology.
“I’m responsible for the league’s technology strategy across all activities including technology on the field,” McKenna said. “As a league, we’re involved in helping all 32 clubs advance their technological footprints.
“I touch all the parts of technology in the league. Technology touches just about every part of the business, so it’s a cool job and one of the reasons I love it so much and have been in it for so many years. There’s probably no other department in the company where you really do touch every single piece of the business in some way, form or fashion. That’s what makes it interesting and certainly stressful at times but also rewarding, as well.”
That technology is so far-reaching is how McKenna became a star of sorts of this year’s NFL Draft. Due to the COVID-19 crisis, the NFL Draft had to hold its first virtual draft and McKenna’s team was busy.
“My team was responsible for making sure everyone was able to work from home and get the technology set up to be able to do that and that sort of escalated into producing a live event from home,” she said.
While McKenna acknowledged that this first for the NFL Draft was a stressful situation, it also ended up becoming a big reward as the draft was almost unanimously well received.
“It was so exciting,” McKenna said. “It was probably one of the most stressful things I’ve ever had to do in my career because so many people were watching.
“In some ways people were kind of watching knowing that it might not go off well and that maybe glitches would become the norm. Ultimately, though, what became the norm was an amazing look at these young men whose lives were about to be changed forever. We got to be in the homes of players, coaches and GMs as they build their clubs and plan their future. So, while it was very stressful it was also a lot of fun.”
The NFL also raised money for COVID-19 relief, which McKenna said was another reward for the work done during the draft.
“We raised over $100 million over those three days, so that was definitely the cherry on top to be able to do something like that and give back,” she emphasized.
McKenna said her team takes the responsibility of staying at the forefront of technology advancements very seriously, especially when it comes to the health of NFL players.
“It’s a responsibility we take very seriously, especially when it comes to the health and safety of our players,” McKenna said. “There is a lot of technology advancement in and around health and player safety that we share with organization’s across the country to help make football safer.
“Our athletes are coming out of college with very advanced computer skills these days, which made it very easy to move to an electronic playbook and all the data and analytics that we can provide to help you prepare to be a better athlete and help coaches be better coaches.”