Alumni Voices: Amy DeCillis '20

Job: Sales Manager

Hometown: Charlotte, North Carolina, USA

Major:   Global China Studies

Soccer was always a hobby for Amy DeCillis ’20. She never thought she could make it her career too. She played soccer through childhood, then captained the NYU Shanghai squad for two years while playing for a local women’s club in Shanghai. She even played for the NYU Abu Dhabi team while studying there her junior year. After working in Shanghai for several years post-graduation, DeCillis now works as a football sales manager at the Football Association of Ireland. We caught up with her to learn about her path from the soccer fields of Shanghai to the national stadium in Dublin. 

How have your studies in Global China Studies and Interactive Media Arts at NYU Shanghai areas prepared you for professional life?

Going into NYU Shanghai, my goal was to learn more about China. I wanted to learn about the country from all different angles - poetry, language, history, politics, government. Taking Joanna Waley-Cohen’s The Concept of China class was great for helping to challenge concepts or beliefs we had about China. We had both Chinese students and international students in the classroom, and you could just see through the conversations in class how we all interpreted China differently. And professionally it comes out in so many different ways I wouldn't expect, because the world is more global, and China will always be a key player in any kind of discussion.


With her NYU Shanghai team after winning the Shanghai Intercollegiate Soccer League Championship in 2018. DeCillis (center) scored the winning goal. 

In IMA, it was great for me to be out of my comfort zone in those classes to learn things like coding. It was my first time doing coding or web design, and I learned how to just look at a problem and know there was a solution and to figure it out. IMA trained me to not be afraid of problems and to know that there’s always a solution. 

What do you do at the Football Association of Ireland? What direction are you hoping to go in next? 

I’m working on the match day experience. I work in the Commercial Department and oversee all Premium Memberships, Corporate Boxes, and Hospitality packages. It's a mix of selling and making sure clients have the best experience at the match. It’s a lot of talking to people, and I think that at NYU Shanghai, you constantly meet people from different backgrounds, and push yourself outside of your comfort zone a lot, which was helpful practice for this role. I’m constantly talking to different people. I also organize events and work with the marketing team. 

I’m interested to learn more about sponsorship and about FSR (Football Social Responsibility) to see what more we can do. Soccer is not just a match you see one day. It's not just a game you played when you’re a kid. There’s so many entry points and can impact lives in so many different ways. Within FSR, we could lead campaigns to get girls into sports at the grassroots level, or campaigns like “say no to racism.”

DeCillis with Olivia O’Toole (left), record holder for most goals scored by a female Irish player

How important has mentorship been for you and how are you approaching being a mentor for others? 

I remember my sophomore year I was taking IMA Comms lab, a Chinese Poetry class, a negotiation class, and Chinese language, and realized that all of my professors were Asian women and that just had never really happened for me before. At [my previous jobs at] RADII, WildChina, and at the Women Empowerment Council I had female Asian bosses. Now I am trying to be a role model and mentor to my younger colleagues. 

 With her academic mentor Assistant Professor of History Heather Lee (left), when Asian American journalist and author Helen Zia (right) came to NYU Shanghai in 2017

I also coach nineteen girls in a local youth team. Each one of them has a very unique set of skills and brings something different to the table and they are all improving in different ways. I really want to keep encouraging them. I try to give them specialized feedback so they feel like I'm taking the time to really get to know them, so they don’t feel like they’re just one in nineteen. 

I think the girls that I’m coaching appreciate having a young female coach, and I definitely take that seriously. Football is still so male-dominated. I never had that growing up, so I hope that me being in this role already is showing them, “hey you could do this too.” 

DeCillis coaching the Verona U16 Girls team in Dublin, Ireland

What lessons has soccer taught you - both personally and professionally? 

There are always opportunities to improve your game and see how you can be a better teammate, and I think that transfers over in life, like there’s always more that I can give. I never had to play very physically in Shanghai or growing up, but on my team in Dublin, I have to be out there doing headers and fighting. I’m getting used to being physical for my team and I also see it as an opportunity to grow. Soccer is funny - I've been playing for years, but I realize it’s not really the same old thing because there’s always something new. I’ll try to remind myself of this if I ever feel jaded in my career. There's always something new to give and there are always people around you, so you’re never doing it alone. You've got a coach, maybe your boss, and you've got other teammates that are there doing the same thing together. 

Any advice for younger NYU Shanghai students?

As students, we all hate group projects.Turns out, your whole working life is a group project - so get used to that! Secondly, for undergrads, I’d definitely say just dive into your hobbies and do what you want to do! Soccer was something I liked, and an opportunity to play and to meet people, so I said why not? I had no way of knowing how it would impact my career and now it is my career. There's all these different things that could kind of come up and you don't know how it'll work out.