When you hear the last name Parker mentioned at Daktronics, chances are you might have to specify which family member a person means: Jay, or daughter Kelsey. Jay is the Vice President of the Large Sports Venues market, and Kelsey was hired after graduating in May 2017 for a full-time position in the HR department. We wondered how the family got their start at Daktronics, and what it’s like to work at the same place as your dad. We sat down with the family to find out.
Q: Tell me how your family started at Daktronics. Any chance it was connected to South Dakota State University?
Jay: Yes. When I met Kelsey’s mom, she had already graduated and held a full-time job in Brookings. An SDSU schoolmate of mine was an intern in Dak’s purchasing department and encouraged me to apply as well. So, in spring of ’87 I became an intern here and gained some valuable experience and credits.
I graduated in December and never had to pull together a resume as I was directly hired on, starting in January. I worked here for three years, and then came back eight years later. Frank Kurtenbach had approached me asking if I’d consider selling for major league sports. I did and have been here ever since, so 23 years total. Children came along the way, and now Kelsey is here, too.
Q: With 23 years of experience, what have been some of your favorite memories at Daktronics? And as a recent hire, Kelsey, what are yours?
Jay: I can remember back to three significant projects that were extremely important to Daktronics as we were on this journey to become the world leader in display technology. Daktronics had just sold the Tampa Bay Buccaneers display right before I came back. That sale catapulted us into the video display world in ’97 and gave us credibility as a supplier of LED video displays. This project lead to many MLB/NFL projects since that day.
I remember having shoot-outs with our competitors for indoor projects in the late 1990’s. We only had outdoor video at the time, so we showed up at the shoot-outs with the biggest and brightest display competing against our competitors’ indoor video displays. We did not have much success early on, but finally landed the Minnesota Wild in 2000. That was our first significant indoor centerhung and 360-degree fascia project. Today, we will do 20-25 significant centerhung and fascia projects in a season. We have come a long way!
Finally, the Denver Broncos was a significant project for us in 2012. Our competitors were pushing surface mount outdoor technology and we were holding on hard to through-hole LED technology with our HDX product line. We won Broncos with our HD13 product, which significantly slowed the adoption of SMD technology for outdoor stadiums. Today, we still have success with our HDX product line, but see SMD technology has advanced and are seeing a slow conversion to that technology for stadiums.
Kelsey: My Daktronics memories started from memories of my dad’s trips and our family traveling with him. After starting here as an SDSU student to where I am today, my memories include making friendships here first as an HR student and now as a full-time employee.
Q: What has changed the most since your start?
Jay: We used to be the small kid on the block. We sold scoreboards, not video equipment. After we sold the Buccaneers our video display, that all changed. We’ve fought hard to become the leader in the U.S. sports market, and competitors envy our position and are trying to take away our customers. It keeps us fighting harder and smarter every day. We use the saying, “Winning is not normal. It requires extraordinary effort.”
Q: What would you like to tell people about your experience at Daktronics?
Jay: One thing that is very special about Daktronics is that it’s family. We care about each other, the health and welfare of those around us. We retain people because of the atmosphere around us.
Kelsey: I enjoy the different experiences you’re afforded here, whether you’re traveling or meeting new people.
Q: What is it like working for the same employer?
Jay: We are in completely different departments. When Kelsey was first a student sending out sales reports and documents, people would see her last name and go “hmm.” By the time they would be done with their conversation, they usually figured out she is my daughter. Doing sports quoting is high volume and fast paced. She and I talked that if anyone wasn’t acting professional on the team, to let me know and I would have a talk with them. Glad to report, we did not have to have very many conversations.
Kelsey: (laughs) True. Most everyone was fine.
Q: You can’t blame a father looking out for his daughter! What would you say is your favorite Daktronics benefit?
Kelsey: They are so flexible with student schedules. I always felt like they supported my education and that it came first, and work second. I’m working on my Master’s and am enjoying the continued support Daktronics offers.
Q: Any final thoughts to add or something you’d like to share?
Jay: If you’re from South Dakota, you’ve probably heard of Daktronics and are proud of it. When people travel and see displays, they will ask you if they’re Daktronics or not. Outside of South Dakota, people are surprised these high-tech products are built here. We have a tremendous story of how we got here, starting from the garage and staying based in South Dakota.
Thank you, Parker family, for sharing your story!
This article is by Betsy Mans
in Transportation Marketing.