‘Bigger than my dream’: Donna Julian breaks barriers at Charlotte’s Spectrum Center

CHARLOTTE — Donna Julian became Spectrum Center’s General Manager for Hornets Sports and Entertainment nearly 20 years ago, and she turned out to be a trailblazer in a male-dominated industry.

If you’ve ever been to an event at the Spectrum Center, you may have seen Julian. She’s been around since it opened in 2005.

“If you are looking at other women in NBA facilities, I’m thinking there may be two others that are coming to mind,” Julian told Channel 9′s Gina Esposito.

She says she fell in love with sports as a child, but she found her calling when she got an internship with an NBA team in her early 20s.

“I went into the arena bowl and they were changing from a horse show to a basketball game - to a Hoyas game - to the hockey game, and that’s where I got the arena vibe,” Julian said. “I said to my boss at the time, ‘What’s the top job that does all that stuff?’ [and] he said you have to be the general manager of the building. I said, ‘Well that’s what I’m going to do.’”

She started in Baltimore and then moved to Charlotte when the Spectrum Center opened. She broke barriers, becoming the first woman and woman of color to oversee every major event at the arena.

“I’m exceeding my dream,” Julian said. “If you were to tell me I would have a hand in the NBA All-Star game or these basketball tournaments, I would have never imagined that, so I’m actually living bigger than my dream. I never imagined to dream this big.”

She told Esposito that it’s important to give other women opportunities.

Julian is now in her 19th year at Spectrum Center and is currently overseeing a massive renovation that will support the experience for years to come. She says she credits her hard work and determination to her parents, who told her she could do anything.

“If you want it, believe it,” Julian said. “Work hard to get it and live your dream, and not be afraid to dream big.”

(WATCH: March Madness is coming to the Spectrum Center)