Expert Interview with Kelty Carpenter: A Good Attitude Goes a Long Way

Posted: June 17, 2011 in Expert Interviews
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Kelty Carpenter

                                                  

After tapping into the sports marketing side of the business with my first interviewee, Ben Sturner, I wanted to change things up a bit by going corporate. I decided to reach out to Kelty Carpenter, a first year employee at ESPN. Kelty and I met this past March at the annual Sports Events Marketing Experience (SEME) conference held in Washington, DC. She was so down-to-earth when I met her, and we have stayed in touch since. I thank Kelty for agreeing to do this interview.

Michael Riley (MR): What is your official job title? 

Kelty Carpenter (KC): I am the Programming Coordinator for Major League Baseball (MLB), Little League World Series (LLWS), and our motorsports programming, including NASCAR.

MR: Where did you go to college as an undergraduate? What was your major(s)/minor(s)?

KC: I attended Wake Forest University (Go Deacs!). I was an English major and a Journalism minor, not exactly your typical background for working in sports.

MR: Did you pursue an advanced degree(s) to further market yourself to the sports industry? If so, please elaborate.

KC: Yes, I received my master’s from Georgetown University’s Sports Industry Management (SIM) program. I pursued this degree solely for the purpose of landing a job in sports. At the time, I really did not have any industry contacts.

MR: When did you know that you wanted to “break into sports? Was there one specific moment that you can recall when you knew you had to work in sports? Was it an industry you always saw yourself working in? Or did you just kind of fall into it?

KC: To be honest, I did not see myself working in sports at all. In fact, I really was not sure of what I wanted to do for the rest of my life. In college, I became a much bigger sports fan then when I was a kid. Sports were always a popular topic of discussion amongst my friends. Even though I worked a perfectly good job at a design firm prior to breaking into sports, I was not happy or fulfilled. I could not see myself doing what I was doing for the rest of my life.

A real defining moment for me was when my boss at the design firm asked me what an unassisted triple play was after he witnessed one the night before. After I described it to him, he saw how passionate I was about sports. He said to me, “Why are you working here? Do what you love to do.” As a result of that conversation, I applied to Georgetown’s SIM program, where I took classes at night while still keeping my job at the design firm.

MR: How many internships did you participate in before you landed your first job? Where did you intern?

KC: I participated in two internships before landing my first job. One was at Big Lead Sports, a leading online sports property. The other was at Sirius Satellite Radio, where I interned in the Sports Programming department. Georgetown’s program helped me get my foot in the door for both of these experiences.

MR: How did you land your first job in sports?

KC: It’s actually a pretty random and long story, but I will give you the abridged version. After finishing my master’s degree, I applied to a whole bunch of sports jobs. While interviewing for a job in Atlanta, I received an email from ESPN about coming in to interview for a job. It turns out that when I sent my resume to my best friend, she passed it along to a friend of hers who worked in HR at a company in Hartford. After reviewing my resume, this friend of a friend thought I might be a good candidate for a job at ESPN. She forwarded my resume to her friend in ESPN HR, and the next thing I know I get an email from my current boss’s assistant. I got the job offer the same day that I interviewed.

MR: Can you comment on the importance of networking in the sports industry?

KC: Networking is not the most important thing you could do while working in sports, but it is certainly one of them. You must be prepared because you never know what is going to come your way. I had no idea that ESPN would want to interview me, but I am glad I was prepared for it when it happened. It is also important to remember how small the sports industry is. A lot of people you talk to frequently end up knowing the same executives that you do.

As a side note, it is vital to protect your reputation vigorously. Don’t do anything that you would not want repeated twenty years from now. Be careful with things as simple as your Facebook pictures. You never know when stuff in your past will get back to you. Keep private things to yourself.

You can network all day, but the bottom line is that people have to like you. Keep in touch with people to have a leg up on other students trying to break into sports.

MR: Can you comment on the importance of mentoring?

KC: Mentoring is a very overlooked element of a career in sports. In graduate school at Georgetown, there were some professors who I looked to for advice. Here at ESPN, I have also taken on a few informal mentors. I really find the whole mentor-mentee relationship interesting because people genuinely want to help you. Do not be afraid to take advantage of that. There are a lot of things in life that people will not want to help you with, but mentoring is an exception. Do everything you can to get older, more experienced professionals to assist you now and throughout your career.

I hope to join ESPN’s formal mentoring program, which I have not yet applied for in my first year here. In terms of developing mentors, it never hurts to ask people to get coffee once a month. You would be surprised by how many people enjoy doing that. The best thing about it is that people love to talk about themselves! This will make it a lot easier on you as you seek out mentors.

MR: Could you take me through a typical day at work? If no day is typical, what did you do yesterday, or what are you doing tomorrow?

KC: You are right. No day is the same, but that’s something that I really love about working in sports. Today, I arrived at 7:30 a.m., which is a lot earlier than normal. There was a department meeting from 9:30 a.m. to 11:00 a.m. This is a very informal meeting in which we exchange ideas, talk about headlines, and share information. I love how candid these meetings are. For the rest of the day, I mostly worked on a deck for an upcoming negotiation. I aggregated the necessary materials from various departments including marketing, finance, ratings, and distribution. I also helped put together rating grids for motorsports properties as well as helping prepare the audio summary for the U.S. Open golf tournament.

Despite all of this activity, the best part of my day is how much fun it is to work at ESPN. I laugh every day.

MR: What is the most rewarding aspect about working in sports?

C:  For me, the most rewarding aspect is getting up every day and loving what I do. I am genuinely happy to be at ESPN all the time. I enjoy going to work-related events, even if I have to give up my weekend. Waking up every day and being happy to go to work is an irreplaceable feeling.

MR: If you had to give advice to someone looking to break into the sports industry, what would it be?

KC: Have a good attitude about everything you do. Your attitude really has so much to do with the way you do your job. The right attitude will lead to better results. People will like you more, and you will go further in your career because of it. Make sure you accompany your good attitude with a genuine smile. These are two things that you can control, so you might as well use them to your advantage.

Another piece of advice would be to try get away from any sense of entitlement you might have. Instead, focus on doing really good work. Try not to always think about what comes next in your career because your time will come.

Lastly, be nice to people both above and below you. Your boss will be more patient when you make mistakes, and your coworkers will work harder for you.

MR: What do you do for fun when you are not at the office?

KC: Outside of the office, I have a pretty simple lifestyle. I enjoy hanging out with friends, barbecuing, and going to concerts. Most importantly, I love spending time with my family.

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Comments
  1. […] under my belt, I noticed a pretty cool observation. Despite asking the same set of questions in Expert Interview with Kelty Carpenter: A Good Attitude Goes a Long Way, the responses she gave me painted a picture unique to her life experiences. Her answers differed […]

  2. […] networking conference held in Washington, DC this past March, the very same event at which I met Kelty Carpenter, my second interviewee. David was very approachable and easy to talk to when I went over to […]

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