Posts Tagged ‘sports interview’

Jeffrey Dobin

It feels good to be back in action with expert interviews. My conversation with Jeffrey Dobin this week will be the first of a two-part mini agent interview series. Jeff actually reached out to me in July after having come across my blog on LinkedIn. He showed a great deal of empathy towards me by recognizing that he was once in my shoes. Jeff offered to set up an interview with his partner Ryan Scarpa, and I ended up talking with both of them on a conference call. I thank Jeff for his participation in this interview.

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

Jeffrey Dobin (JD): I am a Managing Partner at Athlete Advocates. My focus is on the different league salary caps as they relate to each team’s positional needs, as well as the intricacies of each league’s collective bargaining agreement. My job is to know them inside-and-out.

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

JD: I attended Towson University. I double majored in Sports Management and Economics with a Minor in Business.

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

JD: Yes, I received my law degree from New England School of Law. Pursuing advanced degrees in general will only put you at an advantage against your competition. I am now able to benefit my clients by wearing the hat of an attorney, and the hat of a negotiator. It also allows for more time to gain valuable sports internship experience. It may be difficult to build a strong resume during undergraduate studies. I was able to successfully build upon my previous experiences throughout my law school career.

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?

JD: In high school, I had an important conversation with my parents regarding the future of my athletic career. I realized that I was never going to play at the professional level, but I could still stay involved in something I was so passionate about. That train of thought led me to my Sports Management and Economics education at Towson. About halfway through my time there, I made the decision to follow the advice of those I had met through networking, and become an attorney. Many of the senior sports executives I spoke to were lawyers, and I wanted to follow in their footsteps.

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

JD: Before I landed my first sports job, I participated in 5 internships. The first was at RealGM, a popular sports website that provides sports information, news, and special salary cap technology to NBA teams. In addition, I spent some time at a law firm to find out what the lifestyle was like. Furthermore, I interned at Global Sports and Entertainment Agency, where I worked mainly on the business side of entertainment but also had exposure to sports. My next internship was with the New York Knicks in Basketball Operations. Ironically, I got to use the RealGM salary cap software, but this time it was from the team side. Finally, I interned at K Sports and Entertainment which later became Altus Marketing and Management.

In general, internships are truly the best way to network. You have to treat them as job interviews. While interning, do not take anything for granted. Word hard and exceed expectations.

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

JD: My first job in sports is actually the job I currently hold. Ryan Scarpa, a fellow attorney and former Division I athlete, and I started Athlete Advocates following law school. We knew early on that we wanted to start our own business and planned accordingly. With the contacts we both established over the last five years, we felt that setting up our own shop was realistic. Throughout our law school careers, we worked part-time to save up initial capital for the business. After assembling a business plan and becoming members of the NJ and FL Bars, Athlete Advocates was born.

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

JD: Networking is the most important thing you can do in the sports industry, especially if you are a student looking to get your foot in the door. Follow-up is so vital when establishing and maintaining relationships. This will set you apart from your competition.

One thing I would recommend that would help you expand your network is to look into organizations like the Sports Lawyers Association (SLA). They have both national and local events that you can get involved with. Despite the cost to join, I have benefited from the SLA tenfold.

Another idea you could pursue is getting involved with athletes’ charities. Volunteer your time for a good cause, and you might just be pleasantly surprised what doors will open for you.

MR: Can you comment on the importance of mentoring?

JD: Developing relationships with my mentors has really helped connect all the dots. My mentors include Kristian Petesic (Manager of Scouting – NY Knicks), Bobby Marks (Assistant General Manager – NJ Nets), Tommy Sheppard (VP Basketball Administration – Washington Wizards) and Dave Thorpe (ESPN contributor and athletic trainer). Without their guidance, I would not be where I am today. I am fortunate to have mentors that remain accessible, despite their extremely busy and demanding positions. Thankfully, they have provided an abundance of insight and advice that has allowed me to pursue a career I am so passionate about.

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?

JD: Every day is definitely different, but I will give you a flavor for my routine. This morning, I woke up at 5:30 a.m. and hit the gym to get the day started. Then, I responded to emails and reviewed the latest sports and world news. Three sites I visit daily include HoopsHype.com, DraftExpress.com, and NBADraft.net. Now, I am concentrating on scouting college basketball and football players. I continuously update an extensive database with stats and information. I regularly touch base with our clients and often their families as well. With the imminent NBA Lockout, I am searching for off-the-court revenue opportunities for our clients as well as talking to international agents about sending players abroad.

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

JD: The most rewarding aspect about working in sports for me is watching clients live their dreams. It means even more when you give a player who is often overlooked an opportunity to shine, and he capitalizes on it.

My passion for the business is also very rewarding. My schedule, travel obligations and workload can be very demanding at times. This is not a “nine to five” job and there is always more that can be done. I enjoy every second of it and have as much fun along the way. Honestly, there is nothing else I would rather do.

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

JD: You have to treat your internships like interviews. Make sure you bring your “A” game every day. Be the first one there and the last to leave. Outwork your peers.

Kristian taught me to “never get comfortable.” Make the most of your opportunity as an intern and work as hard and efficiently as possible. Always conduct yourself as a professional. If you ever get too comfortable with what you are doing, you will hinder your progress.

Make sure you follow-up with people and stay in touch. Otherwise, your new relationships from networking will just fall by the wayside. Try to check in with connections every other month or so just to say hi. Research the company and comment on recent developments to show you are in tune with any company news or progress. Chances are they will be busy, so make your note short and sweet.

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

JD: I try to exercise 5 days per week. It is a nice break from work and helps relieve stress. I recently tried out the P90X exercise routine, which has been tough and challenging. In addition, I am training for a half marathon. Traveling is also another perk when not sitting behind a desk. It has afforded me the opportunity to visit places across the country and attend a variety of events and games. Finally, I like to show off my talents in the kitchen by making a mean French toast.

Todd Crannell

I worked with NFL sports agent Todd Crannell at Q2 Sports & Entertainment for over a year. After seeing an internship posting for his company on SportsAgentBlog.com, I reached out to him via email. By early summer 2010, I began as an out of office intern. Over my time at Q2, I learned a lot of things, from the college football recruiting process to client management to the importance of phone communication. I highly recommend interning for an agent if you are interested in pursuing a career in athlete representation. Thank you, Todd for participating in this interview.

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

Todd Crannell (TC): I am the President and Founder of Q2 Sports & Entertainment.

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

TC: I attended Florida State University as an undergraduate, where I majored in Economics and minored in Sociology.

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

TC: As a matter of fact, I did pursue an advanced degree to make myself more marketable in the sports business. I traveled overseas to the University of Oxford, where I earned my MBA. Even though I strived to get an MBA one day regardless of my career choice, I definitely went after it knowing that I wanted to be a sports agent.

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?

TC: Sports was always a passion of mine. In college, I was top 3 in the ACC in pole-vaulting as a member of the Seminole Track and Field team. Coming out of school, I did not know exactly what I wanted to do. Two things I did know were that I liked numbers and that an MBA degree could be applied to variety of disciplines. The only thing I was missing was experience.

I ended up landing a job in the nation’s capital as an economist. I worked in the Division of the Department of Labor that produced the Employment Situation (aka Jobs Report), which is a monthly economic indicator. While in DC, I met a female tennis agent who worked at Octagon. She exposed me to the sports agent’s lifestyle. During one tournament, I knew that she was at center court. At the same time, I was crunching numbers in a cubicle. I experienced that Aha moment of clarity that made me realize that I needed to work in sports. Something had to change. I knew a little bit about the sports agent profession, especially how competitive it was. I believed I could do it, and I really thought heavily about a JD vs. MBA degree. I ultimately went with the MBA.

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

TC: I participated in only one internship before I landed my first job. In between my first and second year of the Oxford MBA program, I interned with Irene Marie Agency, a talent agency that specializes primarily in models. However, they did have a niche sports practice, where a great deal of my internship was focused. One of my duties was to help the marketing agent that worked with football players Tony Gonzalez, Jeremy Shockey, and Ricky Williams when they were at the height of their professional playing careers. Whatever projects I could get my hands on, I participated in, whether or not they were sports related.

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

TC: My first job in sports evolved from my internship experience at Irene Marie. I basically got my foot in the door there by playing the numbers game like someone who works in sales. Going into this process, I knew that I had to have tough skin when facing rejection. After targeting 60-70 sports agencies, I emailed each and every one of them a very professional cover letter that expressed my interest in interning. My message was concise and clear. I offered my services for free and laid out for them tangible skills that I could bring to the table to add value to their organization. Making a solid first impression was essential, so I worked tirelessly on the letter and included specific examples that highlighted my skill set.

At the end of the day, I landed the internship at Irene Marie. It lasted 6-8 weeks. I viewed every day of my experience there as a job interview. At all times, I made sure I was on top of my game in terms of quality and presentation. Wearing formal business clothes was the norm for me. By summer’s end, I landed my first sports job.

7. Can you comment on the importance of networking in the sports industry?

I am a big fan of quality networking as opposed to quantity networking. Quality networking is all about developing strong, meaningful relationships with a smaller number of people. The connections you make this way are the ones you will feel comfortable calling on the phone and the ones who might get you a job some day. Quantity networking is more about becoming acquaintances with people in the business. It is more volume driven. While you may end up with a lot of business cards through this style of networking, you will probably only follow-up with some people. Your odds of getting a job this way are lower. You should focus more on making a lasting impression on a few people who might just remember you when the next job opening rolls around.

Overall, I feel that people focus too much on networking. Do not get me wrong. The people you know can definitely make a difference in helping you get your foot in the door. However, at the end of the day, it is more about what you can do for an employer. How are you going to help the business make money? Make sure you are able to show them a tangible skill that will give them a bang for their buck. Anyone can get your foot in the door, but if you cannot deliver, then that is on you. Do not let networking overshadow the skill set you can bring to the table. A good analogy would be a football player trying to make an NFL team. Someone his agent knows might get him a tryout. Yet, if he does not perform on the field, then you cannot blame the team for letting him go. Show off your skills!

MR: Can you comment on the importance of mentoring?

TC: In terms of mentoring, I am a big proponent of industry specific education. Latching on to a mentor in the sports industry who can show you the ropes is just one way to increase your chances of a successful sports career. Other methods include the knowledge you gain from internships and reading books by sports business professionals whose careers you admire. However you continue to learn about the sports business, it is important to not lose sight of the big picture. Seeking the advice of mentors will be useful as you chart your own career path. Take advantage of the people out there that are willing to help you out.

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?

TC: As a sports agent, the work that I do is very seasonal by nature. The pattern in which I do things is similar to the job requirements of a college football coach. For example, a college coach will spend part of the year recruiting, part of the year visiting boosters, and only a very small part actually coaching. This smaller piece is comparable to the time I spend negotiating contracts.

Recently, I just came back from a 10-day business trip. I attended two Steelers pre-season games, one against the Redskins and one against the Eagles. During this time, I spent time with my client Anthony Gray, attended training camp, and ate dinner with the team.

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

TC: It really depends on what your job in the industry is. For instance, someone who negotiates contracts for a football team would find it rewarding to use his salary cap knowledge and skills to save his organization money by getting the best bang for its buck. On the other hand, I find it fulfilling to be around a player in college and see them develop as a young man when he makes the jump to the NFL. Watching a client achieve a lifetime goal while I am at their side is pretty special. For an athletic director, it would be satisfying to see your players extrapolate the values and ethics instilled in them as a varsity athlete into the real world (after their athletic career is over). It all really depends on your specific job type in the sports industry.

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

TC: In general, I would recommend participating in as many sports internships that you can get your hands on. While pursuing a JD or MBA can be useful, your best bet for landing a job is to diversify your experiences as an intern. One of the more successful interns I had did not purse an advanced degree and was still able to land a job with a top sports agency due to his wide array of internship experience.

If you are looking to become a sports agent, my best advice would be to run the numbers. What I mean by that is to make sure you understand the likelihood of your future earning potential. Set reasonable goals for the amount of players you think you can successfully sign as clients. Map out what you would spend on them and how long it would take for you to actually make money. Realistically, this may take a few years. Be sure to take into account travel expenses, training costs, etc. Overall, you want to understand what you are getting yourself into as a sports agent. Ask yourself if it makes sense for your career. Projecting your future potential earnings can definitely put things in perspective for those looking to become agents. Run those numbers! 

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

TC: When I am not in the office, I enjoy running and lifting weights. To be completely honest, sports agents do not have much free time, especially if they are running a boutique shop like I am. Being only a few years old, my business is still in start-up mode, so the hours are pretty much non-stop.

Nicola Murphy

                                       

It’s been a little over one month since my last Expert Interview with Rachel Mech: Taking Chances with No Regrets, but I am excited for my latest Q & A session with Nicola Murphy from Octagon. She and I met last October at a sports career event held at Georgetown University’s McDonough School of Business. I continued to check in with her every now and then over the winter and course of the second semester. We were fortunate enough to reconnect back in March at the Sports Events Marketing Experience (SEME) conference. Nicola’s answers to my questions are particularly interesting given her international background. I thank Nicola for agreeing to do this interview.

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

Nicola Murphy (NM): Director of Marketing, Athlete & Property Marketing at Octagon.

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

NM: I received a Bachelor of Business from Charles Sturt University in Australia, where I majored in Marketing. I didn’t have the typical college experience. Instead, I worked full-time and studied primarily during the evening for several years. I even studied a little in the US when I first moved to the DC region more than eight years ago.

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

NM: In addition to my undergraduate degree, I have completed a Strategic Brand Management course at George Washington University as well as a diploma in Event Management, a diploma in Marketing and a Certificate in Advertising at other institutions in Australia. None are graduate degrees per se, but all are part of a valuable education. I have also been part of the Graduate Sports Industry Management faculty at Georgetown University since September 2009 and have thoroughly enjoyed it.

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?

NM: Although I played every sport under the sun growing up, am a fan of many sports across the globe, and worked largely in sports sponsorships when I started my career in Sydney, I classify myself as more of a generalist. I believe my skills are more business-based with a marketing focus and are transferable across industries. In other words, my skill set would be just as relevant working for a global sports and entertainment marketing agency as it would be for a brand or even a non-profit organization.

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

NM: As alluded to above, I didn’t have the average college and, therefore, internship experience(s). I have worked in one capacity or another continuously since I was twelve or thirteen years of age and had several work experience placements before landing my first full-time job. I do, however, recommend that students try to obtain about three internship experiences that vary in nature during their undergraduate days. I think this provides a well-rounded experience base from which they can draw when looking to enter the workforce.

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

NM: My first job in sports… I guess you could say that was working on the brand side for Australia’s second largest Internet company at the time. For a majority of my four years there, I worked in a sponsorships and promotions capacity, finding some of the most suitable and visible teams, leagues and properties to be associated with. Partners that would help us grow brand awareness and ultimately the number of consumers using our services. I got my foot in the door by knowing the wife of a guy who worked there. It’s one of those stories…That old adage is true, it’s (partly) who you know.

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

NM: Networking is important, in any industry, sports or otherwise. I think it’s especially important when looking for employment and when you’re in an external facing role. Developing relationships with other industry members doesn’t happen overnight, but, with genuine interest and a real connection, you will likely achieve more than just learning from others, gaining contacts, or building business. I could debate the importance of networking for some time but will spare you an unbearably long response here. I will add, however, that it’s a skill that’s not always easy to master and one that takes time and commitment, similar to what you would need to invest into a friendship to sustain it. It’s not to be approached as a quick hitting one-time event. This response is reminding me of all the folks I need to reconnect with, thanks for the prompt :).

MR: Can you comment on the importance of mentoring?

NM: I think mentors play different roles during anyone’s career and life. When I started out working, I was lucky enough to have two individuals who helped steer me in the right direction and who provided the necessary knowledge and experiences that enabled me to develop and grow. To this day I am still in contact with them. I also find that, no matter your age or the stage in your career, having a mentor, whether at your workplace or elsewhere, is important. This is someone whose opinion you respect, who communicates openly with you, who you feel you can learn from, who you can bounce ideas off, and who you like spending time with. I’ve found that it’s usually a two-way street as you may also influence them, and you, too, will likely be called on one day to be a mentor. In this case, try to remember some of the aspects that made your mentors seem so helpful and successful, and consider building those qualities into your own efforts.

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?

NM: No day is typical here at Octagon, or in any of my past places of employment. In fact, does anyone have a typical day anywhere anymore I wonder? There are several constant responsibilities I have that span throughout the year, but I generally break my role into three buckets. The first is general marketing for the firm, which includes top-line marketing strategy, the creation and distribution of global marketing materials, and development of company-wide resources. The second bucket involves the marketing representation of clients and includes anything from the development of a customized marketing plan, to research and prospecting, to scouring the market for endorsement, appearance and speaking opportunities. The third bucket is more of a catchall, where we take on properties or projects and either provide consulting, sponsorship sales or business development capabilities. This includes such tasks as selling naming rights to arenas or teams, finding partners for an annual culinary event in Vegas, or managing a national running program for the country’s leading athletic retailer.

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

NM: This is always a good question and having an assortment of different answers on your blog is a great idea. I would suggest several things:

– Gain professional work experience and even volunteer where you can within the sports industry.

– If you request informational interviews, come prepared.

– Network and develop relationships with people who you gel with and whose work is of interest to you.

– Treat internships as a trial job opportunity and deliver impressive work product every day.

– Always take advantage of saying hello and learning a little about the executives you meet along the way.

– Understand that sports is an industry and a business like all others and that being a fan of sports or an athlete only gets you part of the way there.

– When reaching out to a contact for a job, it’s best to inquire about a specific position rather than deliver a blanket “I need a job or want to work for your company” statement.

– Don’t be afraid to ask your contacts, friends and family for help connecting you with people and companies of interest.

– It’s okay to try different things – you’ll end up carving out what you don’t like and focusing on what appeals to you along the way.

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

NM: I’m a sucker for great food, wine and travel and am constantly trying new restaurants or returning to old favorites, as well as planning, or at least thinking about, upcoming travel adventures. I started to play soccer as part of a recreational league a couple of years back and jump on the field most weekends, whether it is for a competitive game or pick-up at Georgetown. I am also three summer’s deep into learning golf… and loving it!

Rachel Mech

                                        

There is no better way to follow up my latest sports industry Expert Interview with Harrie Bakst: Overcoming the Odds through Hard work and Sincerity than with the person responsible for introducing me to Harrie. That would be my mentor and friend, Rachel Mech. She works at ProVentures Sports Marketing, a sports and entertainment firm that specializes in consulting, hospitality, and talent. I met Rachel during my sophomore year through the Alumni Mentor Program at Georgetown University’s McDonough School of Business. Ever since, she has been my go-to person for anything related to the sports business. I thank Rachel for doing this interview, and I hope she can inspire you as much as she does me.

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

Rachel Mech (RM): Co-Founder of ProVentures Sports Marketing.

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

RM: I attended Georgetown University’s McDonough School of Business and double majored in Marketing and Management. I also minored in Government.

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

RM: I received my master’s degree in Public Relations and Corporate Communications from Georgetown University. While pursuing this degree, I was able to take a few electives classes from Georgetown’s Sports Industry Management program including Sports Marketing and Contract Law.

At the moment, I am seriously thinking about going to law school to move up to the next level in sports business. Since breaking into the industry, attending law school had always been one of my goals. I see a JD as very beneficial to transitioning from the marketing side of sports to the management aspect. The more I learn about contracts, the better off I will be after making this transition. Now is a good time for me to set out to accomplish my goal.

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?

RM: I actively pursued a career in sports. The types of personalities I was exposed to as I began learning about the business really clicked with me. Successful people in the sports industry were overall very confident, positive, and competitive. All seemed like go-getters, and most were either avid sports fans and/or former athletes. The business atmosphere created from sports personalities was an environment in which I wanted to work.

When I entered Georgetown, my goal was to be a sports agent or a lobbyist for sports related issues. The movie Jerry Maguire didn’t inspire me, but did peak my interest for a career in sports. Basically, I thought I would be good at athlete representation, so I began to pursue that career. I selected my majors to put me in the best position possible to become an agent. The riskiness of the job and the type of lifestyle it promised were very attractive to me at the time. However, without a law degree, I found it easier to break into the marketing side of athlete management. As much as I can thank Jerry Maguire for sparking my interest in sports, more importantly, it’s a reminder that your reputation and ethics are your most precious assets in business and in life.

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

RM: My first internship was with the Baltimore Bayhawks, a Major League Lacrosse team. On game days, I was responsible for managing fan activities. When I spent time in the office, I worked on building an integrated marketing and sales database, a skill I learned during my Management Information Systems course at Georgetown. This was not only a great experience because I enjoyed lacrosse and competitively played in college, but also mostly because I developed genuine relationships with my boss and other coworkers, which still last today. I also interned in the Public Relations department for the Washington Redskins, where I again had game day responsibilities. My last internship was with Octagon, one of the premier sports agencies, in the Corporate Business Development division.

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

RM: I landed my first job in sports as a result of my participation in the Octagon Experience during the summer in between my junior and senior years at Georgetown. When the internship program ended, I remained actively involved with office projects since Georgetown was close to Octagon’s headquarters. My extra efforts evolved into a full-time offer to co-found ProVentures with my boss, Patrick McGee, who was departing from his position as Vice President of Corporate Business Development at Octagon.

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

RM: Networking in the sports industry is absolutely essential and necessary. From my experience in sports marketing, I can tell you that a lot of the projects are combined efforts from a variety of sports organizations who specialize in areas ranging from procuring talent to promotion. While you work with people from these different companies, you talk about what other projects your company is currently working on and other ideas your company has for future projects. You would be surprised how many of these conversations result in opportunities that create synergies and working business relationships.

It’s so vital to stay in touch with people you meet in the industry. Having a reason to catch up with a contact is often the catalyst for working together.

MR: Can you comment on the importance of mentoring?

RM: You could probably answer this one for me given our relationship. The gains I have experienced from being a mentor as well as a mentee have been extraordinary. The more and more time that passes since I graduated from Georgetown, I not only become less in touch with the latest campus trends but also miss the constant reminder of what it means to be a Hoya. Participating in the McDonough School of Business’s Alumni Mentor Program where I met you is a great way for me to give back to the Georgetown community. After all, the school is the reason my career has advanced to where it is today. Being a Georgetown student will open doors for you, but like anything else in life, your experience will only add up to what you make of it.

In addition, I coached lacrosse at my high school alma mater, Notre Dame Prep, this past season. This was a nice way for me say to say thank you to the school that paved the way to Georgetown and served as a launching pad for my athletic and sports career. I cannot stress how important it is to never forget where you came from…be grateful for the opportunities certain places or people have afforded you!

A lot of people in this industry keep their contacts close to the chest. In my opinion, the more successful sports business professionals do not. They actively share their contacts and do their best to set up others to succeed. I want to do the same for people who are tenacious about making it big in the industry. People will not forget mentors who help pave their path for success.

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?

RM: I am going to describe to you what I think is an ideal day at work. The main takeaway point is to not get caught up in responding to emails at the expense of picking up the phone or meeting people in person. This is something people of our generation have a tough time understanding. The more you pick up the phone in a day, the greater your productivity will be. Don’t give potential clients the opportunity to say “No” via an email. It is too easy for them. Things will get done a lot faster if you maximize your time on the phone. There’s something about hearing someone else’s voice on the other end of the line that email will never be able to replicate. It is also more common to pass over one of hundreds of emails you receive each day than it is to overlook a missed call or voicemail.

A good way to think about the power of the phone is to put some context behind it. Off the top of your head, try to name as many people you received emails from or sent emails to today. Now try the same thing for the people you received calls from or called today. Chances are that you remember much better whom you spoke to on the phone. If you are young and building your resume in this industry…do everything you can to Be Memorable.

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

RM: The most rewarding aspect about working in sports is that I get to be myself and never stop learning from my prior sports experiences. Sports have been a huge part of my life in so many ways, most notably playing lacrosse through college. My time on the field has taught me how to compete with people while treating them fairly, how to be a good teammate, the hard work you must put in to win, and even more importantly how to get back up if you lose. I have learned an incredible amount about myself as a player as well as the leadership qualities necessary to be a successful captain. My coachable personality and my willingness to lead by example has made the transition from the field to the office an easy one. The sports industry is ready for team players, and I think this is why it is attractive to so many former athletes. A lot of who I am comes from the life lessons I learned while participating in sports, and I like to working in an industry that understands that.

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

RM: Be tenacious. If you know you want something, don’t let anyone steer you away. It may take a few “No’s” to get a “Yes”. Don’t get discouraged if a company you want to intern or work for doesn’t hire you the first time you apply. Timing is an important factor, so if you are patient but persistent, your number may get called at a later date.

Once you break into the industry, you need to continue to apply these principles. It’s not all fun (but it is a lot of games), and you need to be passionate about the BUSINESS of sports to advance and enjoy what you are doing.

Lastly, go with your gut when faced with a difficult decision. Take chances and never look back with any regret. There is no time for that.

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

RM: I am a huge fan of yoga and enjoy running. I need to be a people person all day, so those activities provide the alone time that I need to reset. I also enjoy hanging out with friends and family. These close relationships keep me sane! Other activities I am involved with include being a board member of a non-profit called Fit Kids and working with a sports centric charter school that they support in Arizona called Champion Schools. My relationship with these organizations evolved from business, but their mission promotes academic and athletic achievement, which I personally believe needs to be fostered in today’s youth.

*** Since this interview took place, Rachel Mech has departed ProVentures to pursue her law degree and is currently working in Baltimore.

Harrie Bakst

After a glimpse of the legal and international side of sports with last week’s Expert Interview with David Francis: Be Flexible in Your Approach, I turned back to the sports marketing aspect of the business. I reached out to Harrie Bakst of Carnegie Sports & Entertainment, a boutique agency whose focus is cause marketing and corporate social responsibility. Harrie and I spoke on the phone back in January after my mentor Rachel Mech put the two of us in touch. I kept tabs on Harrie throughout the rest of my second semester, and it paid off. Harrie is actually my first in-person interview. I am most excited to share his story and am thankful for his participation.

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

Harrie Bakst (HB): I am the President of Carnegie Sports & Entertainment.

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

HB: I attended New York University (NYU) as an undergraduate. My major was Sports and Entertainment Marketing.

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

HB: I have not yet chosen to pursue any advanced degrees to further market myself to the industry. After graduating from NYU, my plans for law school were interrupted when I was unfortunately diagnosed with cancer. Currently, I would not rule out the possibility of going for an MBA in the future.

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?

HB: To be honest, there were two distinct moments when I knew I wanted to break into sports. The first occurred back in high school. I had just finished Michael Lewis’s Moneyball, which was about how the Oakland Athletics put together strong teams with one of the lower payrolls in baseball. I loved how innovative A’s General Manager Billy Beane was and how his approach could apply to business.

The second moment happened when I was a senior at NYU in 2006. At that time, sports sponsorship was all over the place. Corporations were spending their marketing dollars like crazy on sports, and taking every last cent. Despite all this money pouring into sports, charities were not at the receiving end of any of it. This really put a bad taste in my mouth and almost turned me away from the sports industry. At the same time, however, it made me realize how I could be a part of fixing this problem.

Overall, I guess I always saw myself working in sports, but I also managed to fall into it. After all, I would never have started my own business had I not been diagnosed with and eventually overcome cancer.

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

HB: As a freshman at NYU, my first internship was with the New York City Sports Commission with Andy Gould and Ken Podziba (now at NYC & Co. and Bike NY, respectively). This opportunity really opened my eyes to what the entire sports industry had to offer. Besides this experience, I interned at 4 or 5 other places throughout the business including the agency and consulting aspects.

Although not sports related, the most valuable experience I had was working at an ice cream store in New York City. Scooping ice cream really taught me some unforgettable career lessons including the value of earning a dollar as well as dealing with the public. Meeting a lot of people in sports through my first internship was certainly a perk, but my ice cream store job taught me the most about starting a business and how important it is to focus on the little things like to serve extra sprinkles. I never forget the value of giving someone extra sprinkles and how that resulted in their overall enjoyment, experience and even their tip.

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

HB: I actually created my first job in sports. Overcoming cancer inspired me to start my own company and fix the lack of attention charities were receiving in the sports industry.

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

HB: The term “networking” gets thrown around a lot and even cheapened in some regards. However, it is very important to know people. After all, sports and entertainment are relationship-driven businesses. Simply exchanging business cards is not enough. If you want to create a genuine relationship with someone, you have to get to know them (where they are from, what they like to do, where they grew up, favorite sports teams, etc.).

For those of you thinking that the only way to get into sports is to know someone, you are not alone. When I was in your shoes, I really did not know many people at all in the business. I built my relationships from scratch through sincerity and hard work. The key to networking is maintaining relationships.

MR: Can you comment on the importance of mentoring?

HB: From Day 1 at Carnegie, I made sure I surrounded myself with good people who I could rely on and learn from both inside and outside the office. I had no choice but to reach out to my mentors because I did not have any experience running my own business. The best decision I ever made was creating a Board of Advisers. It is composed of people (such as Andy Gould, Arthur Pincus, Joe Favorito, Eric Guthoff, Jenny Koltnow, Marc Zwerdling, and Ben Sturner, among others) who I not only counted on to help get Carnegie get off the ground but also to make sure that it continues to succeed. The board members stay involved with my company because they want to, not because they have to. Over time, I have leveraged my contacts and continue to keep the board running through the relationships I have built and maintained with different mentors. I cannot imagine running Carnegie without the guidance and support of these people.

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?

HB: No day is typical. Certain days relate to certain clients, while other days focus on outreach or strategy. Whatever the day’s activities are, it is vital to be efficient with your schedule. I will take you through what I did today.

    • 9:00 a.m. – conference call with Runner’s World Magazine
    • 10:00 a.m. – conference call with CEO of Omanhene Cocoa Bean Company about getting involved with Carnegie clients
    • 11:00 a.m. – conference call with ING New York City Marathon about client Meb Keflezighi
    • 11:15 a.m. – conference call with Crowdrise, a charitable giving company founded by actor Edward Norton
    • 12:00 p.m. – lunch with Mom
    • 2:00 p.m. – conference call with Linda Quirk of the Ultra Marathon
    • 2:15 p.m. – conference call with Sports Illustrated for Kids for client Curtis Granderson
    • 3:00 p.m. – conference call with client The Armory Foundation regarding New York City’s Millrose Games

I also spent some time working on a proposal for Runner’s World Magazine on behalf of the National Marathon to Finish Breast Cancer. Now, I am here doing the blog interview with you.

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

HB: For myself and Carnegie, the most rewarding aspect about working in sports is having found a way to use sports and business to give back to the community and other charitable causes. We paved the way for others to follow in our footsteps. Thirty years ago, philanthropy was limited to the wealthy. Now, things are different. Everyone, rich or poor, can give. Together, we can all experience that special feeling that comes from genuinely and altruistically giving to someone or something you care about. To be a big part of making it possible for everyone to donate time and money to worthy causes has been phenomenal.

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

HB: Breaking into the sports industry is not easy. People often ask me how I managed to do it. When I started Carnegie, I was only 22 years old and had just $2,000 set aside for my business. My industry contacts were limited, and I still did not have a full head of hair after finishing my last cancer treatment.

While this might appear difficult to you, I managed to break it down to a rather simple formula. It is often the case that you can’t do anything about whether or not you land a certain job. There are just some factors that go into the hiring decision that are out of your control.

I would recommend you to focus on your work ethic and sincerity. Both of these things are in your control, and everyone, no matter what, possesses these two things. The harder you work and the more genuine you are with people, the better chances you have to break into sports. Never let anyone take these two things away from you. They are the most powerful weapons to take advantage of if you want to work in sports. It’s up to you what you do with them. There is no magic here. We focus on our work ethic and sincerity so much to the point that people want to do business with us.

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

HB: I enjoy listening to music. My favorite bands include The Beatles and The Strokes. I also like to participate in triathlons. Tomorrow, I will be signing up for the Ironman U.S. Championship in New York City in 2012. To be honest, I get all my business ideas when I run, swim, or bike. Most importantly, I enjoy spending time with my girlfriend.

David Francis

                                            

For my third sports industry expert interview, I wanted to give you a glimpse of what it’s like to work in sports at the international level on a daily basis. Therefore, I reached out to David Francis, a second year employee at the United States Olympic Committee (USOC). David and I met at a sports 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 introduce myself. I thank David for agreeing to do this interview.

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

David Francis (DF): I am the Coordinator with the Division of Legal and Government Affairs at the USOC.

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

DF: I attended the University of Connecticut, where I doubled majored in Political Science and Journalism.

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

DF: After taking a year off from college, I pursued my law degree at California Western School of Law in San Diego. Soon after, I sought my master’s degree from Georgetown University’s Sports Industry Management (SIM) Program.

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?

DF: All my life, I was a student-athlete. When I arrived at UCONN, I realized that I could not play at the highest levels of competition anymore. Without sports in my life, I felt like there would be something missing. Even though I was not able to pursue a career on the field, I thought, “Why not try to work in the front office of a sports team or try to work in sports in some business capacity?” I guess I always kind of saw myself working in sports. I thought pursuing a law degree would help, but I did not know exactly how it would at the time.

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

DF: Right after I finished up law school, I did an internship with the National Football League Player Association (NFLPA). I also interned at the USOC, which eventually turned into the current job I now hold.

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

While participating in Georgetown’s SIM program, I asked one of my professors if I could talk to her about her job with the USOC. I expressed my interest to her about potentially working there some day. At the time, there were no available positions to be had. Six months later, she called me to see if I was available to help out at the office with the 2010 Winter Olympic Games in Vancouver. Since I was free, I volunteered my services at the USOC. I did a good job there, and the next thing I know, it turned into a job offer.

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

DF: Networking is probably the most important thing you can do in the sports industry. Whether you are looking for a job or just looking to make connections, it is such a key process. It is true that nothing may come immediately from newer connections. However, you might turn to someone down the road for his or her help on a project you are working on. You just never know when job opportunities will arise out of connections you turn to in a time of need. After all, I landed my first job as a result of networking.

MR: Can you comment on the importance of mentoring?

DF: Mentoring definitely helps in the sports industry. It’s important to be able to turn to people who are seasoned with experience and have seen all types of issues. When you come across problems you have never seen before in your career, mentors will be there to assist you. It’s comforting to know that I can ask my mentors if they have any thoughts on a problem I am experiencing or any career advice for the path I should take moving forward.

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?

DF: Every day is different. This past Tuesday, we had an event at the State Department with Hillary Clinton. It was a send-off event for the U.S. women’s soccer team as well as a celebration of Title IX for women’s sports. That took up about half of my day. On other typical days, there will be a staff meeting in the morning as well as one or two meetings throughout the rest of the day. Some of the meetings are internal, while others are external. The projects I work on vary from time to time. Currently, I am working on the visa processing for athletes, coaches, and judges who travel to the U.S. for competitions. This entails a lot of phone calls, emails, PowerPoint decks, and proposals.

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

DF: The most rewarding aspect about working in sports is seeing your product play out either on television or on the field. Sports is a very visible industry. A lot goes on behind the scenes. The public may not see what I do prior to events, but they will get a chance to see the end product. For example, if I see the Russians at a U.S. competition, I can say to myself, “The Russians are here because I helped them get here.” The same thing goes for people who work for franchises when they see people in the stands. Everyone gets excited about seeing his or her finished product in action.

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

Be flexible in your approach to working in sports. Don’t feel like you have to work in a specific area of the business right away. You can always break into the industry through one door and move on to a different department later within the same or different company.

In the meantime, talk to as many people as you can who work in sports to see if you would like to do what they do. Do not just focus on the more well-known jobs in sports. There are a lot of lesser-known jobs out there that might just be a great fit for you.

12. What do you do for fun when you are not at the office?

Outside of work, I still enjoy playing sports, whether it is basketball, tennis, bike riding, running, etc. If there’s a field and a ball, I will find others to play with.

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.