Summer Stories-Class of 2009

As I reflect back upon my summer, I’d like to pass along (especially to RCs or others interested in media, entertainment, or sports) some of the things I learned along the way.

The internship search can definitely be a time-intensive process. I’ll admit that my search was a little on the unconventional side. Not sure of exactly what I wanted to do, I signed up for Career Teams (which I highly recommend to everyone), got a career coach, talked to professors, and went to numerous company/industry presentations, panels, dinners, etc. Even then I had no idea. What I did know was that I was hoping to do something that (a) I had a passion for; (b) was related to strategy and/or marketing; (c) had an international component to it; and (d) was somewhat unique. As some of the more “exciting” stuff doesn’t come until after the March deadline, I decided to cancel most of my “hell week” interviews and used the time to focus on more of a “networked” search. I’ve always had a deep interest in sports, media, and entertainment, so I decided to start there (primarily focusing on sports).

Be prepared to wait.and wait.and then wait some more. Unlike with consulting and banking, many companies in sports, media, and entertainment may not have very structured interview processes. It can be a highly networked search that requires quite a bit of resilience and patience. Unfortunately, the sports industry has more applicants than it would ever know what to do with and has become extremely competitive (with individuals willing to take 50% pay cuts just to get in). As hard as it is to wait until early May (when everyone else is making plans to move), you have to keep believing in (somewhat cheesy) lines like “the best things come to those who wait” and “if it’s meant to be, it’ll happen.” You can’t give up. Plus, what’s the worst thing that would have happened? I would have traveled and visited all of my friends who were doing internships in some of the most amazing cities in the world!

Sometimes you have to ask for the opportunity. In mid-April, I saw an e-mail regarding the NBA (National Basketball Association) and efforts to potentially expand into India. As I had been talking with them regarding other positions (that I wasn’t really too excited about), I thought I’d ask if they’d have any opportunities in this area. This would be ideal- as I’m a big fan of both Basketball and India! Unfortunately, the International group wasn’t looking to have an intern, but still decided to talk with me. After a really good conversation with the Director there (who ended up being my manager), they indicated there may be a slight chance of creating a position. If possible, it would take a few weeks to get all of the internal approvals (which surprisingly had to go through the Director, VP, President, and Deputy Commissioner of the NBA). I was quite nervous as I’d realized over this time that this was the “dream internship” I was looking for and deadlines for my other options (doing something with the Chicago 2016 Olympic committee or working at a sports marketing/talent agency)- which were also great- were quickly approaching. Luckily, while in the middle of Section Olympics, I got a call from my favorite HR person with an offer- one day before my decision deadline.

Look for work that can be exciting, yet challenging. I was quite fortunate that my primary responsibilities were to help create a comprehensive strategy to develop (a) the game of basketball, (b) the NBA brand, and (c) new revenue streams in the Indian market. More specifically, I helped create a 5-year strategy deck (to be approved by Heidi Ueberroth and David Stern), the corresponding financials (detailed P&L), sales presentations for activation with new marketing partners, and a market research plan. Additionally, I was co-captain (with section-mate Ben Landis) of a group of the 6 graduate school interns tasked with a “Think Tank” project to identify, analyze, and provide recommendations for the top five international markets deemed to have the highest revenue growth potential.

A great manager can make all of the difference. I’ve come to learn that much of our work experiences are shaped by interactions with our managers. Fortunately, I had one of the best. He was quite hands-off, open, collaborative, trustworthy, and highly strategic. More than anything, he was a great person who always seemed to have my best interests at heart. Though initially intimidated by him, he became a good friend by the end.

Even an “ideal” job will have both positives and negatives. Positives: Sharing an office (with a view of St. Patrick’s Cathedral and Rockefeller Center) with two friends, working with great people, being close to the actual product, getting to talk about basketball all day, seeing the passion from people who truly love basketball, understanding the business aspects of sports, not feeling like I was actually working at times, free Starbucks in the morning, the peanut butter and banana oatmeal excursion on Friday mornings, etc. Negatives: The sometimes slower pace, lack of some formal systems and data analysis, numerous IT issues, a slow laptop, the pay, sometimes feeling like an undergrad again, and not getting to go to the NBA Finals.

Being in Media/Entertainment/Sports can have some nice perks. Though initially disappointed that we couldn’t swing NBA Finals tickets (Go Celtics!), things got progressively better. We were able to attend The NBA Draft, the first-ever WNBA game in Arthur Ashe Stadium, a Yankees game, and the unveiling of Team USA. Additionally, a prominent speaker series of NBA executives allowed us to interact with some of Forbes’ most powerful people in Sports. My favorite day in New York was by far the day of the NBA Draft. On my way to be a “seat filler” at The Draft, I got a call from a friend (a fashion designer in Bombay) who was visiting New York and asked if I’d help give her a guy’s perspective and assess models for a runway show she was doing. This was actually a tough call-be late to the NBA draft or meet/judge models? I chose the latter and ended up getting to the draft by the 4th pick. After seeing much of the first round, we went to a magazine launch party with an open bar at Marquee. After a few drinks, we hit the NBA Draft after-party scene. The biggest disappointment of the night was somehow being convinced to have an 8 a.m. meeting with my Vice President the next morning.

Talk with Alumni at the Company: The HBS Alumni at the NBA were incredible. As most were at the Vice-President level and above, I was quite fortunate to have the opportunity to interact with them and seek important career and “life” advice. They were all quite open, honest, and had insightful stories to share. Though I was on everyone’s calendars for 30-minutes or less, the conversations inevitably ended up being over an hour each.

Don’t overlook things like culture. The thing that surprised me most was that there was no “one culture” at the NBA. Each group seemed to have its own-many of which were quite different from one another. The culture in the International group was great. Overall, it was a light-hearted group that was highly collaborative, yet serious about its work. The culture of the neighboring group was, unfortunately, somewhat disastrous. Seeing some co-workers miserable in this group made me realize how important a factor this really was on one’s day-to-day life and outlook.

New York may not be for everybody. I think one of the biggest things I learned about living in New York was that I can pretty much live anywhere. I think everyone should live there once-to see for themselves what the experience is like. It’s truly a great city! For me, the key to living there is to be true to who you are and not get caught up in the chaos to the extent that you lose your sense of self (which I can now see how/why it happens). Be careful though. New York, more than any other place I’ve been, has the ability to make extraordinary people feel quite ordinary.

Travel before and/or after your internship. My summer ended with a trip to China for the Olympics. As it was already the topic of another Harbus article, I’ll refrain from discussing it in great detail. Thirty-six of us from HBS went to Hong Kong, Shenzhen, Shanghai, and finished off with the Olympics in Beijing. I had never been to the mainland before and was actually highly impressed by China’s level of advancement. The physical infrastructure and cleanliness (at least in these cities) was well beyond what I expected. Hong Kong’s harbor was as beautiful as I had remembered. In what I thought was going to be a factory town, Shenzhen ended up being a bustling city. I think I was most taken by Shanghai. A big admirer of skylines and unique architecture, Shanghai was unlike any other city I’ve visited.

Having the opportunity to be in Beijing for the Olympics was surreal. I have always been enthralled by the actually being there was like a dream come true. I loved the energy and the excitement that surrounded the games. The stadiums were breathtaking up-close. Thanks to friends who were able to secure tickets, I was able to attend 4 different events: (a) Track & Field (discuss, pole vault, and the end of the 50km walk); (b) Women’s Handball (China vs. France); (c) The Gold Medal Baseball game (Cuba vs. Korea); and (d) the Semifinals of Men’s Basketball (Team U.S.A. vs. Argentina and Spain vs. Lithuania). In a weird way, I felt like I missed out on some of the Olympics by actually being there. For example, I missed hearing all of the stories and life struggles of the athletes in their journeys to the Olympics. It’s a bit hard to capture this when everything’s in Mandarin! Nonetheless, it was one of the most spectacular trips and summers of my life! I’m truly fortunate and grateful to have had these opportunities.

September 29, 2008
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