Job Training: A Day at the NBA

A Guest Post by Amaya Contreras Driggs, Social Media & Marketing Coordinator

High school students participating in Fiver’s Summer in the City job training program had the opportunity to visit the NBA Headquarters on 5th Avenue. They met Lindsey from the NBA Corporate Social Responsibility Department, who would guide them on their tour that afternoon. The walls were adorned with photographs and memorabilia of former and current basketball players, such as Michael Jordan and Stephen Curry, the floors were painted with basketballs, there were hoops left and right… it was truly a basketball fan’s haven.

The kids were fortunate enough to meet Tajuan Watson, an Associate Coordinator of the Identity, Outfitting & Equipment department at the NBA. He showed them confidential material - the unseen, new editions of the upcoming season’s uniform for all 30 teams in the Association. One of the Fiver students asked Tajuan how was it that he obtained this amazing job, and he laid out his path to success: “Working hard, networking, working with the right people, good grades and luck.”

By luck, he meant that his job is a very competitive one to obtain and it is not a given to work at a company like the NBA. Rather, you must put yourself in the best position you can to succeed, so that if you are given the opportunity, you can take it and make the most of it.

Once the tour was over, students had the opportunity to sit with a panel of NBA employees. The panel was moderated by Lindsey, of the Corporate Social Responsibility Department, who works with everything related to NBA Cares; Kaitlyn and Annie, also from CSR Department; Dominique, from the youth basketball department, who works on elevating and overseeing related marketing strategies; Mark, a graduate student from Kent University, who is currently an intern and helps players develop themselves outside of the court, financially, and family wise; and Cedric, who taught math for a year before pursuing his true passion with the NBA. Cedric came from San Antonio, from the Spurs Team Services, so he could work to provide different resources for other teams in the NBA.

Throughout the Q&A session, the NBA employees shared a lot of meaningful experiences and advice. Mark shared that he pursued his internship because he believes that sports have the ability to change lives. They help people, they teach you how to interact with others, and can teach you to be your best self. He placed great importance in finding your passion and following what you love. He shared a quote from Confucius: “Choose a job you love and you will never work a day in your life.”

Annie explained the importance of persistence. It took her three tries to get a job with the NBA, and if she had given up she would have never reached the position she is in today. She also advised students to surround themselves with people they love working with. Supportive colleagues can encourage you to work hard at your job, and do your best. She explained that “feeling a sense of pride and respect in your work and who you work for is big. If you do not respect the company you work for, they cannot respect you.”

Dominique emphasized the importance of networking: “Relationships are almost more important than skill sets, so connect with as many people as you can. Network! Connect with high school classmates, your bosses, mentors… Send thank you notes and never think you are better than anyone else.” She also suggested that when looking for companies to work for, it is important to pay attention to the employees. If you like the people that work there and that are interviewing you, you are more likely to fit in. It is important to work around great people and a good team, so one must pay attention to the company’s culture and how employees are treated.

The members of the panel agreed that the most difficult aspect of the job is multitasking, since there is no off-season and they are always working. They have to constantly juggle different tasks, but must never lose attention to detail; however, they also reinforced the idea of personal happiness, and taking time off when you feel overwhelmed.

The qualities that panel members appreciated the most in a manager were good communication, openness, and flexibility. Moreover, supervisors should be empowering, and let employees take primary responsibility of tasks without micromanaging. Someone that always has an open door, and fundamentally, someone you have a great level of respect for is the ideal person to work for.  On a similar page, the qualities they associated with success were the ability to work with multiple personalities, being a good communicator, adaptability and writing skills.

When asked what advice they would you give to their younger selves, the panel agreed that they would have told themselves to explore everything they can, and to not take themselves too seriously. While your first job is really important, you can always change jobs or career paths. Dominique said: “Do not be upset if you do not get that job you want.” Follow your passions and try to take one step at a time. Cedric suggested that Fiver students write down their goals, whether they are travel destinations, financial goals, or work ambitions. They should then outline and map out how they can accomplish these goals. This exercise can help clarify what you want to do, and give you a picture of what you are aiming for.

Overall, the panel kept coming back to the following themes:
•If at first you do not succeed, try and try again.
•Do what you love.
•You are always going to be criticized, so go for what makes you happy.
•Strive to be the best at whatever it is you decide to pursue.

Before ending the Q&A, one Fiver student asked the question, “How do I get a job at the NBA?” The panel recommended creating a good résumé, and developing fundamental skills. They also suggested applying for internships or participating in volunteer opportunities that can bring value to their résumés. And of course, the panel’s final tip was to network, and build relationships wherever there is an opportunity for them.

- Amaya Contreras Driggs
  Tufts University, Class of 2018