Written by Whitley Neumeister '20
- ECGulls.com Contributor
BEVERLY, Mass. – She racked up kills and digs on the court, then she landed her dream job post-graduation. Lauren Sheehan, an Endicott College class of 2018 sport management alum, is more than a few weeks into her first job with the NBA's Oklahoma City Thunder since graduating last May; here's how she did it.
The alum and former women's volleyball star began her college career at Endicott in hopes of eventually becoming a personal trainer at her gym back home in Seattle, Washington. Sheehan credits her discovery of her true passion for sports marketing to the internship program at Endicott; students are required to complete a total of three, Sheehan chose to complete five.
"I started off my freshman year convinced that I was going to be a personal trainer, move back to Seattle, and work at my old gym," said Sheehan. "If I had never had that internship experience my freshman year, I may not be in the position I am today."
After discovering personal training wasn't for her, Sheehan changed majors to sport management and began her journey in hopes of ultimately landing a spot working for a professional sports team.
"The first class that really got me thinking about signage or partnerships in any sense was Sports Promotion and Marketing with Associate Professor of Sport Management Professor Woo. I had just finished the first internship that I had gone into thinking I wanted to be a personal trainer. Obviously, that one didn't quite stick, so I was a bit unsure what I wanted. Coming into that class and learning about how everything in the sports promotion world works really got me hooked."
Beyond her success as a senior captain, three-time Commonwealth Coast Conference (CCC) All-Conference selection, and a member two conference championship winning teams on the volleyball court, Sheehan's resume boasts experience interning with reputable organizations such as the Boston Cannons, Boston University, and of course, the Boston Celtics.
You may be wondering how Sheehan landed these impressive internships. It's obvious Sheehan has a determined spirit which has significantly contributed to her success. In addition to her own characteristics, Sheehan attributes her success in landing great internships to Assistant Professor of Experiential Learning and Internship Coordinator, Kevin Commette. Commette's persistence in helping Sheehan search for internships really made the difference for her.
"He was my go to the entire four years," said Sheehan. "If you're ever looking for opportunities, he will literally not stop until he helps you out. He's the one that helped me with Celtics primarily."
Sheehan also mentions the significance of real-life experience in comparison to learning in a classroom setting.
"The interview experiences that I was able to have during my time at Endicott were something you can't learn from reading books or taking tests. My interview for the Celtics was three hours long, so when I was going into my interview with the Thunder, I had an idea of what was expected. Professional sports organizations are really fast-paced and ask a lot of you, so having that experience was something that set me up extremely well coming into my position with the Thunder."
Working with one professional sports team is impressive, however, working with two seems more like a dream. Comparing two NBA teams like the Celtics and the Thunder would seem to be like comparing apples to apples, but, Sheehan acknowledges there is a difference between fan culture in Boston versus Oklahoma City (OKC).
"One of the biggest differences between the OKC market and the Boston market is the competition in the area. With the Celtics, you're competing every day with the Patriots, Bruins, Red Sox, and all the other events that are going on in Boston. As an organization, the Celtics have to make their experience unique and exciting, regardless of the team's record."
Sheehan considers herself fortunate to have had experience working with both the Celtics and the Thunder. Although Beantown has a slew of championship titles, OKC has its own unique and very loyal fan culture.
"OKC has one professional team in the entire state, so competing professional teams aren't much of a factor. College sports are huge in Oklahoma though, which is something I had never been exposed to before. Of course, the Thunder games are always packed, but the pride that the fans have here is unlike any other. After working in sales, I grew to understand that fans don't care who's playing, what the record is, or how good the team might be. These fans bleed Blue and Orange and are able to say that they have been following the team since day one."
"The organizational culture is based on the fans' experience and has been ranked in the top three for the best fan experience since the team started in 2008. A huge part of our training was about making sure we understood how to fulfill the expectations of how we treat our guests; like family. I always heard that OKC was filled with some of the nicest people in the country but I never expected it to be this unbelievable."
As much as she treats OKC fans like family, Sheehan's actual job title is business development coordinator for the Thunder. In this role, Sheehan is responsible for creating TV and radio commercial logs to air during every broadcast, tracking TV and radio broadcasts to ensure they are adhering to the contracts of each partner, and monitoring monthly ad performance and ratings. Sheehan additionally has many organizational tasks such as putting together the partner Christmas gift, organizing the food for the partner suite, and tracking and clipping commercial performances to use in partner recaps.
When it comes to game time Sheehan gets to be a part of the gameday atmosphere by hosting and escorting partnership clients to on-court promotions and making sure the entire partner activations aspect of gameday runs smoothly. Through this entry level position with the Thunder, Sheehan has been able to learn a lot about the many aspects that contribute to the success of a professional sports team.
WORDS OF ADVICE
While reflecting on her experiences for this feature story, Sheehan also had some advice to give current Endicott students as well.
"Endicott has built such a reputable internship program and has alumni in every field you could be interested in. For sport management students, you'd be missing a huge opportunity if you didn't get to know each of your professors and advisors that are up in the Post Center. Sport is an extremely small world and it really can come down to knowing the right people, so always take advantage of that and stay in contact with those people you meet."
Along with that piece of advice, Sheehan knows that taking risks are just as important. She knows that first-hand as the Seattle native moved across the country to attend college in Beverly, Massachusetts and then went back across the country to OKC for her first job. Sheehan considers those decisions to explore all of her options, regardless of location, to be one of the most important determining factors in her post-graduation success.
"I hope to eventually move on to an account manager position that would give me more experience with handling partners one-on-one and executing some of those activation assets, but I'm in no rush. I think, for me personally, it's challenging to have any location set for where I physically want to work. I've taken a lot of risks in moving to Boston and to OKC and they've proven to be some of the best decisions I have ever made and given me opportunities I could have never imagined."
Some final words of encouragement from Sheehan on her experience at Endicott:
"Endicott was the best four years of my life and gave me some of the best memories I will ever have because I used my resources and built relationships. If people ever have questions about the professional [sports] world or what it's like, reach out to people like myself or other alumni. I'm proud to be an Endicott alum and will help other Gulls in any way that I can."
THE ENDICOTT INTERNSHIP MODEL
Endicott College is a pioneer in requiring comprehensive internship experiences in every program of study for undergraduate students. A philosophy of "learning by doing" permeates the college curriculum in which students are encouraged to integrate theory and practice in all of their studies.
Through their experiences in internships students will be prepared to:
- Apply, integrate, and evaluate knowledge within a particular academic discipline
- Develop competencies for careers and community service
- Explore career options and gain field experience
- Foster personal growth through increased self-confidence, interpersonal skills, an understanding of self and others, and a heightened awareness of ethical standards
- Improve the ability to learn in a self-directed manner
"The Endicott internship model allows students to have multiple opportunities throughout their college experience to discover their passions, bolster career confidence, and develop a marketable skill set while creating a professional network that will serve them well after graduation," said Endicott's Dean of the Internship and Career Center Eric Hall. "Endicott students leave with the career-readiness competencies and passion needed to excel in today's workforce."
(Photo Credit - Oklahoma City Thunder)