Editor’s note (Michelle here): I’m thrilled to post the latest installment of “Life After Graduation.” In this post, marketing alumnus (student-athlete alumnus!) Troy White shares his thoughtful insights on his journey to date after graduating from NIU Business. Thank you, Troy, as always for taking the time to share your very thoughtful words of wisdom with me and all of us! Keep making a difference as you so truly do!
Sometimes the journey isn’t a straight line—but you grow a lot and gain a lot by persevering. My path to the Chicago White Sox had a couple of twists and turns.
When I graduated I began to communicate with various professional sports organizations about my desire to work in the industry. I was informed by many that there weren’t any positions available at the time. After receiving this disappointing news, I began working as a Staffing Consultant at an employment services company in downtown Chicago. Approximately 10 months into this position, I was offered a business development opportunity with a business intelligence firm, which I accepted.
Then in July 2013—I’ll never forget this—I navigated through my email inbox and stumbled across a message I had sent to a professional sports team. It was like a wake-up call…I realized again how passionate I am about working in sports.
I contacted my former NIU baseball coach, Ed Mathey, and informed him of my goal and dream to work in sports. Ed was supportive and stated that he would assist in any way possible. My family has supported my passion throughout my life and helped me to tailor a new message, which I sent out again to professional sports organizations.
The revamped letter garnered a reply from Christine O’Reilly, Vice President of Community Relations with the Chicago White Sox. She indicated that the White Sox organization has yearly internships and said it’s a great way to “get your foot in the door.” I was instructed to let her know if an internship was of interest, and then she would forward my resume and message to Moira Foy, the Vice President of Human Resources. Without hesitation, I responded “YES, I would greatly appreciate it if you would forward my credentials.” It was an opportunity I could not pass up, even with the risk it posed.
Mind you, I was still employed at the business intelligence firm and performing well. To go from a secure opportunity with great benefits to a paid internship with no certainty, exhibits my passion and confidence in my work ethic.
In August, I interviewed for one of the 10 sales internship positions and earned the opportunity. Let’s fast forward to the month of February 2015, when a full-time sales employee accepted a position outside of the company and another employee assumed his position. This meant that there was now ONE full-time opportunity available within the Client Services division of the White Sox organization. All sales interns were informed of the opportunity and invited to apply. This was an exciting time, because one of us was going to earn a full-time position. After the interviews were conducted, we all patiently waited for our individual meetings to find out who earned the position.
Through all my hard work, dedication and previous experience I was chosen to join the Client Service team. So two years into my journey, I had finally achieved my goal! I wouldn’t have accomplished this without the constant support from my family, friends and Ed Mathey. It’s also important that I believed in myself and took the risk to start as an intern with the White Sox.
Did you know right away as a student what you wanted to do in business?
I only knew that I wanted to have a career in the sports industry. My exact position and responsibilities were not as certain. And even though my career didn’t begin in sports right away, the skill set and knowledge I obtained from my previous experiences proved to be instrumental to my current successes.
How do you show up in the world?
It’s important that I’m seen as reliable, hard-working, competitive and authentic. I want people in my life to know that if something needs to get done that I’m the person capable of making it happen. My participation in sports and family upbringing has instilled a desire to achieve greatness. In whatever endeavors I undertake, I’m going to work hard to achieve success otherwise I’m wasting my time and everyone else’s. No matter what level of success I achieve, it’s important to retain authenticity and to remain humble.
With your background and now a career in sports, you’ve seen good teamwork up close. What components make a team good or even great?
As a former collegiate athlete and now working in sports, teamwork is crucial to success. Teamwork in school, business and on the field has similarities. Every good team must have accountability. If a member is deviating from the plan, it needs to be addressed and that individual needs to understand that it’s not personal but rather realize the importance of his/her contributions. Good teamwork requires picking up or covering for a teammate to ensure that the group doesn’t miss a beat (i.e. selflessness). Lastly, no individual can be “bigger” than the goal. No matter what your title or position is, everyone is contributing to the team effort and no one person is more important than the group and its goal.
In what way is NIU Business uncommon?
There are multiple aspects that make NIU Business unique. However, the support that the faculty provides its students is astounding! The NIU College of Business does a tremendous job of supporting their students’ extracurricular activities and taking a genuine interest in their lives. Many times I would have conversations with faculty members about things that were unrelated to what was mentioned in class or even NIU or the College of Business. This personal touch and genuine interest is what I will always remember.
How do you stay hungry?
Simply, I set goals. It’s amazing how impactful it is to your success when you write down your goals or create a vision board. I like setting some lofty goals, because every day I wake up, I know it’s time to go to work if there’s something to be accomplished. As odd as it may sound, I appreciate failure. I’ve failed all throughout my young life, but that helps to provide motivation. There is much to learn from an individual who has failed, including how he/she reacts to failure. Will they pity themselves or is he/she going to use that failure as a motivating factor? The latter is my mindset, which is why I set goals that I truly want, without watering them down into what I can ”more than likely” accomplish. The knowledge you gain on the journey to your goals is invaluable…even if it takes 1, 2 or even 10 years longer to get there than you originally expected.
Tell us your “WHY?”
Many factors motivate me in my life; some internal and some external. The greatest external factor is my drive to show my family and friends appreciation for all of the support and love they have shown throughout my life. I want my family to take pride in the way they raised me and the type of young man I have become and the man I will become. I can never repay them for all the time, money, love and energy they expended on my behalf, so showing them that it wasn’t in vain is my way of paying them back. In terms of internal drivers, I simply want to become successful in every aspect of my life. My competitive spirit won’t allow me to become complacent. There is always another goal to achieve.