Job: Director of Marketing & Events, Laureus Sport for Good USA
Location: Atlanta, Georgia
My roommate knew Rachelle in college, and she thought we should connect because of the success Rachelle has seen in her career over the last several years. After chatting with her, I realized that my roommate was right! We covered everything from knowing when it's time to make a career move, negotiating your salary, and what it means to be a young professional in your 30s. Rachelle has made tremendous waves in the sports development world and I am excited for you to see the power of sport, in both her life and in others, through hearing her story.
Give us a brief background on yourself.
I grew up in Clemson, South Carolina, and went to Furman University for undergrad. After graduation, I moved to New York City. I think most people have career goals after they graduate, but I had a location goal. I knew where I wanted to be ever since my middle school field trip, where I fell in love with the energy and just everything about NYC. I actually applied to schools up north, so Furman was kind of a last-minute choice for me. Even up to the very last day I could accept, I had already accepted to go to Penn, but in a weird twist of fate, my acceptance letter didn't have enough postage stamps on it. That same day I got another scholarship offer at Furman and I just loved it and really felt like it was where I supposed to be. After I graduated I moved to New York and just started applying everywhere. While at Furman, I had studied abroad in Edinburgh and interned at Scottish Parliament and I enjoyed working in international relations and kind of got a bug for that. Because of that experience, I applied for jobs at the British Consulate in New York City and there was one job in particular that dealt with international relations. It was a non-profit that had programs around education and women's empowerment and all different sorts of human and youth development projects in line with the British government. It seemed like a good fit for many of my interests.
What was that first job like?
I was lucky enough to have an aunt that lived in New York at the time, so I lived with her while I waited for the job. Knowing that the interview process might take a while because it was a government position, I got a temp job in the meantime just to make some money. I ended up landing the job with the British Council about two months after I had moved to New York and it was really the most amazing first job I could have asked for. I was essentially a program assistant and reported directly to the executive director of the New York office. He was a very accomplished, smart man who was a great first boss. He was extremely open with me taking on new projects and responsibilities and because it was a small team, we all had to play many different roles. It's not like you're hired for one thing and that's it; it was an opportunity to develop skills in different areas. I developed professionally and personally in my two years there, and throughout that process, there was an opportunity to go somewhere else.
What triggered this new opportunity?
We had been working on a Sport for Development program with the Premier League and I have always loved sports, but I had never thought of it as a career. Seeing this program got me to really understand what sports had done for me in my life and what it does for so many kids and people around the country. I saw how it can be a tool for social development, physical development, and mental health, and a tool to allow people to develop into their full potential. I loved being part of a team that launched a soccer program in the US with the Chicago Fire, the MLS team, and a few local Chicago organizations that opened my eyes to the world of sports-based youth development. Once I found that, I felt like all of my passions and interests and skillsets were coming together. I have always been passionate about giving back, so through this role, I was able to do that while also working closely with businesses and foundations that support these youth organizations. Through my work in Sport for Development, I was connected with an organization called Laureus Sport for Good Foundation, a leader in that space. When a position opened up there, they reached out to me about it and it just seemed like a really good fit and next step.
What does Laureus do?
Laureus is a global organization based in London and I work for the U.S. Foundation which is based in New York City. We're an intermediary organization, so we fund groups that use sport as a tool for social change and we work primarily with smaller community-based non-profits that are using sport to affect change in their communities. We get our funding from various corporations and foundations. We were actually co-founded by the chairman of Richemont (a holding company for brands like Cartier and IWC), Johan Rupert, and Daimler, which owns Mercedes Benz. Johan Rupert is from South Africa, and was personally inspired by the way he saw the sport of rugby bring together his divided country after apartheid and after hearing Nelson Mandela give a speech about the power of sport he decided to create the Laureus Foundation to support sport programs doing amazing work for youth in poverty around the world. Since its inception, Laureus has supported programs in over 40 countries and reached over 1 million youth. We also work with a lot of athletes who believe in this power of sport and use their platform to give back. I have worked for Laureus USA for almost five years and it has been a great opportunity to grow professionally while honing and fueling my passions and being able to create positive change.
How did you know the job at Laureus was the right career move?
I got offered a job at Laureus when I wasn't even like looking for a new job. I really loved the British Council, which was a great place for a first job, and I met some great people that I'm still friends with today. I think I knew when this opportunity came, that it was clearly so in line with what I enjoy doing and with my passions. It also seemed like a really cool growth opportunity since at the time I was starting out as the sixth employee and it was a young and growing organization. It almost felt like a startup where even though I was 24 at the time, I had the opportunity to influence strategy and take on new responsibilities, so it was really exciting to me.
What have your roles looked like at Laureus for the last five years?
I used to work a lot with corporate partners while also thinking creatively about new ways to increase revenue. I enjoy working with businesses because I was also able to learn about the world of CSR, employee engagement and events. I started as a development manager and then went to a Senior Manager role taking on more key relationships. I’m now the Director of Marketing and Events. I have been able to grow and mold within this organization and my various positions. A lot of what I do now is around fundraising and increasing Laureus’ profile and our work around the country, which includes working with our partners to put on large scale events. We actually just had our biggest event of the year last month in New York City where 20 athletes walked the runway in designer fashion to raise funds for sport for good programs across the country. It is a great way to shine a light on the work that we do while providing entertainment for corporate clients and donors. While events like that are a ton of fun, I also love the times I’m able to spend with the programs we serve in local communities, like a school in the Bronx or a baseball field in the Westside of Atlanta. Seeing firsthand what sport has the power to do for kids, especially kids living in poverty, is inspiring and challenging but ultimately rewarding. I enjoy having the ability to plan events that entertain, but also are meaningful and authentic and make an impact in the lives of youth and communities Laureus serves.
What has been the most critical moment in your young professional career so far?
I think it was making the switch from the British Council to Laureus because I felt very loyal and appreciative to the British Council since it was my first real job out of college. It had truly been a dream job for 22-year-old me moving to NYC. When I was offered the job with Laureus USA, it was a tough decision because I felt safe, comfortable and appreciated where I was. I didn’t want to let anyone down by going somewhere else, but I knew it was the right opportunity for me and my career. It also taught me how to negotiate for myself for the first time. As women, I don’t think we do that enough when accepting new positions, especially compared to some of our male counterparts.
I was able to successfully negotiate what I felt I deserved and learning how to do that was critical and helped me learn that you have to be willing to ask for what you want. Also learning that when it comes to your career, you have to do what's best for yourself and you have to take opportunities as they arise. You can't be scared to let something good go for something that might be better. Ultimately, everyone's replaceable at the end of the day and if you decide to move on because it’s best for you, it might open an opportunity for someone else.
Is there anything that you wish you would have told yourself at 22?
This might sound weird, but I don't know if I would have told myself anything. There are a million little things, like specific situations that were embarrassing that I wish I would have handled differently, but I don't know if there's one huge piece of advice that I would have told myself because those mistakes and lessons are what made me who I am today. Perhaps I would have told myself to start saving right after college but when I made the decision to move to New York, I knew I wouldn’t be saving much money. I truly feel what I was gaining in experience, I don’t think I could have gotten anywhere else. It was an amazing six and a half years and I am so grateful for that time. It made me who I am both personally and professionally because I did so much and met so many amazing people. While I wasn’t saving as much money as I could have if I were living somewhere else, I don't think I would have changed that because what I gained in experience, both personally and professionally, was so valuable. Luckily that didn’t last too long as I was able to start saving as I got older and moved along in my career. Ultimately I think my 22-year-old self would be happy with the way things turned out.
What do you like about being a young professional?
I love everything about it. I am in a really good place right now. I love that you finally feel confident in who you are and what you're doing. For me personally, I'm so excited to turn 30 because I feel like you start to become even more respected in the working world in your 30s. When you're in your young 20s, people are still thinking about how you just got out of college and that you’re still young and probably not as experienced. I don’t get that as much anymore. You start to view your work as a career and not just a job. After seven years you have a sense of what you’re doing and while there's of course still so much to learn, you begin to feel accomplished. Your friendships also mature and along with that so do the types of experiences, trips, and outings you’re able to take. You learn to better balance work and play and all the other responsibilities that come with growing up. I feel like this is such an exciting time. I just got married in April and that's been amazing because we were long distance for a few years, so it's been really nice to be together in the same city. I love exploring a new city, so it’s an exciting time in my life and I am trying to cherish and enjoy it. That being said, I’m still young and there is still so much more I want to explore and things I want to accomplish both personally and professionally.
Any last pieces of advice?
I do think the reason I got my first job was because of Furman. Randomly, the hiring director for the British Embassy happened to be a Furman grad, and one of the women who worked there was from Spartanburg, South Carolina, so she had heard of Furman. I think those two connections really got me the interview, and I think getting the interview really is half the battle. I mean, I like to think I interview well, but the Furman connection helped get me through the door. So connections really are important and especially as a young professional, being intentional about making those connections is key!
The YoPro Know's Takeaways:
- It is key to find a job where your passions, interests, and skillsets all overlap
- Sometimes a job will find you when you aren't even looking for one
- When it comes to your career, you have to do what's best for yourself and you have to take opportunities as they arise
- When you get into your 30s, you start to view your work as a career and not just a job
- Connections are so important, so be intentional about building those as a YoPro