Alumni reflect on their first job out of Western
Jennifer Urbanski, BMOS’09
What was your first paying gig out of Western?
Co-ordinator, Sponsorship Sales for the National Basketball Association (NBA) Canada.
What helped you land the job?
I was a competitive snowboarder when I was at Western, and after third year I decided to put school on hold to move to Whistler, B.C., to represent Burton Snowboards on its amateur team. I sold everything I had and bought an $180 bus ticket out West. My parents were mortified when I left school, but I never doubted I would come back and finish my degree. My Dad was so relieved and proud when I graduated.
My boss at the NBA later told me the experience and knowledge I gained around the sponsorship industry helped me stand out. He also thought as a former sponsored athlete, I would have discipline and perseverance and that would transition well into a business role.
What did the job entail?
As coordinator of sponsorship sales and assistant to the general manager, I had a range of responsibilities – everything from building pitch presentations and attending meetings with senior marketing executives to securing NBA sponsorships and scheduling meetings.
What was your biggest takeaway from that first gig?
I loved the sponsorship-related tasks because they were cool and exciting, and what I felt I went to school for. I thought scheduling lunches for someone was a less important use of my time.
However, I realized later that managing my general manager’s schedule was actually one of the best opportunities I could have had early in my career. I was coordinating meetings with some of Canada’s most senior business executives, and without being in that position, I would never have met them. Most of these individuals are people others are really eager to get in front of, and throughout the last 10 years of my career, when I see presidents and vice-presidents of some of the largest brands in Canada at events or meetings, they remember me from the NBA and say “hello”.
I’ve also learned executive assistants are often the most trusted business confidantes to senior executives, and are involved in many important decisions. They’re often highly educated, intelligent people who do much more than manage schedules. I wish I’d been prouder of that role at the time and had held a different per-spective on the value of the opportunity.
Tell us about your current gig.
I’m the Senior Account Executive, North American Government, Canada Vertical Lead at LinkedIn. My team and I work with all of the government departments, ministries, crown corporations and international trade and investment teams across the country to educate them on how to effectively use LinkedIn as a platform to communicate with Canadians and international stakeholders about various government programs, funding, services, employment opportunities or why Canada is a great place to open their next international headquarters.
What advice would you offer recent graduates?
I would strongly encourage them to seek out networking events targeted at young professionals in the city they are in. When I moved to Toronto, I didn’t know anyone and those events helped me meet people, ramp up my network and learn about opportunities.
What is one thing you learned at Western that still serves you today?
One of the key principles I learned as part of a business group project was to spend a lot of time preparing your strategy and once it was set, to stick to it over time, rather than making too many changes in the short-term.
Government business at LinkedIn is a real-life application of this. Four years ago when I set a 12-18 month strategy to build this portfolio, it wasn’t an established business vertical in Canada. After six months, when things weren’t going exactly as I hoped, I wanted to pivot, and focus on something new. I needed to remember I was only six months into it, and to stay the course. Almost to the day, 12 months later, we significantly passed our goals and now government business is one of the strongest verticals globally.
My entire career would have been different if I had changed my strategy too early. It was the same at West-ern. Groups that changed strategy too early and too often had weaker results and the groups that stuck to their core strategy throughout the whole semester and made only small changes had better results. When I’m hav-ing a hard quarter, I think of that planning process and that if we just stay the course with our strategy, we’ll succeed in the long-term.
This article appeared in the Fall 2019 edition of Alumni Gazette