How I Landed My Dream Job in Sports: One-on-One with Monique Lewis

By Mia Hall
blog.miahall.net
@Mia_HallDaily
 
 
 

“If you really want to work for a sports organization, get as broad based a business education as you possibly can. Finance, accounting, sales, more sales, even more sales, management, etc.” – Mark Cuban, Dallas Mavericks

From the stories of several panelists at the Ivy Sports Symposium, to a number of different people I have spoken to at the NBA, NFL, ESPN, Under Armour, Adidas, Reebok and more through my array of informational interviews over the past few years, many sports professionals credit their progress to experience in sales or at a small agency in their particular area. At a turning point in her career, Monique Lewis took the advice to gain sales experience to take her career to the next level, and it worked.

Entrepreneur, mentor, athlete, and killer Sales executive, Monique Lewis has a vastly diverse background in sports. Clearly au fait in the areas of Marketing, Event Management, Sales, and Coaching Monique has landed the highly coveted Director’s position at one of the top sports and entertainment franchises, based in our Nation’s capital.

monique

The Smiles Report had the opportunity to catch up with Monique the day after New Year’s:

When did you know you wanted to pursue a career in sports? How did you get started?

From the time I was in high school, I knew I wanted to get a graduate degree in Sports Administration. After high school I went to Coppin State University on a Division I basketball scholarship. During each summer, I has an internship with The Bickerstaff Group, founded by Cydni Bickerstaff (Hampton University Alumna). She invited me back each year because she knew I worked hard and got the job done. She has since expanded her company and hires several students from the local schools such as Howard, George Mason, and Morgan State.

I went to Georgia State to pursue my Master’s in Sport Administration. I learned great deal from the classes I took, still have most of the books, and continue to use what the knowledge I gained in the classroom in my field.

 

Why did you leave the program?

I was coaching part-time with the Atlanta Hawks and I had gone up for a promotion to a Manager’s position. When I didn’t get it, I asked the Director “What do I need to do to take on a position like this?” She told me that I had a lot of sports jobs, but I did not have sales experience. That floored me. I never heard that before. Once she said that I started to apply for jobs in sales.

I found out that Georgia Tech was looking for help with their ticket sales and discovered they became The Aspire Group’s first client. I went to my former manager at Georgia Tech to recommend me for a sales position with the Aspire Group, which is now a global sports marketing company. After a great recommendation and a few conversations with the company, I received my first position in sales.

Why did you choose to go back to Washington, DC?

One of my colleagues from Georgia Tech was promoted to become the Manager for a new Aspire property – University of Maryland Athletics. He called me and asked if I wanted to transition from Georgia Tech to the University of Maryland. Since things had not been working out the way I thought they would in Georgia, and I was on track to Aspire’s two-year growth to management period, I took the opportunity.

How did you get the job at Monumental Sports and Entertainment?

I started conducting interviews for the Aspire Group at the University of Maryland. I met with one gentleman that did a great job, but my manager didn’t want to offer him a position. After I made my case for why he was a good match, my manager expressed that the skills he was missing, they could not train, and suggested I take him on as a mentee.

Since I could not offer him the job, I took on the mentor role and put in a personal reference for him on a position I felt he was more qualified for. I saw a job with Camps and Clinics at the Wizards so I called a woman I knew there and told her she should interview my mentee. She called me back and said “It’s funny you called today because I had you on my mind to call this afternoon.”

The person that I reached out to was the Director of Youth Basketball Sales. I met her through LinkedIn a year and a half ago. I called her once I got back in the area and we met up once at event in October. That was the first time I saw her face to face.

When she called me, she said that she was moving to another Director’s position on the Mystics side and they told her to put together a list of people that can take on her position and that I was at the top of her list.

I came in and met with the Senior Director and Vice President and we had more of a conversation then an interview. I know my resume spoke for itself.

monumental sports

Are you happy with your new position?

I couldn’t believe it. I was on the track to manager at Aspire, 144% over my goal, doing well, “killing it,” and here I speaking to the Wizards about a Directors position.

Not only was it very similar to the position I had applied for while I was with the Hawks, it was also a perfect fit. When you get into sales you go the season tickets route or groups. I’ve had a lot of success with both but I really enjoyed working with groups.

I even set a couple of records with Aspire. I grew up in DC and had a knack for networking with people and building those types of relationships.

How do you believe Sales has helped you grow as a sport industry professional?

I hear more and more how Sales is the entry-level point to getting started in sports but now I can really see how it helps. As a businessperson, you have to be able to motivate yourself, work within a team and work independently—that’s what Sales teaches you.

At Georgia Tech we didn’t have window in our office. I could just remember “dialing and smiling.” It’s a battle within you to stay motivated and keep calling. You learn resilience and how to stay ahead of the competition. It is very similar to being an athlete.

What advice do you have for someone trying to make their way up the ranks in sports?

Don’t put so much pressure on yourself; honestly evaluate your strengths and weaknesses.

As much as people said oh you’re doing all of these things, I wouldn’t have been able to get this position if I didn’t have all of that experience. Stay focused and don’t get discouraged. Never give up.

 

miaAbout the Author
Mia Hall is a sports and entertainment reporter specializing in the business of sport. She has worked with organizations such as the NBA, NY Knicks, Black Enterprise, The Basketball Channel, The High School of Sports Management, and is currently with the new Barclay’s Center. She is passionate about the youth of today and committed to nonprofits such as PowerPlay NYC, Inc. and other youth empowering organizations.