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What I learned in one semester of grad school, and why you should go back to school

If anyone considers going to grad school while working full-time, I wholeheartedly say go for it. As a working professional, you get used to a routine – 8am-5pm, for instance, or for those of us working in sports media production, something like 7pm-3am during baseball season.

Adding grad school to that mix forced me to adjust my expectations of what I was capable of doing. Suddenly, you have to find time for two or three extra projects due in two weeks for class when you’re losing 40-plus hours a week to your job that pays the bills. Initially, I thought, “Oh jeez, there’s no way I can hammer out all that” but I did it. You find a way to get the work done and not only finish it on-time, but do a good job on it because the inner desire to succeed is what powers you through.

The first things to get cut from my daily time budget were exercise and sleep. Instead of, lets’s day, running two or three times a week around visiting the gym a couple times too, I could run, at best, once a week. While I wasn’t quite completely sleep-deprived, I became reliant on naps on the uptown A or 1 trains while headed to class. Without much exercise besides walking around the city or Citibike rides, the naps kept me mentally fresh. Thanks to those 10-15 minute brain refreshers, I didn’t need to pound coffee all day and put more physical stress on myself.

You relearn how to work with people from every discipline and walk of life. My professional circle tends to include high-strung Type-A personalities (I would identify in that category as well) who are focused on time-sensitive deadlines. In stark contrast, my classmates this past semester were more creative and found unique solutions to project objectives through deliberate discussion. It wasn’t easy but I had to remember to be patient and understand different styles for winding up at a conclusion when testing out different ideas. With about half of the class made up of international students, I enjoyed meeting and working with people from across the globe. I gained a fresh perspective thanks to their relative lack of familiarity with American consumerism and advertising.

There’s an unbelievably strong satisfaction gained from a great finish to a semester. Without sounding too corny it really was a great reminder why setting goals and working towards them can help you rediscover your purpose. I feel I know far better now where my life is headed and what my professional strengths and weaknesses are than six months ago.

2014: Year in Review

2014 Year in Review

As I wrote on Facebook on New Year’s Eve, I’m not sure I’ve worked harder than I have in 2014, but the rewards have been sweet.

The year started out with my work life at a standstill. I was getting about 20 hours a week at MLB.com working as a producer/board operator for a 24/7 streaming radio show. With little experience in producing a live radio show, I had to learn on-the-go and eventually discovered the art of booking guests. Through the NFL playoffs, Super Bowl, and Winter Olympics in Sochi, we managed to bring on writers, columnists, broadcasters, and athletes for full coverage throughout each day.

While I found scheduling and listening to talk radio interviews enjoyable, I felt held back by the limited opportunities for producer creativity in a news/talk radio show. I knew the baseball season was just a few months away, but I began wondering what’s outside the sports media production world and started looking at full-time graduate school options. I knew I wanted to look in New York State’s affordable and well-respected State University of New York/City University of New York system for a program in marketing, communications, or business. After a few days of searching online, I found the City College of New York’s Branding & Integrated Communications program and registered for an open house in February. After attending it, I was convinced it would be the right program for me thanks to its portfolio-based workflow, night classes, and group projects. With nothing to lose, I applied.

Meanwhile, work was starting to pick up again. In late February, one of my former coworkers from my Giants days reached out to me asking if I was interested in a part-time digital production assistant position with the NHL. I of course said yes as I was in dire need of cash, and was brought in for an interview where I was offered the position. I was limited to 29 hours a week but I knew it would be a great opportunity to gain extra experience on the digital publishing side. Of course, with baseball around the corner, I would need to balance both jobs. The plan for the baseball season was to work from about 10am-4pm each day at NHL, go home for a quick nap, then head to MLB for the night – getting in anytime from 6pm to 9pm and eventually going home anytime from 2am-5am.

In March, I made my yearly trip to Kansas City for the Big 12 Men’s Basketball Championships, where I assisted with social media coverage. While there, I also had the opportunity to produce a shoot for MLB and Budweiser with Kansas City Royals broadcaster Rex Hudler. With assistance from a local production company, we had Hudler sit down in front of a green screen in his home’s memorabilia room and share his favorite memories of baseball’s Opening Day from his playing days. He could not have been more awesome to work with. Not only did he nail each line in just two or three takes, he shared some amazing stories and gave us a detailed tour of all the memorabilia he had collected from his years in Major League Baseball.

When I returned to New York in mid-March, the NHL’s stretch run was in full swing so I began training for what my position would entail. I learned how to swap out videos and thumbnails on the home page as well as acquire and share videos from the league’s teams to include with stories on the home page. With NHL Network’s studios in the building, I was responsible for attending each day’s production meeting and sending notes to the digital team for deliverables and features they might find useful.

Baseball’s Opening Day was frenetic. I started the day at NHL and left for the afternoon to begin training as a coordinating producer at MLB while helping with the other Opening Day craziness. While learning the ropes of a “CP”, I was helping troubleshoot the inevitable technical problems that always pop up on the first day of a big event. For the most part, the day went past without a hitch and baseball season was fully underway.

I spent the next three months working about 75 hours a week splitting time between NHL and MLB. It was physically and mentally exhausting but I treated it like a marathon, just trying to get to the finish line and do as good a job as possible for both in the meantime. In this stretch at MLB, I produced three no-hitters (Josh Beckett, Clayton Kershaw, and Tim Lincecum), drank about 1,200 Starbucks Venti Iced Coffees, and gained experience in just about every facet of the multimedia producer role at MLB.

Meanwhile, in mid-May, I received my decision letter from the BIC program at City College. I excitedly opened the electronic version while on lunch break at the NHL, and to my delight found I was accepted to the program. I immediately sent back the acceptance deposit and began the enrollment process.

I wrapped up my position at the NHL at the end of June and began to concentrate fully on MLB as well as mentally prepare for school to get underway in late August. Starting August 28th, my 3 night classes began. Until the end of the season, I would go in to work after class to help with the nightly work load during baseball’s stretch run. I actually found the schedule to be fairly advantageous as I would end up getting home from work around 5am, sleep to 11am-noon, then work on assignments or readings for school until about 4pm when I would get ready to go uptown for class. After class, I’d bolt to the subway and get in to work around 9:30pm, just in time to edit a West Coast game.

Oh, one more gig I forgot to mention – in July, my former supervisor at the New York Football Giants emailed to ask if I would be interested in helping out on gamedays at Metlife Stadium as the Red Zone Highlight editor. Of course, I said yes, and was now booked for each NYG home game where I would clip a handful of highlights from other games to show on the stadium’s videoboards. It took me a game or two to reacquaint myself with the demands of a real-time production environment but eventually I felt very comfortable with the workflow and happily will be back for next season. I was pleased with what we aired on the boards as I kept them relevant to what a Giants fan would want, making sure to show other games in the NFC East, as well as writing scripts for the PA announcer for live reads.

Come October, school and work were going full-steam and I was feeling confident about where my career and education were headed, but still faced some uncertainty about what might happen after baseball season. While working a dayside shift one day, my supervisor at MLB pulled me into an empty office and sat me down to talk. Thinking it was just an annual performance review for part-timers before the end of the playoffs, I wasn’t expecting anything surprising. But, to my great shock, he offered me a promotion to a full-time Multimedia Producer position, to which I accepted several hours later. Suddenly, my entire world view changed in essentially a heartbeat. My uncertainties about paying rent, health insurance, and whether I was worthwhile at all as a producer were washed away. Of course, I knew I still had plenty of things to improve on and that I would have significant challenges ahead balancing full-time school work and a full-time job, but I knew this is the prime time of my life to take it on.

With newfound stability, I was able to enjoy the work that came with the thrilling World Series between the Royals and Giants while not losing track of my school work. After the conclusion of the Fall Classic, my shift times became much easier and I began working dayside, going straight to class afterwards. This meant very long, mentally exhausting days, but I loved having a routine.

My 3 classes each culminated in massive end-of-semester group presentations. For my Research class, our group chose to study Hillshire Farms Lunch Meat and investigate potential opportunities for the brand as well as audience sentiments about the product. In my Idea Development class, our assignment was to develop a creative campaign with executions for the New York Water Taxi. And in my Strategy class, we created our own “agency” and chose to formulate a comprehensive integrated marketing campaign for Boxed Water is Better, a portable water company specializing in renewable sourcing for its packaging. I’m incredibly proud of the final results for each project and I’ll detail more about them, including what I learned from each in my next post, but for now, I can happily say I finished with straight A’s this semester.

So with class finishing for the semester in mid-December, I was left to enjoy wrapping up at work for the Holidays and enjoying some well-deserved time off for Christmas and New Years. 2014 may have been tough at the start for me, but I’m incredibly optimistic about what the future holds.

It’s been a while.

Wow. It’s been too long since I’ve written on here, but rest assured, I’m back. Life is exciting. After spending two seasons with the New York Football Giants and two seasons with MLB Advanced Media’s Gamenight staff, my professional work has been steady and improving. I’m now in graduate school in The City College of New York’s Branding & Integrated Communications program to help me get a leg up on advancing my career even further.

I’ll be posting some of my thoughts on branding, marketing, and the sports industry here as well, just as in past, the random thoughts I enjoy sharing.

Unscientific Unempirical Totally Ridiculous but Halfway Serious CFB Predictions: Pac-12

In 2009, I went through all the major BCS conferences and created some semi-amusing, totally off-base and (eventually) inaccurate predictions and bowl projections for the upcoming college football season. In 2010, I was working nonstop throughout the summer without a break and never had the chance to put together some predictions. So now that I have some free time on my hands, it’s time to do some predictions – here’s the Pac-12. I took about two weeks off since I was prepping for a few job interviews, and I woke up absurdly early this morning, so I figured I’d make up the time by putting up my Pac-12 predictions. (Continued)

Unscientific Unempirical Totally Ridiculous but Halfway Serious CFB Predictions: Big East

In 2009, I went through all the major BCS conferences and created some semi-amusing, totally off-base and (eventually) inaccurate predictions and bowl projections for the upcoming college football season. In 2010, I was working nonstop throughout the summer without a break and never had the chance to put together some predictions. So now that I have some free time on my hands, it’s time to do some predictions – here’s the Big East. (Continued)

Unscientific Unempirical Totally Ridiculous but Halfway Serious CFB Predictions: SEC

In 2009, I went through all the major BCS conferences and created some semi-amusing, totally off-base and (eventually) inaccurate predictions and bowl projections for the upcoming college football season. In 2010, I was working nonstop throughout the summer without a break and never had the chance to put together some predictions. So now that I have some free time on my hands, it’s time to do some predictions – here’s the SEC. (Continued)

Unscientific Unempirical Totally Ridiculous but Halfway Serious CFB Predictions: ACC

In 2009, I went through all the major BCS conferences and created some semi-amusing, totally off-base and (eventually) inaccurate predictions and bowl projections for the upcoming college football season. In 2010, I was working nonstop throughout the summer without a break and never had the chance to put together some predictions. So now that I have some free time on my hands, it’s time to do some predictions – here’s the ACC. (Continued)

Unscientific Unempirical Unscientific Unempirial Totally Ridiculous but Halfway Serious CFB Predictions: Big Ten Conference

In 2009, I went through all the major BCS conferences and created some semi-amusing, totally off-base and (eventually) inaccurate predictions and bowl projections for the upcoming college football season. In 2010, I was working nonstop throughout the summer without a break and never had the chance to put together some predictions. So now that I have some free time on my hands, it’s time to do some predictions – here’s the newly expanded Big Ten Conference and its Legends and Leaders “breakdown”.  (Continued)

My Unscientific Unempirial Totally Ridiculous But Halfway Serious 2011 College Football Predictions: Big 12 Conference

In 2009, I went through all the major BCS conferences and created some semi-amusing, totally off-base and (eventually) inaccurate predictions and bowl projections for the upcoming college football season. In 2010, I was working nonstop throughout the summer without a break and never had the chance to put together some predictions. So now that I have some free time on my hands, it’s time to do some predictions – and I’ll start with the conference I know best, the Big 12. (Continued)

Almost a year in Texas

I’ve been living here for almost a year now, and while it has been tough in some ways, I’ve also had a lot of fun and it’s been a good growing experience to be truly on my own in an unfamiliar city. Here are some of the highlights in my first year in the Lone Star State:

  • The weather. Yes, the temperature is usually higher than 90 degrees every day from May to October, but it’s predictable. You get into a rhythm – you just know every day it’s going to be hot and humid, and you try to minimize exposure to the heat by rushing from your air-conditioned apartment to your air-conditioned car to your air-conditioned office and back again in the afternoon. If you’re daring enough to spend time outside, or (gasp) exercise outside, you drink a ton of water and deal with it. It’s usually more refreshing to then come back into your air-conditioned box. The winter had a few chilly days, but overall wasn’t too bad. I enjoyed DFW’s reaction (or lack thereof) to several inches of snow and ice the week of the Super Bowl in February. By all accounts, it was a complete disaster. Roads weren’t plowed or salted, sidewalks had inches of ice on them, and Cowboys “Stagium” had ice fall off the roof and injure workers. But, hey, we had a few days off from work, so it was all good!
  • Sportsradio 1310 The Ticket: I can’t believe I hadn’t heard of this before living in DFW. This station is gold. The morning and afternoon drive time shows are fantastic. Between Gordon Keith’s famous impersonations, which range from Jerry Jones to Nolan Ryan and Billy Tubbs, to Mike Rhyner’s thick Texas drawl discussing the Texas Rangers or Dallas Mavericks, it’s incredibly entertaining and worthwhile sports radio. Beats the heck out of WFAN or any other ESPN radio affiliate I’ve ever listened to. If I don’t stay in DFW, I’ll make every effort to listen online or to podcasts because the stuff they talk about is awesome.
  • Shiner Beer and Blue Bell Ice Cream:  Terrific Texas-native products. Tasty beer, tasty ice cream.
  • Central Market: Wholefoods on steroids. From the free samples to world-class selection, this place rocks. Plus, the little restaurant areas inside each store sell some really unique and delicious meals.
  • Learning about the Texas-based Big 12 schools. Definitely picked up an appreciation for all of them.
  • Jim Knox: His antics during Rangers games and Big 12 football games are ridiculous, but hilarious. Seeing it on a fairly-regular basis is great.
  • DFW Jets Fans – highly amusing group of people, ton of fun to watch the Jets games with this past year.
  • Living within 15 minutes of two major airports – I’m almost equidistant to DFW and Dallas-Love Field. Both have their advantages and drawbacks, but regardless, if you need to leave DFW, it is easy. So nice to have that convenience after having to spend the last 4 years driving 2+ hours to get to a major airport.

I’m sure I’ll think of some more as I go to sleep tonight, but regardless, these are the first things that come to mind.