Professional Development Q&A With J.W. Cannon

This post is the ninth in a series of Q&A sessions with friends, former colleagues, acquaintances and other contacts who I consider both influential and inspirational. Each of these individuals possesses a skillset that I believe you will find valuable. They have each made an impact throughout my career path and I wanted to feature them in this series.

Part 1   Part 2   Part 3   Part 4   Part 5   Part 6   Part 7   Part 8

Name: J.W Cannon (@cannonjw)
Profession: Senior Project Lead, Sponsorships and Events at UPS
Degree: Kinesiology

I was introduced to J.W. through my good friend Chris Yandle. In fact, I think a trend is developing on these blogs as not only have I profiled Chris, but many of the other folks who have been gracious enough to be featured on here I have met via Chris. But, I digress.

J.W. was kind enough to speak with me a few times as I look for new career opportunities. He had excellent insight for me about his career path and things I should/could consider as I pursue my next opportunity. He was transparent and very helpful and I can’t thank him enough.

You’ll learn more about him below, but I highly suggest giving him a follow on Twitter. He’s funny, has some great #dadlife tweets and also is one of the creators of #sbchat, a weekly twitter chat discussing all things sports business. Just search #sbchat on Twitter. I hope you enjoy the following tidbits and advice from J.W. Cannon.

1) How does your current profession align with the degree you graduated with? If you have held other jobs, how closely have they been aligned?
My degree program and current profession are both tied to sports, but that’s where the comparison ends. Kinesiology (the science of human movement, for those that don’t know) programs largely serve to train informal and formal recreation/fitness professionals and physical education teachers/researchers. Quite a bit different from the business world.

2) What did you ‘plan to do’ after college and how close is that to what you’re doing at this point in your career? Were there any deviations along the way and did they help/hurt your path to your current job?
When I stopped playing sports in college, I needed something to fill that void, so I started working at the recreation center at James Madison. At the time, it was a brand new facility, and the organization was getting students more involved in NIRSA – the governing body for recreational sports. I got really involved, and thought that I would be taking a graduate assistant position somewhere, and going on to work at a university somewhere. Just before I graduated I decided to take an internship (required for graduation) with a global sports agency – at the time Advantage International, but is now known as Octagon. After that three months, I decided that the sports business world was more my calling. So I scrapped my original plans and started seeking jobs in that space instead.

3) What’s your best piece of advice for today’s entry-level candidates?
Learn to independently solve problems and do things for yourself. Resourcefulness is a trait that’s innate and almost impossible to teach, but so useful. That trait is something I lean on a little bit every day.

4) What do like the most about your profession?
Seeing the work that I do make so many people happy. In the beginning, all of the bright lights and big personalities of the sports business are easy to get swept up in. Over time, going to another game is just part of the job. But I never get tired of seeing the passion fans have for the work that we do. It keeps me going on a day-in, day-out basis.

5) What is the biggest challenge you face in your profession?
Convincing people that we are more than just banner hangers and ticket brokers. Yes, we deal with signage. Yes, we deal with tickets. Yes, we go to cool events. But sponsorship is a strategic marketing discipline just like every other part of the marketing mix.

6) How has your industry changed during your time as a professional?
Accountability has become a much bigger issue, especially given the price tags involved with sponsorship and media. Gone are the days of impressions based metrics or doing sponsorships because “the CEO likes X”. Those are replaced by more complex engagement metrics and ties to the bottom line of the company.

Design

7) Why do people leave your field or company? Do you agree with why they leave?
Most people leave the industry for greener pastures because they feel that their skills are not valued properly. It’s not the highest paying industry, you tend to work odds hours and upward movement is often dependent upon how willing you are to move somewhere else. Some people feel that they should be getting more for that effort. The challenge is that there’s a line of hungry people out the door that are willing to do that job that look just like you (or better than you) on paper. So the industry is a little resistant to change in that regard because they don’t have to. I can’t say I agree or disagree with anyone’s decision to leave the industry, though. That’s a personal decision.

8) Are you considering leaving your current filed or company?
No, I’m not considering leaving. But in this industry you always have to keep your eyes and ears open, otherwise you’ll miss opportunities.

9) What is your favorite social media platform?
Twitter (@cannonjw)

10) What was the last book you read? The last TED talk or other e-learning content you consumed?
Last Book: Chaos Monkeys by Antonio Garcia Martinez…fascinating look at the crazy Silicon Valley tech world
Last TED Talk: Tim Urban, Lessons from a Master Procrastinator

11) Where do you receive your news and information?
A. Print Newspaper – Never
B. Online Newspaper – All the time, largely through a series news feeds and aggregators (RSS, Flipboard, Nuzzel, etc)
C. Television – still quite often
D. Twitter – specialized and real time news
E. Facebook – personal only
F. Other – go through over 2K pieces of content per day using aggregators

12) What are your hobbies? Do you wish you had more time to pick up a hobby?
My 6-year old son and my family is my hobby. Whatever time I do have, I like to spend with them.

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