What it's like to work at ESPN and tips for job seekers

by billy haubrich - associate director of advertising & marketing at espn
November 30, 2018

Billy Haubrich is the Associate Director of Advertising and Marketing Intelligence at ESPN in their New York City office. In his “spare time”, Billy also runs the internship program at ESPN. We sat down with Billy to ask him about his experience working at ESPN, advice for students looking to get into sports and where he sees the future of ESPN going. This is a two-part series, be on the lookout for part two!

Q: How did you get started at ESPN? And what has you role evolved into since you started?

A: My journey to ESPN started at a very early age. Growing up in the nineties, there were only a few ways to consume sports and ESPN was the mecca of sports media. Since I wanted to be involved with sports I knew ESPN would be the best company for me. I attended the University of Connecticut and that provided me with plenty of opportunities to connect with Bristol based employees. During my senior year, I participated in a year-long Internship with the PGA TOUR working with The Travelers Championship where I was able to interact with even more professionals. After graduation and the Internship, I was fortunate enough to receive a call from ESPN as one of my connections had passed along my resume. The next week I went in for an interview and have been with the company ever since. I might have got a "lucky break" to get my foot in the door, but hard work and preparation widen the chances of "lucky breaks" coming your way.

I started in the Commercial Operations department in which we scheduled and maintained the commercial logs for ESPN. After two years, I switched over to the Fan & Media Intelligence department where I have worked for the past eight years. Our responsibility within FMI is to act as an internal consulting firm for the rest of the company. We are here to answer questions regarding the media, marketplace, or ESPN consumers for both internal and external clients. As you can imagine, our analysis has drastically changed throughout my eight year tenure. Since media consumption has drastically changed, so have our analysis. It has always been our goal to serve sports fans anytime, anywhere, so we need to constantly understand what new platforms have emerged in order to serve sports fans. I would say the greatest change has come from the digital front. When I started at ESPN, a lot of the emphasis was placed on linear television. That has greatly changed as digital has grown to a significant and undeniable level. This is an exciting time to be in sports media because of the constant evolution of media, and I look forward to advances in technology that will bring around new platforms in which will enhance the delivery of our product to sports fans all over the world!

Q: You’ve since taken on the role of running the internship program for ESPN. How did that come about and what are your current responsibilities with the side job?

A: Yes, I volunteer to help run the ESPN Sales & Marketing Internship program, and have been involved with this initiative for five years. To me, employee satisfaction is directly correlated to their passion regarding their day-to-day tasks and responsibilities. While I’m greatly intrigued and interested with the many numbers we work with, I also have a passion to mentor and guide potential future leaders of this company. Therefore, getting involved with the Internship program was a perfect way for me to follow my passion. As a leader of the Internship program, it is my responsibility to make sure our Interns get the most out of the program and we get the most out of them. It is my responsibility to get our Interns a seat at the table, while it is the Interns’ responsibility to speak up and have their voices heard. We will grow as a company only if we learn from the next generation of sports fans who consume media differently and have experienced a variety of ways to watch sports. Therefore, my goal is to have the Interns meet with as many employees throughout the program as they can to get their voices heard on how we can better reach today's sports consumers.

Q: How many interns do you typically bring on each summer and what are they tasked with doing?

A: We are very fortunate the Internship program is considered one of the best in the country. Forbes ranked the ESPN program as one of its annual "Top 20 Most Prestigious Internships." Thanks to our reputation, we average nearly 10,000 applications each year. Unfortunately, we have very limited number of spots. In the Sales & Marketing division, we usually average between 15-25 Interns which makes this a highly competitive program. I don’t throw these numbers out to discourage future applicants, but instead as a challenge to those who have the drive and competitive spirit to fight those odds. The Sales & Marketing Summer Internship is a 10-week program in which students are placed across numerous departments within the division. They take on responsibilities similar to an entry level employee and work closely with a team. While they have their daily tasks and responsibilities, we also offer extra-curricular activities to help them to see ESPN outside of their niche and to assist them to develop personally and professionally outside of their daily roles.

Q: I’m sure interning at ESPN is a dream for most and you receive a ton of applicants. How do college students get their resumes to stand out in order for you to reach out to give them a call?

A: While I don’t handle recruitment of the Internship program, I have helped with staffing in years past so I do have some experience when it comes to the selection process. Yes, applying for this position is tough! I’ve seen a variety of styles of resumes and can say there is not a particular style that automatically sends your resume to the next round. Your resume is more about substance, but with a style that tells me who you are and why you would be good for this position. Resumes that work for me are ones that;

· Well-structured with the most relatable experience near the top

· Have ample examples of how their past internships and/or classes relate to this specific Internship

· Show how they have gone above and beyond when it comes to outside-of-the-classroom activities

· Come across as passionate about a specific area of interest and/or company (which can be articulated in a cover letter)

Your resume can open the door for you, but it is the first-round interview in which you make the all-important first impression. The most common reason why someone applies to ESPN is because they like sports. We hear that all the time. While that is great as many of us enjoy sports, candidates must realize that we are business first - built around the sports landscape. I’m truly more impressed with candidates who are not necessarily the biggest sports fans, but are interested in media and/or business. Another piece of advice for first round interviews is to come prepared. Know about the company. Understand the good and the not so good news that have been in the press the past year. Understand the business module. And don't be afraid to ask solid questions. That often leads to the most engaging conversation, which in return will make you memorable.

Q: Have the skill sets changed as far as what ESPN looks for in an intern vs. when you first started?

While some of the positions have become more technical in nature, I’d say the general skill set has remained relatively similar throughout my tenure. Again, we are searching for candidates who are going to help grow our business. Therefore, we’re looking for students who we are confident they can be valuable in a position with the anticipation that they are going to take full advantage of all the opportunities given to them and get the most out of the experience. As mentioned before, we will be providing these interns with a platform to voice their opinions and help educate our company and we need to make sure the talent we recruit will do so in a respectful manner. Because we recruit students with this skill set, they have contributed to our evolving program and that remains a priority to us.

Q: What’s the conversion rate on people getting jobs at ESPN post-internship? How do you weed out the sports fans from the people truly dedicated to working in the field?

A: Converting productive interns into employees is one of our goals as we see the value of retaining top talent. We’ve had great success in recent years of converting our talented Interns to positions they bring value to. While I’d selfishly like to bring back all the Interns, it’s just not feasible. Open positions are few and far between. Because of this, the most important part of the Internship program is to help each student gain experience across a variety of departments. Our program is not simply aimed at educating you in one specific part of our business, but instead to give you an overall and holistic look of what is available in this industry. Some students focus on one area of interest and may have no idea other fields of the business even exist. This tunnel vision limits their future opportunism. Some students put the blinders on thinking they know exactly what they want to do. But the future is not that easy. That opportunity might not exist when you become available or maybe, just maybe, there is something else out there for you. We want our interns to keep an open mind and be willing to take full advantage of all the opportunities given to you.

Obviously, some of our former interns have moved on to other locations, companies, and fields. We just hope they have taken their experience with our company and applied what they learned here in their current job. Most importantly, just because these past Interns may no longer be a part of ESPN doesn’t mean they aren’t still part of the program. Once you are in the program, you are part of a family and we root for and celebrate everyone’s success!