Alumni Spotlight: Chirag Agrawal – Optiver

Chirag Agrawal

Featured: Derivatives Trading, Quantitative Finance, NBA Analytics

Chirag Agrawal graduated with four degrees in 2016. He somehow managed to quadruple major in Business Honors, Mathematics, Electrical Engineering and Economics – a feat not generally recommended by BHP advisors! Needless to say, we all wondered where our resident genius would choose to go after graduation, and how he would tie these majors together. Chirag interned at Optiver in Chicago, and loved it so much he decided to return after graduation. He has indeed been able to use all the skills he gained from these majors in his position trading options at Optiver.

How would you describe what Optiver does?

Optiver is primarily an options market-making firm. This means we are always showing prices at which we are willing to buy or sell options. It’s analogous to a grocery store; when somebody wants to buy food, they go to a grocery store because it will always have food in stock, the food will be of a safe quality, and the prices will be fair. Optiver plays the same role as a grocery store, except it is willing to take both sides (buying and selling). Optiver makes markets in options on almost anything (e.g. S&P Index, Oil, Corn). Options are a type of financial derivative, and the work that goes into their pricing is typically fairly quantitative.

What is it about derivatives trading that hooked you and made you want to pursue it as a career?

In college, my three main interests were statistics, finance, and programming. Derivatives trading offers a perfect combination of the three. Optiver makes hundreds of thousands of trades a day, and on each trade we make a prediction for the amount of money we’ll make and the amount of risk we take. Statistics is used to try quantifying exactly how much money and how much risk comes with each trade. Finance is used to interpret news in the market and incorporate the information into our prices. And programming is used to automate part of our trading and make more precise decisions. Not every trader uses all the skills on a daily basis, but I came in with both an academic background and an interest in each field. So I get to use all three almost equally every day.

What is a typical day like for you as a trader?

My day starts at around 7:30 am, and I spend the first hour communicating with other traders on my desk about what we want to do with our position, what our main risks are, and what we expect during the day. I trade S&P options, so the main trading hours are from 8:30 am to 3:15 pm. During these trading hours, I make trades and adjust prices based on news that comes out and activity in the market. Two years ago, this process was significantly more manual. With an increased emphasis on automation, less trading labor is needed during the day to manage the position. So I get to spend some of the time working on projects whenever the market is slow. An example of my most involved project was projecting moves and volatility around the US Presidential Election. After 3:15, I continue project work, and I recap the trading day with my teammates on my desk.

Why do you think most BHP students don’t either know about, or choose to purse derivatives trading very often?

I think both sides are relatively unfamiliar with each other. As a student in BHP, I didn’t know any alumni in the industry, and I never heard of older students recruiting for trading jobs the same way I heard of students recruiting for investment banking or management consulting. On the other side, most trading firms primarily recruit from schools like MIT, Cal-Tech, Harvard, Yale, or Princeton. The industry is quite small, so they haven’t quite explored all the potential candidates yet.

However, I think the industry is shifting. When I first interned at Optiver, I felt as prepared (if not more) for the internship as the other students from top schools around the country. Since then, Optiver has hired three other UT students for the full-time Trading role, and we’re now one of the most represented schools on Optiver’s trading floor. I think many BHP students are interested in quantitative finance, so I hope to see more BHP students explore derivatives trading over the next few years.

You had four majors in college. Are you using skills you gained from all of them in this role?

I get the opportunity to use skills from each major on the job, particularly from my Math and BHP majors. In Math, I took several probability and linear algebra courses which taught me skills I can use when making trading decisions. In BHP, I took finance courses which taught me the basics of financial markets and relationships between different macroeconomic products. One course in particular that stood out was Professor Kumar’s Optimization Methods in Finance which blended financial concepts with programming.

Along with the classroom, my extracurricular activities and work experience were particularly helpful. I was very active in the Undergraduate Computational Finance Group, and the projects done in that org were excellent practice for projects done here at Optiver. I also worked part-time at Integra during the school year, and this gave me experience doing project work, but in a more professional setting.

As a new(ish) grad, what has been the biggest challenge to for you in moving on from college life?

The biggest challenge by far is dealing with the cold weather. As expected, Houston and Austin did not prepare me well for winter in Chicago. After that, meeting people in a new city has been a bit of a challenge. Going from college where you’re surrounded by all your friends to a new city is quite a transition. Fortunately, Chicago is a friendly city, and there are a lot of social activities available.

Within work, the biggest change is everything is done in a team-setting. BHP classes did a great job of emphasizing teamwork or having group assignments which resemble work done in the real world, but the rest of my classes didn’t. Communication and teamwork skills that were underappreciated in college are now proving to be very important.

Anything else you would like to add, or advice you would like to share with current students?

My main advice is to pursue side interests or hobbies outside the classroom. For example, I enjoyed working with basketball statistics in college, and I actually developed useful statistical and programming skills through this hobby. I even started writing for an NBA analytics blog recently. Side interests don’t have to become a primary source of income to be useful. They keep you entertained, improve your skills, and could potentially become a career.

Alumni Spotlight – Jennie Baik, CEO and Co-founder of Orchard Mile

Jennie Baik

Featured: Retail Strategy, Entrepreneurship, Big Data, E-commerce

Jennie Baik, BHP 2001, is CEO and Co-founder of Orchard Mile, an online marketplace for collections from top designers. She previously held positions in strategy for Omnicom and Burberry.  We recently had the chance to visit with Jennie to learn more about Orchard Mile.

You weren’t always in retail. You started out in consulting, and then at Omnicom. Why did you make the transition to retail?

It’s funny – my career is a bit of a surprise to me – but I wouldn’t have changed a thing thus far.

After graduating from UT, I attended Harvard Business School to earn my MBA. Post graduation, many of my classmates went into traditional business jobs with banking and consulting, but I was intrigued by digital, which is why I took a different path and took a position at Omnicom. While I was there, I started in marketing, branding and traditional advertising, and then progressed into a company within Omnicom focused on digital data analytics related to marketing. Around that time, the head of HR at Burberry reached out to me. I hadn’t planned on working in fashion, but Burberry was so persistent that I went and met with them. I fell in love with the team and could tell that their leadership, under Angela Ahrendts (who is now SVP of Retail for Apple), was so strong that I felt compelled to go there. I ran their Americas strategy team for two years which was incredibly interesting and rewarding. In that position, I focused on the strategy, research and digital models, and I became really interested in the idea of digital market places, which is what led me to Orchard Mile.

While my career has focused on different areas, all the roles that I’ve held to date have helped me in thinking about and working to solve problems.  Whether it was a firm understanding of how financial statements work at an investment bank, or how brands are approaching digital marketing in advertising or at a luxury brand, all of these experiences in problem-solving and strategic thinking have helped in having a holistic view of how to build a great product and company at Orchard Mile.

How did the idea for Orchard Mile come about?

What is surprising about entrepreneurship is no one really has a completely original idea. There are always multiple people thinking about how to solve a problem. It was very serendipitous when I met my co-founders – all of us had an interest in e-commerce, thought about the future of e-commerce in different ways, and brought unique skill sets to the table.

One important note to keep in mind when launching a company is that co-founders should not all look like each other. Rather, you should compliment each other with different skill sets. My career has been somewhat random, but all of the skill sets I honed in those roles have been useful to me in this role. I use my financial modeling, digital marketing, brand client management, structured thinking and problem solving skills every day here. I also learned at Harvard how to get your point across in 90 seconds, which has certainly been helpful.

With all of the online shopping options out there, what is it about Orchard Mile that is unique and attractive to shoppers?

We approach e-commerce differently. I don’t think e-commerce shopping is easy – it takes a lot of time to filter preferences. In market places, one of the most difficult issues to solve is the paradox of choice. You have an endless aisle online, which makes it difficult to find the right one for you. The idea of creating a platform that was an endless aisle, but could pivot to your personal preferences, was something I was obsessed with it. Essentially, if you were able to build a shopping street just for you, what would that look like? The idea of a site knowing you well enough so that you wouldn’t have to filter ever again is the holy grail of what Orchard Mile is trying to deliver.

Tell me more about My Mile and how that will change the shopping experience.

We launched My Mile two months ago, which creates a customized shopping experience with our customers. The feature allows our customers to pick their favorite designers, but also their favorite categories within those designers. Consumers can input these preferences on a brand-by-brand basis and it will remember their size. It is a constantly updated stream of your personal preferences, and those preferences are saved, which is something that others aren’t doing.

With My Mile we had a hunch that this could solve the paradox of choice, but we didn’t know how consumers would react to it. It wasn’t until we put it out to consumers that we really knew we had a sticky product. The conversion on people who use My Mile is 5x what the regular Orchard Mile customer conversion is, and time on site is about 10x for My Mile. It also crosses the language borders, and we are seeing high adoption in other countries.

What roadblocks did you face starting the company?

With any company, you need to be more committed and brave than you have ever been in the past. In the beginning, it is very hard to convince anyone to invest in you. All of the people on Orchard Mile’s team pursued us. They chased us until we found a position for them. We hire passionate people. What is unusual about our technology is that we are able to clone the brand sites and bring them onto our platform, so it feels a lot like a digital shopping spree. The site is constantly updating in real time, and is all synthesized in one place. The platform took us a year to make, which involved raising money from what was basically just a slide deck in the beginning. While we were building that platform, we were also pounding the pavement, trying to get the top brands to sign on. It is hard for the brands to take a chance on a platform with no digital footprint and no traffic. It was a difficult process, but eventually we got 30 of the best-in-class brands signed on for our launch. Attracting consumers is also hard. You have to raise a lot of money to do consumer marketing in the right way. Our platform is aimed at a cart size of more than $300, so that requires some sophisticated marketing. Site traffic is now growing 20% month over month and 20% of our traffic comes from international countries, even though we don’t do any marketing there. The blogging community has taken to Orchard Mile, and there are lots of powerful foreign bloggers that have written about us, which has really spread our brand.

What about being an entrepreneur has been unexpected for you, and what have you felt completely prepared for in the process of starting and growing a company?

At an early-stage startup, every day has highs and lows, and it can be really exhausting. There is a lot going on at every moment. It is important to communicate to your team that we all need to be at our best every day. Motivation comes from setting an example, and Angela Ahrendts was a big inspiration to me because of her work ethic. Millennials want to see someone who is doing what they say they should do. It is about learning from action and not words. Values, while they seem soft, are more important than most startup founders think. To set those values and live by those is one of the biggest challenges. You need to create a culture which is respectful, and in which people can grow. In terms of performance reviews here, 80% of someone’s evaluation is how great they are at their function, but 20% is about how much they are helping others on their team, and on other teams. We work cross-functionally here, which builds empathy and respect. I believe this is one of the reasons we have built such a strong culture. One of the things we also do is try to lead with women of color in our campaigns. If we are given a set of photographs from a brand, we try to choose the more diverse models to highlight on our site and in our social media.

Looking back at your time in BHP, is there anything you wish you had known, or wish you had done differently?

There are so many opportunities and resources at UT. I wish I had taken some other types of classes. I also lost touch with many of my classmates, and I wish I had kept in touch better with them. BHP was an incredible baseline of knowledge. The students are top students, and I probably could have learned even more from my peers.

Alumni Spotlight: Rakesh Apte – Investment Director at the Global Innovation Fund

Rakesh Apte

Majors: BHP, Economics

Featured: Impact Investing, Entrepreneurship, Working Abroad, Emerging Markets

Rakesh Apte, BHP 2007, is an Investment Director at the Global Innovation Fund, which invests in social innovations that aim to improve the lives and opportunities of millions of people in the developing world. Rakesh has also worked as an investment manager for Eleos, a business development manager for H2O Venture Partners and a strategy manager for Microsoft.

Take me through your career so far.

While finishing up college, I thought I wanted to work in quantitative finance. I went to work for D.E. Shaw, a hedge fund in New York doing quantitative finance, but found that I was more interested in the fundamentals of business and technology. I made a shift and joined Microsoft. I worked there for several years in corporate strategy, finance, and M&A across various product groups including the cloud computing group and the Windows group. Our team was tasked with analyzing trends in the industry, identifying disruptive technologies, and evaluating Microsoft’s ability to compete with new technologies.

During my time at Microsoft, I took a post in Turkey, Microsoft’s Middle East & Africa headquarters. That was my introduction to technology and business in emerging markets.  After 4.5 years at Microsoft, I decided to transition my career to technology startups and venture capital investing. I decided to do a MBA at Berkeley’s Haas School of Business to learn how to integrate the core business skills I developed at Microsoft into the progressive work of impact investing. During my time at Haas, I worked at a venture fund focused on commercializing technologies and supporting new startups in emerging markets. After that experience, I worked for a few years with another fund – Eleos – based in California. Eleos is a pioneering for-profit social venture fund that invested in several companies in India, Africa and Latin America. When I moved to Washington D.C. to support my wife’s career, I joined the Global Innovation Fund where I have spent the last few years investing up to $15 million per investment in Seed to Series C stage companies.

What are the challenges of investing in startups in emerging markets?

The venture capital industry is about successful exits. As an industry, we have yet to see whether investing in impactful startups in emerging markets will lead to successful exits. These are tough business environments which make it challenging to apply the same venture capital template we have in Silicon Valley to impact investing. We are starting to see success through interest from first-world commercial entities. They see the opportunity to make money while contributing to the social good. The amount of interest and money that has been invested in these startups is a positive indication, but we are waiting for these companies to mature and become successful acquisition opportunities or even publicly traded companies.  We have seen a few successful exits from double-bottom line companies here in the US such as Coca-Cola’s acquisition of Odwalla, Unilever’s acquisition of Ben & Jerry’s, or Clorox’s acquisition of Burt’s Bees   However, one of the inherent differences between startups in emerging markets and those in the United States is that companies may achieve high volume but not the profit margins that are expected from traditional institutions.  This is exactly the setback that one of Eleos’ earlier portfolio companies in India faced when it started to scale.  They were providing services to over 500k customers a day and were profitable, but private equity players were not excited about the economic upside of the business given its lower profit margins.  Overall, the industry’s long-term goals are to achieve large-scale impact while delivering risk-adjusted financial returns for investors. Success for the Global Innovation Fund would be a portfolio of companies which have scaled to millions, provided liquidity to investors, and continue to deliver impact that is inextricably linked to the core business.

What is an example of positive change you have seen from investments your funds have made?

Two examples come to mind.  One example we invested in while I was at Eleos is a company in the edtech sector called Eneza Education that is making affordable education available to those who have limited access to it.  They have an innovative digital platform that is providing interactive study content to millions of customers across Africa.  Their mobile phone based solution is particularly powerful for students outside of major cities who attend significantly under-resourced schools and have low national exam passage rates.

Another example is a company called SafeBoda based in Kampala, Uganda.  This is one of the investments I am most proud of because the company is solving an important safety problem, one that directly affected my close childhood friend.  Back in 2010, my friend was tragically killed in a motorcycle accident in Kampala.  In Kampala, and in some other major cities in emerging markets, it is common to take motorcycles as taxis.  SafeBoda is disrupting the status quo of unsafe, helmetless driving by allowing people to use an uber-like app to call a safe motorcycle taxi driver – one that has received special training and is required to provide helmets for riders.  Now riders in Kampala are taking thousands of safe rides per day while setting a new standard for drivers in Kampala with the hope that this model can scale up quickly to other cities with similar road traffic issues.

What are you responsible for in your role as Investment Director at the Global Innovation Fund?

We are a geography agnostic investment fund that has invested in startups working across sectors including in clean energy, fintech, agriculture, and smart cities.  In my role, I seek out cutting-edge private sector startups that have a clear plan for delivering financial and impact returns and have a strong team to get to scale.  I assess the market opportunity and risk through rigorous due-diligence which includes an onsite visit to the company’s headquarters.  Most recently, I was in Nigeria evaluating a later-stage fintech company that is looking to help Nigeria evolve from a fully cash-dominated society to one that uses digital payments and digital financial services.  I am also responsible for structing investments and adding value after the investment is made.  This includes sitting on Boards, providing advice on growth planning, and mentorship.  As an early employee of the Global Innovation Fund, I contributed to setting up the investment process and thesis development.

You have travelled extensively throughout your career. What have you enjoyed most about that and how do you think seeing the world and other cultures has affected your work and you personally?

Traveling around the world and experiencing various cultures first-hand is life-changing.  There are a number of differences across countries in what the general population has access to in terms of resources and opportunities. Professionally, this has made me a smarter investor, as I am better able to understand what the real needs and challenges are in these countries. Personally, I have enjoyed meeting people from various backgrounds and forming life-long friendships.

For students interested in impact investing, what advice would you give them and what would you tell them about where you think the industry is headed in the future?

Don’t be discouraged if you aren’t able to immediately get into the industry full-time. There is value in cutting your teeth in more traditional business roles such as in finance or management consulting. You need to spend time developing core skills, which will allow you to provide value to the industry. Impact investing is still evolving and is competitive to break in to full-time. However, if you have a diversity of experiences in areas such as investing, working with startups, and travel, you can leverage these skills to join an impact investing fund.  Showing genuine interest in the sector through pro-bono projects can also help.  It is important to remember that impact investing is not just international facing.  There are domestic funds investing in local startups solving issues such as in healthcare or education. Finally, keep in mind that there isn’t one specific set of experiences you need to get into impact investing.  The opportunities in the sector are growing quickly so keep learning about the various types of funds and startups.

Alumni Spotlight: Krystel Baeza, Class of 2007 – Strategy Director for Wunderman

Krystel Baeza, BHP 2007, is a Strategy Director for Wunderman based in London. Wunderman is a leading digital agency with 175 offices in 60 countries. Prior to her time at Wunderman, she completed a three-year rotational fellowship with WPP, the world’s largest marketing services company, where she worked with numerous brands including Volkswagen, Hasbro, Nestle, Cannon and Heineken. Krystel is also involved in the Texas Exes UK Chapter, helping to bring Longhorns living in London together.

The WPP MBA Fellowship allowed you to explore various roles and work with different clients. Tell me about that program and about what you learned from it.

There are two WPP programs, the MBA Fellowship and the Graduate Fellowship, which is for people who are fresh out of college or have other master’s degrees, but not an MBA like mine. I went to Carnegie Mellon to get an MBA to help me transition from agency-side to client-side, but I ended up realizing I still preferred agency work. When I returned to school after an internship, I talked to my advisor about my career options, and she told me about the WPP MBA Fellowship.

The MBA fellowship is very competitive. Hundreds apply each year, but only 5 people from all over the world are selected. The program is three years long with three one-year rotations within the different companies WPP owns worldwide. It is a very large company, so I had the opportunity to find the path that was right for me. I found that the consumer was my passion, so I felt a career in strategy was the best fit. The first year, you get a spreadsheet with all the roles they have worldwide. You are able to pick the roles which interest you, and interview directly with the CEOs, or other leaders of those companies.

The first year, I chose a year at Grey New York, working in strategy for the Hasbro account. I then moved to London to do a media and consumer insights rotation at Mediacom with the Volkswagen account. The last year I did digital strategy at POSSIBLE London for a luxury chocolate company owned by Nestle, called Cailler. At the end of the program, I knew I wanted to stay in London and work in digital strategy so I ended up working at Wunderman UK for a software client, Dassault Systemes.

The years I spent in the fellowship helped me figure out my true passion, which was consumer insights. The program also helped me learn to adapt to different cultures. You go in at a pretty senior level for each rotation, so you learn very quickly because you have a whole team relying on you. As soon as you learn to do one role, it is time to interview again and switch gears. It makes you realize that you can do anything, you just have to have a team willing to let you learn, try and fail.

What made you stand out among all the hundreds of applicants vying for a spot in the fellowship?

I had to write seven to eight essays for the application, some of which were personal, so I was able to tell my story. I made it to the interview round, where you interview with multiple CEOs. One CEO focused entirely on one of my essays about an obstacle I had faced.  In that essay, I had written about how I came to the U.S. from Venezuela at 13, not knowing any English. As an immigrant family trying to build a new life in America, we didn’t have the money for me to go to college, but my mom made it clear that I needed to go, so I had to figure out a way to pay for it on my own. I worked hard to become the valedictorian of my high school so I could get a full scholarship for school. I ended up getting a full scholarship to UT. It was a huge accomplishment for me, and the CEO recognized that I had been able to achieve that, and was very impressed by it.

You have worked with numerous brands in different capacities throughout your career, but the common theme seems to be brand strategy and customer insight. How do you successfully use customer insight to drive brand strategy?

For me, the key thing about being a strategist is that in a room filled with creatives, project managers, producers and account services, you are the true voice of the consumer. Everything I do is rooted in the consumer insights. You have to be able to discover the undeniable human truth and lead with that. I ask questions like, how are they consuming content, what are they reading, how can I convert someone past just awareness. I have to make sure that every meeting I go to, despite all other objectives, if my feedback isn’t rooted in consumer insights and my gut feel, we can’t move forward. For Wunderman, it begins with strategy and ends with strategy. Consumer insights isn’t an afterthought, which I appreciate. Our motto after all is “creatively driven, data inspired”.

Was there a campaign you worked on which you think did this really well?

Last year I worked on Cailler, which is a mainstream brand in Switzerland similar to Hershey’s in America. The company wanted to turn it into a luxury brand, like Godiva outside of the U.S. They decided to change the packaging and launch it on Amazon, which is pretty much the worst place to launch a chocolate. Chocolate is very tactile, and when you’re charging $35 per box, it is difficult to sell online. Cailler was pretty successful in Switzerland, but no one had heard of it in the U.S. They had issues with delivery not going well, including the chocolate melting during the shipping. We knew they needed a do-over. I used secondary research to determine who was their target audience, then asked if we could do a primary research study to validate the audience and get further insights. I partnered with a research agency, and did focus groups in Austin, New York and the West Coast. I validated insights and found new ones which drove the strategy and were the base of all of our creative work.

What do you think has changed in brand strategy since you started and where do you see this work headed with the proliferation of platforms competing for attention in the digital age?

There are a lot of new formats. In one day you might be competing in one format and the next, that format is obsolete. The rise of Snapchat is an example of that. Tons of brand jumped at the opportunity of using Snapchat as part of their marketing mix and quickly realized that it didn’t fit in with their consumer strategy. Marketers have to learn all these different platforms very quickly. You’re always finding yourself reading tech trends to see what the new social app of the moment is. It’s no secret that digital is going to pave the road for the future. There is a move towards content. Brands are starting to behave more and more like a publisher, and moving from doing ads to doing more thought leadership pieces which are more valuable for consumers, especially in the B2B market. That is where I see it moving. Being a thought leader really increases brand image. Think EY – it’s no longer a financial services company, it’s a financial thought leader helping people ask better questions for a better working world. I am seeing a trend of ad agencies looking more like consulting companies, offering digital transformation consulting services, and hiring management consultants to lead such projects. This means that as we move forward, we not only have to worry about other ad agencies taking our clients but we also have to worry about companies like PWC and Deloitte wanting a piece of the pie.

You have been working in London for three years now. What do you enjoy most about working abroad?

I love that I am able to leave work at 5:30. When I worked in New York, I was working until 10 pm most days and 2 am some days. I couldn’t make plans with friends or family. In London the mentality is different. If I wanted to take a vacation when I was in the U.S., I had to ask permission from at least five people for it to be approved. In London, when I want to take vacation, I don’t need to ask for permission, I just inform my team I’ll be out and they’ll figure it out. People respect your family time there much more than here. There isn’t a feeling like you can’t leave work whenever you want. As long as you get your work done, you can leave. We also get a lot more vacation days there – 27! You can have a much better work/life balance. I see my family more now living abroad than I did when I was living in New York!

For students studying abroad or hoping to work abroad after graduation, what would you tell them?

In general, be resilient. It is possible to have an internship abroad and work abroad. People love Americans, and love the education system here. Coming from BHP, you will have opportunities. Also, things change. You might have a plan, but life hits you. It is okay to do something different than your peers. I was the only one in my class to pursue advertising and I always felt different, like the odd sheep, but it’s super important to not compare yourself to your peers. You are your own person, you’re following different dreams. It is okay to be the odd person out and follow what you really want. Just keep at it and you will get there.

Alumni Spotlight: Brittany Johnson – Digital and Social Advertising Manager, NFL

Brittany Johnson, BHP 2012, is the Digital and Social Advertising Manager for the National Football League, where she develops marketing content for digital platforms and works alongside creative agencies developing advertising campaigns. Prior to working for the NFL, Johnson interned with ESPN, and was a producer for Publicis and Grey Group. She is based out of New York City.

What kind of content are you producing in your role with the NFL? What are the strategic goals of this content?

I’m part of our advertising team, which is part of our marketing department. I focus on our digital and social content but also have crossover in TV and print. Our team reports to the SVP of Marketing, Creative and Branding, who answers to our CMO, so all our work is pretty high-profile and highly scrutinized. As far as number of campaigns, we have multiple initiatives going on throughout the calendar year including youth, brand, community relations and our product campaigns, like apparel brands or game ticketing. The content we produce varies depending on our demo and the marketing goal, but I would say generally we’re producing video content ranging in length from Snapchats to long-form YouTube episodes.

We work closely with all 32 NFL teams on our various League initiatives and we’re often featuring their players or team events. As a result, I travel to a lot of their markets to capture content with their staff and players, especially over the summer leading up to the season but also in season. Most of what we produce lives on TV, YouTube and our NFL social media channels.

Walk me through the process of rolling out a new campaign.

Our internal team briefs in our creative and media agencies on specific campaign initiatives. Our creative agency develops creative concepts and the media agency finds the right platform(s) based on our targeted fan demographic. There’s a lot of collaboration between the two agencies and I work to manage that relationship to make sure everything is going smoothly. From there, I’m connecting with our different internal teams to confirm approvals on the concepts. Once our creative concepts, scripts, etc are approved, we move into production mode. Productions vary in scale ranging from a small and nimble camera crew of say three people all the way up to a large-scale production with 200 plus individuals contributing in various roles. Our shooting locations vary from team training facilities, to stadiums, to chicken farms, to you name it. As you would imagine, a lot of our advertising campaigns involve our NFL players so that adds another unique responsibility when it comes to our shoots. We always want to make sure they’re comfortable and having fun on set. After shooting the content, we move into multiple rounds of edits until we get to the final content that is approved by all departments. After delivering final content to our media team, I get to sleep.

Do you have a favorite campaign or project you have worked on, or one which really stands out to you?

Our NFL Shop campaign from last season was one of my favorites. We had a really entertaining group of featured players. For one of the spots, I worked with Drew Brees, who went to my high school, which was a surreal and memorable experience. The concept also really relied on dry humor and a little cheekiness which is right up my alley. The campaign featured each of the NFL players describing how hard they had worked to earn their jerseys, hours of practice, years of playing, etc., then the camera pans over to a fan who candidly confesses they just bought the same jersey at NFLshop.com.

What is most challenging and rewarding about your work?

Travel is probably the most challenging and rewarding. I love the travel side of it, but it is unpredictable. Events will pop up and I will have to fly out to capture content very last minute. It’s definitely more unpredictable in the summer, which makes vacation plans difficult to lock down. However, I do get a solid t-shirt tan. Through the travel though, I have been able to see so many cities and meet so many kind people who work in football. I’ve met some incredible people doing incredible work in their communities, and my job is to highlight it. I’m truly lucky to love what I do.

You have worked at ESPN, NFL and even when you were working for the Grey Group, the NFL was one of the clients you were working on. What is it about sports marketing that you enjoy so much?

Obviously, football is huge in Texas, so working in football is kind of a childhood dream. But even beyond that, I think it’s the passion that people feel and express in sports that I love so much. I grew up playing competitive soccer, so I’m not even working in a sport that I grew up playing, but it’s the sports world in general. You see these fanatic fans and players who put in so much hard work every year to become better. It can be fulfilling or it can be heartbreaking. Each year there’s a sense of hope for everyone in the sports world to cling to no matter what happened in the past season. That passion and hope is contagious. Marketing in general is compelling to me because of the psychology involved. Putting myself in our fans’ shoes to think about what they would be interested in seeing and hearing allows you to be a more empathetic and self-aware human.

How do you think your BHP and Marketing degrees from McCombs have aided you in the work you are doing?

In terms of competitive workplaces and highly sought-after positions, BHP sets the standard. I didn’t get into BHP as a freshman, so I had to work incredibly hard to earn my spot as a sophomore. From BHP, you learn if there is something you want to achieve you have to work hard and be humble. New York is also very competitive so I’ve continued to work hard to get where I am. I worked on an additional NFL project for 6 months on top of my existing role when I was at Grey Group. 6 months after that project wrapped up, I got a call from my now current boss about this job because I had worked tirelessly on the previous project. Serendipitous.

For students interested in working as a digital producer, what advice do you have for them?

You have to be a people person. So much of what you do relies on relationships and being able to relate to people. You also have to be a detail-oriented person and definitely can’t be a pushover. A lot of times you are going to hear no, but you still have to figure out a way to get it done. Persistence is key.

If you had it to do over again, would you do anything differently?

No, because I am so happy where I am now. I wouldn’t change anything because I don’t know if I would end up in the same place. I have only been in my position for a little more than a year, so I am still learning so much. I feel like I can make more of an impact this year now that I have experienced a full season. I don’t think when I came to New York I thought I would be here this long, but now I am kind of addicted to the pace of it and the opportunities here. When I travel for a while, I really miss it and look forward to coming back to New York. My heart will always be in Texas though.