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April  16, 2010

Alumna with dream job tells how she got it

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About Business Day

Business Day is an annual job-shadowing opportunity sponsored by the Augustana business department. The day-long event allows students to learn about the business world "on the job" with leading professionals throughout the Quad Cities.

Students and business leaders will be treated to a kick-off breakfast in Carver Center featuring a keynote address by Piper Mead '04, marketing account executive for the Chicago Cubs.

Piper Mead '04, a marketing executive with the Chicago Cubs, will be the keynote speaker for Augustana's Business Day on April 23. Student writer Christine Hedlin talked with Mead about her career:

Q: What basic career path did you take to end up with
your current job?

A: Right after I graduated from Augustana, I was hired as an admissions counselor. I stayed in that job for about a year and a half before I left to pursue a job in baseball. I moved down to Peoria, Illinois, in hopes of becoming an intern with the Peoria Chiefs, the Cubs 'A' affiliate in the minor league system. I went in for the internship interview, and, sort of by coincidence, became the full-time events and entertainment manager for the Chiefs.

After about a year and a half, I learned of internships with the Chicago Cubs. After a few interviews, I was hired as the entertainment Intern with the Cubs. Towards the end of the summer, one of the marketing account executives left the Cubs, and they needed someone to fill her place. I just happened to be the lucky one to get to stay!

Q: How did your experiences at Augustana as a student and admissions counselor prepare you for your job with the Cubs?

I give Augustana all the credit for turning me into the person I am today. It wasn't until my years at Augie that I really gained self-confidence. It was that confidence that allowed me to feel much more comfortable talking with people, doing presentations, giving tours, etc. In high school, I was always pretty quiet. At Augie, I really made a lot of friends and came out of my shell. My outgoing personality is now my biggest asset in my job... and I credit Augustana for that.

Q: What are some of skills or personality traits a person needs
to do your job?

A: Confidence and an outgoing personality are key in my position. Along with that, you NEED to be able to stay organized and multi-task. I handle about 25-30 different sponsor accounts each year and need to be able to juggle all of the elements of each account. In addition, I think patience plays a huge part. When you are in sales, you are not allowed to be grumpy with people that are spending hundreds of thousands of dollars!

Q: What is your favorite part of your job?

A: This is easy. My favorite part is making people happy. Wrigley Field is such a special place for so many people. When they arrive at the ballpark, just doing something simple — like handing them a baseball, or taking a family photo of them on the field — can become a lifelong memory for them.

Q: What is the biggest challenge you've faced in your professional life?

A: Honestly, I have been really lucky. I would say the toughest decision I had to make was to leave Peoria for Chicago. I know that sounds crazy, but I was, and still am very close with the staff in Peoria. And... my childhood hero, Ryne Sandberg was named manager of the Chiefs a few weeks before I left for the Cubs. I couldn't believe I was giving up the chance to work with my favorite athlete of all time. But, looking back, I obviously made the right decision.

Q: Where do you picture yourself in five or 10 years?

A: Well I sure hope I am still with the Cubs. Ideally, I will be a manager or director of the Marketing/Special Events department. I don't think my Mom will let me ever leave. She loves her Cubbies... and I get to give her free tickets sometimes!

"I would call or email the president of the Peoria Chiefs at least twice a week. I probably drove him nuts, but it got me the interview."

Q: What is one piece of good advice you've received in your life, and who gave it to you?

A: Pat Hughes, from WGN radio, is a good friend of mine. He told once to make sure that when I leave the ballpark, to leave my work behind as well. I think that was a great piece of advice. I am a fan first and I want to make sure it always stays that way. Sometimes it is easy to get caught up in the business side of the job and every once in a while I have to step back, and remind myself of how lucky I really am. A walk along the ivy or a visit to the pressbox is usually enough to make me feel like a little kid again.

Q: What advice do you have for students interested in entering the field of sports marketing?

A: I would say don't be afraid to start at the bottom. The minor leagues taught me a lot. When you only have a really small staff like most minor leagues have, you learn how to do pretty much everything. The Quad Cities is a great place for minor league sports and a lot of times they are looking for staff to work part-time during the season. Call the general manager, stop over at the stadium to drop off your resume... make them notice you somehow.

I would call or email the president of the Peoria Chiefs at least twice a week. I probably drove him nuts, but it got me the interview. Then, I left my full-time job for an internship. A lot of times, teams will ONLY hire people that have been an intern first. So even though the pay won't be good, that internship could end up getting you your dream job.

Q: Have you always been a Cubs fan?

A: Since the day I was born. My Nana still tells me stories about how she would go with her mom for free on Ladies Day. Then my Mom would always make sure that we got to at least one game a year, even though we couldn't really afford it. Being a Cub fan is in my blood, and I wouldn't want it any other way.