That’s me in in the picture above: UO Sports Product Management Master’s Program Student 001. Myself and 36 other students completed our first academic year last month. We are one summer internship and two more school terms away from earning our master’s degrees. At 35 years old and with nearly ten years of post-college work experience, I’m not the typical student—I think “non-traditional” is the accepted term. I walked away from full-time employment with a world-class sports product company I love for this particular degree. So why did I do it?
One of the biggest reasons is one with which many likely identify: I’d always wanted to further my education. I don’t know that I got everything I could have out of my time as an undergrad, and that never sat well with me. I didn’t determine a strong direction for myself until I graduated and spent a couple years looking for my career.
Second, I did not leave my position because I didn’t love my job or the company values or the great people I worked with. Rather it was BECAUSE I loved it all—and I wanted to do more. More for myself, more for the company and industry, and hopefully even more for the “greater good.”
But first I needed to learn more—to get out of my comfort zone and have some new experiences. In fall 2014, I was ready to do something about it—something big. One afternoon I got the email newsletter from the University of Oregon business school sharing highlights of the latest alumni news and program developments, including a new program based in Portland offering a masters degree in sports product management. I already lived in Portland, I knew I wanted to help lead the sports industry, and I had some understanding of what it would take to do so. Could this be it? Funny how life tends to lay things in your path at the very moment you are finally ready for the first steps—as long as you’re paying enough attention to see it. The fact that I now have the privilege of reflecting upon all this on the very website that opened my mind to a huge life and career shift that first day is further proof that this particular door, marked “UO Sports Product Management,” was one I was meant to open.
I did some research online, sent a couple emails, and went downtown to introduce myself to the program staff and find out more. To think that gray, rainy November day in Ellen Schmidt-Devlin’s office would change my life forever is astounding in retrospect. The events of the following months—from deciding how to leave a steady job, to applying for the program, to all the hard work and personal growth that followed, to where I find myself now, with more knowledge, experience and new friends than I’d ever expected—can’t all be captured in an introductory blog post.
Which leads me to my fundamental goal for this journal: to chronicle my experiences as honestly as I can and share what I learn along the way. The best-case scenario is that it falls somewhere between informative and encouraging. This past academic year a handful of amazing staff and administrators and numerous professors, instructors, advisors, and business people gave so much to make this journey possible. They each have their own stories of struggle and triumph, victories, and defeats. My aim is to record something here that does justice to them, their sacrifices, and their hard work. Who knows? Maybe I’ll even pave the way a bit for the next person, like my mentors have done for me. These dispatches will be coming from Truông Mít, Tây Ninh, Vietnam, where I am at the start of an internship thanks to the program. Here we go!
—Brian Warner, MS '17, UO Sports Product Management