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Jessica Connolly, formerly Gugino, has worked at ESPN since graduating from RIT's E. Philip Saunders College of Business in 2000. So how did a small town girl from Pulaski, N.Y. reach her dream of working at this media juggernaut? By calling them.
Flash back to 1996. When Connolly began looking at colleges, RIT made a very good first impression, for two reasons. First was the International Business program-a blend of business and study abroad. Second, RIT had a competitive collegiate softball team where as a standout high school softball player, she could contribute to its success.
While at RIT, Connolly took a class with Philip Tyler, associate professor of marketing in the Saunders College. One of the assignments was to shadow a salesperson for a day, then write a ten-page paper on the experience. Tyler's advice was to choose a person from a company or industry where the student was interested in working.
Thinking about ESPN, Connolly gathered up her courage and called Sean Bratches Executive Vice President of Marketing and fellow Saunders grad-who scheduled her to meet with one of their sales representatives. Due to inclement weather, the shadowing never happened, but as Connolly explains, "Without this class and Dr. Tyler's advice I never would have just contacted an employee from ESPN."
During her junior year at RIT, Connolly again utilized her contacts at ESPN-this time to secure a co-op program. After spending a five-month internship at ESPN, the organization offered her a full time position after graduation.
In 2000, Connolly was off to Bristol, Connecticut to start her career at company headquarters. Today, she is the manager of affiliate advertising sales for ESPN in their New York City office.
"The position involves working with cable companies in the Southeast and training them to sell advertising space for several different ESPN channels," Connolly explains. "ESPN's affiliate sales team is actually involved now in more than just sports channels due to a recent integration with the Disney cable sales team."
To that end, Jessica helps train people to sell advertising on SOAPnet, ABC Family, Toon Disney, and all of the various ESPN channels. "I talk about sports, kids and soaps all day; I have the greatest job in the world," remarks Connolly.
Since travel is one of her job's major components, Connolly is on the road every two out of three weeks-visiting cable companies and training them on the intricacies of selling advertising space. She also does promotions for ESPN by helping host various events.
Connolly's goal at ESPN is to become vice president of a department within the next five years. Her advice to RIT students-"Pick the company you want to work for and go after it"-is reminiscent of the call she made years ago to her dream company. It certainly opened doors for her and she hopes that it will do likewise for future RIT grads.