2012Sep 28

SPAD Alumni Profile: Darryl Dionne

Darryl Dionne

By SPAD Blogger Adam Johnston

Last year, the students in The Business of Hockey course were privileged to listen to Darryl Dionne (SPAD ’04) explain his path to success in the sports industry. When listening to Darryl’s interesting path, I thought that the rest of the SPAD community would benefit, as well as be interested in hearing his story.

Can you provide us with a brief summary of your career path since you graduated from SPAD

About a month after graduating from SPAD in 2004, I was hired by a SPAD Grad, Mike Flanagan, to work in the sales department at Frito Lay Canada.  I left Frito Lay after a year to pursue an MBA and a Master of Sports Administration degree from Ohio University.  Shortly before graduation, one of my SPAD classmates, Andrew Johnston, told me about a potential job opportunity with the Professional Hockey Players’ Association, which is where he worked at the time.  I submitted my resume to the Executive Director, came in for an interview during my Spring Break, and started with the PHPA shortly thereafter.

What do you think was the most important thing the Sports Administration program taught you that you’ve carried through with you to a successful career?

The most important thing the SPAD program taught me was the power of making connections in the sport industry, as so many cool sport jobs are never even posted.  Timing often has to be right, and the people responsible to fill these positions have to know who you are.  The program also opened my eyes to a world of sport business that stretched beyond just hockey and Canada.

How has your SPAD network helped you in the industry?

The SPAD network has been a tremendous benefit for me throughout my career.  I gained invaluable experience on my Internship with the Toronto Blue Jays thanks to Honsing Leung, who set up the internship and was my direct supervisor.  Mike Flanagan was seeking to recruit a graduating SPAD student when he hired me. I’ve continued to bounce ideas off a number of my classmates and former professors over the years, and even more recently I’ve began working with Michael Merrall on some initiatives to help advance the PHPA.  Certainly would not have had these opportunities made available to me if it weren’t for the SPAD network.

What are the most important personal characteristics for success in the sports industry?

From my experience, I believe it comes down to attitude and personality.  Treat everyone from the top to bottom of an organization the same way.  It is noticed whether you realize it or not.  I have hired interns and worked with colleagues who may have had the knowledge to do the job, but did not interact well with the rest of the staff and weren’t approachable or very personable.  Those people weren’t kept around very long.  Keep reading, paying attention, and learning about the industry, make as many contacts as you can, and be the person in the organization who is known as the “go-to person”; someone who can be relied on as the person who gets things done.

What can a student be doing now that would lead to a successful internship?

Get as much experience for your resume as possible, which will help put you in a better position to land the internship of your choice.  Also narrow down an aspect of the industry which you would like to explore, whether it is a specific sport, organization, or type of role (sales, event management, etc.).  Ask your professors and contacts if they have any inroads within that specific aspect.  Also, don’t wait until the last minute to try to secure an Internship.  There is no harm in securing an Internship ahead of time and offering to work on a project or initiative for them prior to the start of your Internship.

What advice could you give for the SPAD about to graduate this year with regards to getting their careers started?

You don’t have to wait until you graduate to start applying for jobs.  The job search process takes time, and there may be hundreds of other candidates applying for the same job.  Distinguish yourself from other graduates through your education, industry experience, and contacts.  There may be a SPAD Grad or a contact of a SPAD Grad who could put in a good word for you and help get you hired.  Also, working in sports does not necessarily mean you have to work for a team, League, event, etc.  As long as you are learning and developing transferable skill sets, you will help advance your career which will put you in a better position to one day land your dream job.  Most importantly, chase a passion, not a paycheck.  The money will come with time and experience.  In the early stage of your career, build experience, skill sets, and contacts, which will be a great benefit to you when you seek to advance to the next phase of your career development.

What is one of your best memories of your time in SPAD?

Our class field trip to Vancouver certainly stands out as one of my best SPAD memories, however, any time my classmates got together for bar crawls, hockey, pub nights, class trips, or just hanging around the house were all great times.

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