Jose Duverge has had a cool job with Soccer United Marketing/Major League Soccer for almost a year and half but how he got there is both inspirational and fascinating. As Senior Manager of Business Development, he represents and manages the partnership sales efforts for the U.S. rights of the Mexican National Team (MNT) property. It is a long way from the streets of Brooklyn where he played as a kid and I can’t wait to see where else his career journey takes him. One thing is certain though, he will be wildly successful on whatever he sets his goals.
Have you always had a passion for sports? Always did and in my inner city Brooklyn neighborhood growing up, sports kept us busy and me out of trouble. My parents moved from the Dominican Republic and didn’t speak English when they arrived nor while I was growing up, so it was tough. But sports was my tool and it kept me focused.
What did you think were cool jobs during your formative years? I always dreamed of being a professional baseball player. In my formative years I wasn’t aware of all of the different opportunities within the sports industry.
Share a brief history about your career path? When I finished undergrad I was still not sure where I was headed. Once my college baseball career was over, and I knew I wasn’t going to play professionally, I did what I had to do to make ends meet. Post-graduation, I had several jobs while trying to navigate and find what I wanted to commit to. Literally, I was in between boxing, being mortgage broker, and a door to door salesman. Luckily, I soon got a phone call from a former college professor, Mrs. Impagliazzo, who had heard about an internship with the New York Jets corporate sponsorship group that she thought I would be interested in hearing about. I quickly jumped on it and that was my first exposure to the “business of sports” world. Even though it was only a three month internship, it opened my eyes to the industry.
It was also during this internship where I was introduced to the thought of grad school. Two Ohio University MSA alums, Bruce Speight from the Jets PR department and Andrew Agro whom was in the graduate but on his internship at the time, both encouraged me to think about getting a masters in sports administration. I applied to UMASS and Ohio sports administration programs to further my education and break into the industry. I was accepted by both programs, but because of Jim Kahler I decided to attend grad school in Athens at Ohio University. I deferred my acceptance for a year while working part time jobs and doing a second internship with the New York Jets.
Eventually, I started grad school and had just gotten underway when I met a gentleman by the name of Lee McDaniel who oversaw the minor league operations and Latin America efforts for the Philadelphia Phillies. We had a series of conversations, and even had a visit to his operations, when I was offered a job with the Phillies working with their player development academies in Venezuela and the Dominican. The catch is that I was only three months into the Ohio U. MBA/MSA two-year program. After a lot of discussions with school and the Phillies, I accepted the job and put grad school on hold. I did that for a year before heading back to Ohio to finish my MSA. It was a great experience, but I realized that my calling was not on the baseball operations side of the industry. I knew I wanted to work in sports, but wasn’t sure what part of the industry. What I did know is that Ohio U.’s program would expose me to all parts of the industry in order for me to figure it out. So, I decided to return to Ohio U. and continue the MSA program.
After completing my graduate degree, I was fortunate enough to get a job as an account executive in the ticket sales department with the New York Yankees. It was invaluable experience that offered first class sales training. But I knew I wanted to broaden my horizons outside of the ticketing world. I was in ticket sales for about 2 ½ years where I was promoted a few times and had found some success. As a result, I was able to get the attention of some new opportunities.
One job opportunity was with MLS and the other was with IMG College on their National Sales team. The MLS opportunity was not quite fully baked and so I accepted the job within sponsorship sales at IMG College. It was a great opportunity and I had learned a lot from my boss and now mentor, Alex Chang. I was able to stay close to him and soak up what his experience offered. Shortly after joining IMG, Alex came across a once in a lifetime opportunity which he departed for, and I understood. Eight months after me joining IMG College, MLS gave me another call and invited me out for a conversation. A conversation then turned into a job offer. It was a tough decision, but I couldn’t resist working in somewhat of a dream situation with a league that was on the rise as MLS was and still is, along with the opportunity to sell and make an impact at the highest level.
Who inspired you along the way or a person to thank? I will take a different angle on this one. After some bumps in the road, I developed a very clear vision of the type of man and professional that I wanted to be. But I had no idea on how to get there. So attached myself to those that were successful and embodied the skills that I needed to develop, while making sure that I added value to their lives as well. There is a very long list of people that deserve acknowledgment. I always took away something from every conversation that I had an opportunity to learn from. But, some that played a constant role in development, outside of family, are Alice Petzold, Andy Dolich, Mike Boykin, Carlos Fleming, and my brothers from LockedIn. Of course, I also have to thank Jim Kahler for believing in me before I knew any better, for helping me get into the Ohio program, and being patient with me while my career took some interesting turns during the early years.
Career highlight or accomplishment you are most proud of? Not one particular moment, but I am very proud that I was able to obtain jobs that I was rarely qualified for at the time I was offered the job. However, I was honest with myself and knew I could quickly handle and succeed in those positions. People had faith in me, trusted me and I delivered on their bet on me. I am very proud of that fact.
Who would you trade jobs with tomorrow if given the chance? Dream job? To be honest with you, the job I currently have is my dream job. It is a growing sport and I feel like I am in the perfect position to make a significant impact. Maybe someday I will be ready and qualified to be a president of an organization, but for right now I am in my dream job.
If you took a different career path what would it have been? Money aside, I would be in a role that allowed me to work with and develop underserved youth or a baseball coach.
Advice for a kid going to college today who wants to get into sports? I would say first, attach yourself to a program that gives you a deep network of connections. Whether you go to Harvard or Stanford or, like me, Ohio, attach yourself to a school that has a deep connection with its network. What separates the programs I mentioned is the fact that their respective alums are committed to giving back to the program and their current students. Those connections are invaluable every step of the way.
The second would be to expose yourself to all facets of the business. Try to understand what you like and more importantly what you don’t like. The process of elimination can help you focus on the things you are good at. For me, it was sales. Also, it is important to be honest with yourself and the skills that you need to develop. Be your own coach and make your own adjustments along the way.
Third, be a pro. That requires taking pride in your work. Everything you touch, you need to put your best foot forward ALL THE TIME because someone is always watching.
Advice for making it in the sports industry? I was listening to this sales training audio that my Ohio U. classmate, Sean Othen, shared with me. The narrator quoted Napoleon Hill, and what he said has stuck with me ever since. When asked, “What does it take to be successful?” Mr. Hill responded with the following. “Well, I don’t know what it takes to be successful, but I do know that all of the successful people I have worked with all have the same two things in common. One, you must have a vision. A clear vision of who you want to be in this life and the values that ladder up into that person. Almost everyone has a vision or a vague understanding of such. But only the successful people have both number one and two. Two, you must have the resolve to pay the price that is required in order to become who you envision.”
In other words, be honest with yourself. What is it that you don’t have today and is keeping you from who and/or where you want to be. After that honest discussion with yourself, map it out. But eliminate shortcuts. Your belief and willingness to withstand the (development) process is what will get you there.
Also I would say be open to criticism and learn from people that have constructive thoughts on how to improve yourself.
Any tips for a good work/life because Sports industry is a grind? You have to identify your priorities and make the time…. Period. Family and happiness are important to me and can’t be ignored. So, for me, happiness means a successful career, financial stability, experiences, a strong network of good genuine people, and everlasting growth. I owe it to myself to make the time for those things.
And now for some quick hitters to get to know Jose:
Name your dream foursome for golf? Jay Z, Jerry Jones, Steve Jobs
What is your favorite movie of all time? I’m not a big movie guy but it’s even between Gladiator, Old School, and Tropic Thunder. It depends on my mood I guess.
Favorite book? Never Eat Alone: and Other Secrets to Success, One Relationship at a Time by Keith Ferrazzi and Tahl Razz
Top 3 favorite athletes of all time? Michael Jordan, Pedro Martinez, and Emmitt Smith
What was your favorite TV show as a kid or growing up? Martin
Three items you would take to a deserted island? My girlfriend, my mom, and a wifi installed laptop (not even sure if one exists)
Favorite game to play as a kid? Whether it was whiffle/sponge ball or football in the streets of Brooklyn. Chalking bases on the pavement or having our end zones be from sewer cap to sewer cap
Hobby that would surprise people? Meditation
Do you have a favorite charity you volunteer with or support? Yes, a charitable group that some friends of mine and I started called Locked In. Rather than make monetary contributions, we focus on donating our time as we believe our impact is much greater that way. It started out as a small group of like-minded professional colleagues that would meet twice a week for professional development discussions. Over time, the sessions dabbled into our personal lives, creating an environment that encouraged self-growth, being your brother’s keeper, and therapeutic environment. We helped each other in all aspects of life by discussing successes, failures, goals, and fears, amongst many other topics, both personally and professionally. It is basically an accountability group that has realized how much we have gained from one another and has made a conscious decision to give back, specifically to youth that can relate to our upbringing – underserved youth.
Childhood idol? Not one specifically, but I tried to take bits and pieces of a long list of idols to take their best attributes and mold myself into the man and professional that I envisioned. Sort of a “best of the best” by a long list of people I looked up to, to try and live my life by, whether it is life, sports or my career. I want to represent a brand that is as well rounded as possible without losing who I am at the core.
To follow Jose on social media:
Twitter and Instagram: @on_Duverge_of
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