PeacePlayers International: Where have you been working most recently?
Jenny Callan: I currently work at adidas in their sales marketing team, so basically I design and implement marketing plans in key sporting goods accounts in the central region [of the US]. This takes a variety of forms, but the end result is to increase adidas’ sales within their sporting goods division.
PPI: How did you get involved with adidas? What was your path from PPI-NI?
JC: I was in Northern Ireland with PPI from 2006 to 2007. After that, I worked at Loyola University in Chicago with their women’s basketball team for three and a half years. While working there, I finished my MBA at Loyola’s Business School. It was then that I realized that I really wanted to get more involved in the corporate sector. I really enjoyed the events aspects of my jobs both at PPI and Loyola — organizing events and planning different activities — so I took this opportunity at adidas and have been in my current position for over a year now.
PPI: Did you know that you wanted to work for adidas, or was this just an opportunity that arose?
JC: It was an opportunity that arose after finishing graduate school at Loyola; their alumni network helped. Networking is an essential part of the job hunt, as it helps get a foot in the door and ultimately can help get a job. It seems to be more about who you know and at what company these days!
PPI: How do you think that your experience at PPI has played into your professional experience? Is there any one lesson or skill to which you find yourself returning to?
JC: My PPI experience was my first job out of college, and it really honed the organizational and interpersonal skills that I have found to be vital in my current job and assets in any future jobs as well. PPI gave me the professional insight that helped me realize that I wanted to make a career working in sport. It was a great first job that allowed me to understand my strengths and weaknesses and see a strategic career path.
PPI: How did you find out about the PPI Program Director position?
JC: I played basketball at Lehigh University in Pennsylvania. In my senior year, I got an email from PPI about opportunities and checked out the website. I basically harassed Andrew Gordon until he gave me a job, since I knew that it was an incredible opportunity.
PPI: Do you have a favorite moment or memory from PPI?
JC: The team that I was on in Belfast planned the first Spring Jam tournament in 2007. During the Spring Jam, after mid day, we had all the kids sit around the basketball court. I played a one-on-one game with Dave Cullen, winner of the ESPY Arthur Ashe Courage Award that year. It seemed like all the kids were rooting for him. After the game, everyone rushed onto the court in celebration. There was a lot of enthusiasm and emotion going on that day, and that Spring Jam really capped off the year and my experience at PPI. I will always look back on that moment, and indeed the whole year fondly. Prior to my time with PPI, I had never been to Belfast or experienced life in Northern Ireland, so it was a very new and eye-opening experience. I learned a lot about myself, what I thought I knew about the world, and who I wanted to become. A lot of personal development happened in that year, and honestly I think it was one of the best experiences of my life.
PPI: What was your most challenging experience working for PPI in Northern Ireland?
JC: The biggest challenge was the same as working for any non-profit: learning to deal with the financial demands of a young organization were challenging. Coming up with creative ideas on a lower budget that would still have a measurable impact on the participants was difficult. Adapting to a new culture was also difficult, but was a very gratifying experience, both personally and professionally.
PPI: Do you still keep in touch with your colleagues from PPI-NI?
JC: I’ve been back to Northern Ireland twice since 2007. I have some friends from Belfast and coworkers (PPI program directors) who have come to the US and visited Chicago as well. Being in Chicago, I’ve noticed that PPI alumni tend to be on the east coast, New York or DC.
PPI: Do you have any advice for PPI alumni?
JC: Definitely leverage the experience. In any professional interview I’ve had, even though I’ve had other experiences since PPI (working at Loyola, my masters, among others), employers see that I lived in Belfast and worked for a nonprofit, and they want to know more information about my experiences, so make it a conversation starter.
PPI: Has the PPI alumni network helped?
JC: I think it is great that the PPI network is being developed and improved, and we should use each other more as professional resources. One of my close friends from PeacePlayers, Noam Fishman, has helped me along the way, ranging from bouncing an opinion off him to asking him for career advice.
PPI: What are your plans for the future?
JC: I love working for adidas, both for the sport-oriented culture and the great work environment. The headquarters are out in Portland, Oregon, but obviously since I lived in Northern Ireland I’m willing to move anywhere. For now, I would like to stay in marketing for adidas, and am optimistic for what the future holds.
Thank you, Jenny!