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How I scored my job in technology sales

Networking gave former Portland State basketball player a shot in a competitive field

My career plan was to work with juvenile delinquents helping to reduce recidivism in the justice system. After interning at a domestic violence shelter during my senior year at Portland State, I discovered that while the work was rewarding, it was not the best fit for me.

Former Portland State basketball player Lariel Powell built a network of connections to land a spot in a competitive field. Photo submitted by Lariel Powell

After graduating in 2015, I was at a loss. I missed sports and needed a new career plan, so I moved back home to the San Francisco Bay Area to enroll in the University of San Francisco’s graduate sports management program.   

Before classes even started, I reached out to the women’s basketball team and asked if I could intern with them. I wanted to gain hands-on experience from the get-go, and they gave me that opportunity as a part-time manager working with the team, facilities and in academic support. It was fun jumping back into athletics, this time on the other side, where I was helping to prepare student-athletes for life after sport.  

After graduate school, I was ready to make an impact and see where my education and experience could take me, but there were no immediate opportunities in front of me. My mom, who works in the information technology industry, suggested I look at tech-related employers. She said athletes do well in tech sales, and sales in general, because they are disciplined, dedicated, goal-oriented and have grit — things I soon came to recognize in me.

Name: Lariel Powell

Job: Enterprise Sales Development Representative at Entelo in San Francisco

School: Bachelor of Science in psychology and criminology, Portland State, 2015; Master of Arts in sports management, 2017, San Francisco.

Sport: Women’s basketball

Applying for entry-level jobs, I knew I had to get past the hundreds of inbound resumes. Other than my mom, I had no professional network in the industry I was hoping to work in.

But then I realized I really did have a network. I knew a lot of people who were getting established in the technology industry. They knew people, and I was not afraid to ask a professional friend of a friend for an informational interview. I asked how they landed their job, if they had a mentor in the tech field that I could talk to, and if I could follow up with them again.

Things started to change for me when one of my informational interviewees connected me to several human resource recruiters at companies I was applying to. Having direct contact with recruiters often followed with an in-person interview, which gave me an opportunity to sell myself, demonstrate organizational fit, and talk about what I could bring to the company. Now I was more than a resume in the stack.

My big break came when Yelp offered me an entry-level position in advertising sales. I discovered that a lot of what I learned in sports allowed me to be resilient in my new workplace. If someone gave me an inch, I was going to try to take a mile. Sales takes a little bit of tenacity, persistence and grit, and I attribute that all to college sports.

Within a year, I transitioned to Entelo, where I help generate sales for the company’s technology-based recruiting platform. I’m also part of the company’s hiring process, looking at entry-level candidates like I once was. I’m always looking for candidates who exhibit teamwork.

Being a good teammate, whether in sports or on the job, is about helping others succeed. For me, that translates to networking and the opportunities it can bring for me and my personal and professional connections.

Listen to Hiring On All Cylinder’s 22-minute podcast with Powell talking about how to build amazing teams with NCAA athletes here.