A graduate of the University of Georgia, Shelby Clayton currently resides in New York City pursuing her dreams at ESPN. After making the leap to the Big Apple and escaping her comfort zone, Shelby has been using the world as her oyster. Whether it’s enjoying a Sunday brunch with friends or taking a stroll through Central Park, Shelby fills her life with love, laughter, and new adventures.
Glowing with external beauty, paired with amazing intellect, matched with a genuine and loving heart; our #WCW, Shelby is a triple threat.
Photo by The Dean's List
1. What's your story? What makes you unique?
I LOVE sports, and not just because I work at ESPN, but ever since I was a little girl, my dad always took me and my family to Cleveland games, especially to see the Cleveland Browns (and yes I know, we are 0-8 so far this season…)! I became passionate about sports because the power it has to bring people together and make a huge impact in the surrounding communities.
I love being able to leverage my passion for the game in order to help others at the same time. I also think my path to NYC is quite unique because it was not in my plans to make the jump to New York City straight after college, but I think that is the beautiful part about life… It’s unexpected. Once you embrace that reality, life becomes more enjoyable. I lived in Atlanta for most of my life, and I call it home. Home is comfortable and that was it… I had to be UNcomfortable.
So, I graduated from the University of Georgia in May of 2015 and moved to NYC for an internship
at ESPN (a DREAM)! After my internship, I interviewed at numerous places, mostly in Atlanta. I got the call from ESPN saying they wanted to offer me a full-time position in the digital sales department back in New York City. So, I made the permanent move to NYC and I will tell you it was not easy. It was difficult adjusting to a city that has many moving parts. However, I gave it some time to fully adjust and let go of my home in Atlanta. I am eternally grateful for the blessings I have received, but my story would not be complete without my family’s help in making this dream come true.
2. What motivates you?
Love motivates me, and by love I mean love for people. I am always inspired by listening to others’ stories about their journey in life. I am uplifted by people overcoming adversities and challenges, and I like to apply what I learn from others to my own journey. Whether it’s my family, friends, or a complete stranger, I like lending an ear for those who enlighten and sometimes... even surprise me.
3. Who is a hero of yours?
My beautiful, kind, and smart mother. Words cannot describe how much she means to me. From volunteering as a chaperone for field trips, to driving me to every volleyball practice, to driving 16 hours to move me to New York, Momma V is a superwoman. My mom is the most selfless person I know, and she always puts my sister and I first. My mom loved telling us, “Make the sacrifices look like they were worth it,” and that is our motto we live by. She always puts others first and helps where she can, but don’t get me wrong my mom SLAYS.
Seriously, she was a pageant queen, model, flight attendant, and restaurant owner. Most importantly, my mom is strong woman of God and I always look to her for wisdom and peace. I could not ask for a better role model.
4. Give us a road map of your career. How did you get to where you are today?
I knew I wanted to work in sports, so I created a game plan. I hit the ground running right after high school with an internship at the United States Tennis Association (USTA) working with ticket sales and VIP credentials. It was my first real experience working in a corporate setting, so it definitely helped build my resume before I even stepped foot onto the University of Georgia’s campus.
Once I made it to the Classic City, I became immersed into a world of options and opportunities. I was choosing between three majors: marketing, advertising, and sports management. One of the hardest decisions of my life was choosing what to study and where I could gain the most relevant experience in my career. I originally signed up as a pre-business student, but after meeting a few Grady students and hearing about their experience in the mass communication and journalism school, I made the choice to become an official Grady Baby!
Throughout my college years, being involved outside of class was a large part of my success to get to where I am today. I knew I wanted to join sports related organizations and activities. I became a member of the Professional Entertainment and Sports Association (PESA) where I participated in the annual Summit panel and networking event. Additionally, I became a founding executive member of the Women in Sports and Events (WISE) UGA chapter where I became Vice President in my senior year. I consumed most of my time interning with the UGA Athletic Association working everything from gymnastics, basketball, and softball. My favorite activity was working with the UGA football program as a member of the R.O.S.E Society. Not only was I able to help recruit talented athletes for the university, but I met some of my closest friends within that organization that I will never forget.
Outside of being involved in school, I interned every year I was in college. From USTA, to the Mayor’s Office of Atlanta, to landing the big one at ESPN, each internship allowed me to gain relevant experience that prepared me for my next opportunity. There is never an early time to start working even if you have to volunteer, because that is exactly what I did. Build on your skillsets and show the world how ready you are.
5. What's your future plan? Your goals?
It’s funny because I always thought about my future and my plans year-by-year, but I realized my future should come to me and learn to live in the present. I do have some overarching goals though. I would love to live in another city at some point in my twenties, maybe west coast for a few years, but I am still thinking about that plan. My top goal right now is to travel the world and explore new sites, while learning more about myself in the process. I look forward to advancing my career to hopefully become a top marketing executive in the sports industry. I have many goals and plans, but I think right now I am so grateful to already fulfill my dream living in New York City at the Worldwide Leader in Sports.
Photo by The Dean's List
6. If you could give one piece of advice, what would it be?
During my college graduation, we had the pleasure of hearing from Amy Robach, Good Morning America anchor, and her commencement address resonated with me. It inspired me so much, I began to spread that message with current college students. It is to SAY YES in all that you are called to do no matter where that opportunity takes you. Stepping outside of the box and gaining a new perspective will help you live a more invigorating life. Ironically, my sister gave me Shonda Rhimes’ new book, “Year of Yes” as a gift and I am excited to start reading it.
7. What is something you feel strongly about (a cause, belief, etc.)?
As I mentioned earlier I am the biggest sports fan, but not because of what happens solely on the field. I feel strongly about the impact that sports have to drive social change. As we have seen in recent news, athletes are using their platform to speak out and raise awareness about various issues that impact our nation and the very communities in which they come from. Once I realized sports aren’t just about winning or losing, but that it helps people in extraordinary ways, I wanted to build my career to be apart of that change.
8. What's one of the coolest things you've ever done?
Experiencing New York City during the holidays is by far the coolest and happiest time of my life. I have attended the Macy’s Day Thanksgiving Parade as a little girl, but it is something about living in the city as an adult during Thanksgiving and Christmas. It is the most magical place to be. The decorations, the kindness in people, the events… The list goes on when this city is lit up. Last year, I spent Christmas in the city with my mom and aunt, and we got to explore and live like tourists for a day. I definitely recommend everyone make at least one trip during the holidays in NYC.
9. Anything we haven't asked that you'd like to talk about.
Control what you can control and let go of what you cannot. Love hard, live freely, and forgive yourself for the mistakes you’ve made. Life is way too short to become a victim to your circumstances (in the words of my good friend, Darby Miller). Lastly, be kind above all else.
If you would like to reach out to Shelby Clayton for mentoring/networking opportunities, you can reach her HERE. You can also can find Shelby's portfolio created by The Dean's List HERE.