Angela Yang: From Banking to Sports Management

Angela Yang graduated with a Master of Science in Sports Management in December 2016, and she’s got a new career path ahead of her: at the end of this month, she’s due to join Madison Square Garden as a Business Intelligence Manager. Raised in China and educated in England, Yang had a resume that many would envy, with a law degree and a high-powered job in portfolio management at Barclays in London. But she had a passion for sports that stretched beyond her career – “I never lost my connection with sports,” she said - and with the Sports Management program at the School of Professional Studies, she found a way to combine her love of sports with her experience in business.

What was your experience like in the Sports Management program?

I came here because Vince [Gennaro] really convinced me how he envisioned the program to be relevant, practical, and tailored to what the industry needs now. It has the flexibility that the other courses I was looking at weren’t really offering, and it was in New York.

The thing that I most appreciated about the program was that they think about what students would make sense to build a class together. They wanted people that were bright but that you also wanted to work with, and that paid off. Our cohort really bonded and really worked well together.

Another key advantage of our program is the unparalleled industry connections. I got my executive internship with the US Olympic Committee through the program. I worked directly with the CEO and it was the best internship I had. The USOC actually reached out to our program directly with this opportunity because they wanted to have someone from an Ivy League with the caliber of an MBA student. This is just an example of the unique opportunities the program has to offer.

It’s very global, right?

Half of us were international and the other half were Americans.

What was your focus as a student?

You can specialize in different areas, you can go down the analytics route, or the digital media-specific route, or globalization route. I picked a lot of courses that I’m interested in, and certain courses where I’m a big fan of the professor. We are required to take one course from each specialism so you’re well trained in different areas. It worked well for me because now I realize I want a career in sports strategy and consulting, so having a wide understanding of the different things that impact sports, from venue management to digital marketing, from revenue analytics to impact of globalization, is quite useful.

Was your background in banking useful to learning in sports management?

It gave me a really good analytical foundation. A lot of the courses I was taking required analytical mindset and the use of tools like Excel, PowerPoint, and R. When you think about how sports industry has been run, on the management side, it’s still quite traditional and old school. But the current trend in analytics and digital gives me a lot of opportunities to think outside the box and apply what I learnt in banking to sports.

How is digital developing in sports management?

We have courses dedicated to it because it’s definitely very important. Sports properties need to think about all the digital ways to engage their fans with the availability of social media, mobile apps, etc. There are all these new trends – such as live videos and Virtual Reality, - and what we call Over-the-Top platforms, like Netflix. You don’t go to the TV anymore. For the NBA, you can buy a single game on their website. For the NFL, you can watch a live game on Twitter. How digital disruption is going to shape up the industry is going to be hugely exciting.

Why do you love sports?

Growing up, I was actually hopeless at sports. Then I picked up tennis casually and started following the sport. I was in England, where they had Wimbledon, the sacred place for tennis. I reached out to a magazine back in China and told them that I wanted to cover the tournament for them and that’s how I got involved in tennis journalism. It was a very interesting ten years, especially witnessing the development of Chinese tennis. I volunteered with the organizing committee for the London 2012 Olympics, and I interviewed people who applied to be volunteers, and everyone’s story is so fascinating. Those things really touched me, and I found by doing the right thing on the business side of sports, you really have this power to deliver both the financial impact and the social impact. That’s what drives me to go into sports eventually. While I’ve been studying economics and doing banking, I never lost my connection with sports. When the time was right, I made a bold move and came into the industry that I always wanted to pursue.