CENTER STAGE: SHANON IRISH OF THE MIAMI HEAT

Monday, January 25, 2016 Gabrielle Bill 0 Comments




I first met Shanon was I was a young dancer at Mrs. P's Dance & Acrobatic Studio in Boca Raton, FL -- I was maybe 10 or 11 -- and I remember being enamored with her from the very start. Shanon was the epitome of the graceful ballerina that I longed to be -- tall, slim, light on her feet -- and although we never did dance together (she was always in the more advanced classes), we struck up the sort of friendship-by-acquaintance that tends to happen when you're that age and spending a lot of time at the same dance studio.

We went to the same high school, and when Shanon went off to college and I quit dance in favor of pursuing my school's rigorous musical theatre program, I remember wondering if she'd be out there trying to hoof it as a professional ballerina. Turns out that wasn't quite Shanon's goal, but given that she's now the recipient of five Emmy's and a couple of NBA championship rings, I think it's safe to say she didn't land too far from the spotlight.

For the last 10 years, Shanon's been working as a producer and editor for the Miami Heat, and while this in and of itself is a massive accomplishment worth celebrating, it's her journey to this role that I found particularly compelling.

You see, Shanon, like many young college students, didn't really know what she wanted to do with her life. "Growing up as a dancer, I needed to be in a creative field, but I didn’t know what to do aside from dance," she says. When it came down to picking a major at Florida State University, she just sort of fell into media production. 

"I was always the person at a family event that would be filming people, so I thought I might like it," she says, while also admitting she had no idea what she was getting herself into.

Fate stepped in and grabbed Shanon's hand, and she was one of just 40 students admitted to the competitive program. When she started the major, she decided to specialize in sports (it was either that or documentary filmmaking) and immediately told her parents that "one day" her dream job would be to work for ESPN. Interestingly, one day turned out to be right around the corner.

The summer after her senior year, Shanon landed a coveted internship with the company, and if you didn't already believe that destiny was shining down upon her, you'll totally be there when you hear that at the completion of her internship, she immediately applied to, and got hired for, a full-time role.

Now none of this is meant to discount Shanon's efforts, as she most certainly worked her butt off, applied herself and sought out opportunity, but what it does illustrate is that sometimes a goal we see as an end destination turns out to be a mere stepping stone on the path to something bigger and greater -- something we can't quite envisage from our current vantage point.

And so it was that Shanon worked in her dream job for two years, editing all of ESPN's live shows (think: SportsCenter, ESPN News, Baseball Tonight), loving the experience, but also realizing more and more as time passed that something was missing. As Shanon got better and better at her job -- faster at editing, more efficient with the software -- she realized her creative progression was starting to wane. She also missed her family, who lived back in Florida, and found the crazy hours associated with live TV (her weekends were Tuesday and Wednesday, and she'd routinely work from 6:30pm to 3am) unsustainable for the long term.

So she quit. At 24 years old, she quit a full-time, paying job with benefits and moved back into her family's home without an inkling of a job prospect. 

You might be thinking, "Didn't she just claim a few years earlier that working for ESPN was her dream job? Why'd she up and quit just two years later?"

And that's the funny thing about goals, and something that (just like habits) can make them both dangerous and motivating. We set goals for ourselves such that we have something to work toward and in return, they show us when we've made progress. But then we get to the goal and what happens? We set another one, and the process begins all over again. There are very few people that set a goal, reach it and say, "Yippee. I've met my goal. Now I'll just stand here in this one place for the rest of my life and feel completely satisfied."

Then there's this other little diddy that's come up in past posts: we change. Sometimes we set goals for ourselves and we reach them only to realize that the circumstances aren't quite what we expected. Or we're missing something we didn't initially think to include in our goal. Lots of people get discouraged at this point, but the truth is 1) the goal isn't any less valid or worth celebrating because it isn't totally right and 2) there's absolutely nothing stopping you from making the tweaks you need to get yourself more squarely where you want to be.

In Shanon's case, the ESPN job was a fabulous training ground, but as we mentioned, simply a stepping stone. Less than a week into her unemployment, a colleague from ESPN hooked her up with an interview for a job at the Miami Heat, and she got it.

"You can’t orchestrate that," she says. "It was really special and fortunate. I could have been unemployed for a long time."

Shanon started as a segment producer and after 4 years was promoted to coordinating producer on a show called "Inside the Heat." It's a documentary-style, biographical show that aims to showcase the "person behind the player," and it gives Shanon the opportunity to meet and work hand-in-hand with some of the NBA's biggest superstars.

From a day-to-day standpoint, Shanon's role involves wearing many hats, from scheduling her crew to writing interview questions, assigning segment producers and getting a finished piece sent out to SunSports, the network that airs the program. "I’ve been here for 10 seasons and I’m not at that place yet where I’ve done everything," she says. "Every year, every season things are different. There are new guys, new stories to tell. It keeps it really fresh and exciting."

And then there are those Emmy's. In a line of work where your contribution isn't typically recognized, Shanon's one of the lucky few to not only have won five Emmy's for her work, but also two gorgeous championship rings bestowed upon her by the owner of the team. ("They come in a cool sparkly box," she quips.)

Yet none of this was in Shanon's plan, nor something she could have predicted. And it's taught her to approach the future in a totally different way.

"Sometimes I think I should have crazy, big dreams, but to be honest with you I’m very happy where I am," she says. "I get to be doing a job that I love for a team that I love, and I’m still challenged. Maybe I’ll be here the rest of my life, I have no idea. For the time being, I’m very very happy."

Thinking about pursuing a career in the video production field? Here are Shanon's top three tips for success: 

1) If you want to work in a creative field, you have to get used to taking critique. "Sometimes your vision doesn’t come across and your boss or the executive producer might have another vision," she says. "Take a step back and see it their way. It might be a better way."

2) Get experience at ALL aspects of video production. "Learn all the positions, understand the field and what happens in it. It’ll make you better at the specialization you want to pursue. If you only know how to do one thing, but the person next to you knows five other things, they're going to get the job."

3) Don't feel discouraged if your dream job isn't rainbows and unicorns 100% of the time. "There are always going to be parts that are hard and frustrating. There’s nothing out there that’s perfect. It is possible to understand what gets you excited about going to work, the things that you love to do, and then work as hard as you can to get to that point and set yourself up for that opportunity. It’s also about seeing the opportunities in front of you and taking them. If you’re in a job that you don’t love, try and figure out what that job is teaching you. What can you take away from that job? What’s valuable that can be a part of your next step? Find those things that are making you a better person at what you ultimately want to do."

If you're interested in learning more about Shanon or have additional questions for her, feel free to send her an email at sirish190@yahoo.com, or leave your thoughts in the comments section below. Til next time...
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Gabrielle "Gabby" Bill is a career coach and consultant who believes everyone should be working in a job that leaves them feeling fulfilled. She coaches groups and individuals through a reflection process, uncovering often hidden motivations, values, goals and skills as they relate to their career. These reflections are then parlayed into concrete action plans to guide clients through the process of finding, creating and landing their dream jobs. You can learn more about her services by visiting www.gabriellebill.com

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