A sports professional who paid $50,000 to get her MBA online shares how it helped her land an executive role in the NFL

  • Chanelle S. Reynolds is the director of group sales for the Washington Football Team and one of the few women of color executives in the NFL.
  • She told Business Insider that receiving her online MBA paved a new path for her career and helped her develop hard and soft skills. 
  • Reynolds moved onto her next role as a ticket sales associate for the Washington Football Team after attending Drexel University's online MBA program for two years, but was quickly promoted to director of group sales. 
  • Before pursuing an MBA, Reynolds recommended weighing the financial cost and commitment.
  • "I advise aspiring sports professionals to take risks and don't be scared to go after the job they want because there aren't individuals that look like them in the position," she said.
  • Visit Business Insider's homepage for more stories.

As the director of group sales for the Washington Football Team (formerly called the Washington Redskins), Chanelle S. Reynolds is one of the few women of color executives in the NFL. According to ESPN, only 13% of VP and higher roles in the NFL in 2019 were held by people of color, while just 21% were women. In addition, people of color held just 19% of team senior administrative positions in 2019, ESPN reported.

Reynolds' secret to breaking the glass ceiling? Getting an online MBA, she told Business Insider.

"Receiving my MBA has extremely enhanced my career opportunities and put me in a better position," Reynolds said.

Reynolds attended Drexel University's online MBA program in 2015, which Best Colleges listed as one of the top affordable accelerated MBA programs available online in 2020.

The program, she said, helped her home in crucial hard skills in addition to soft skills. 

"The business analytics course has allowed me to answer complex business questions by reading a company's financial data," Reynolds said. "It also allows me to tell the organization's story through financial reports. I believe business analytics is a skill that every young professional should learn." 

Students of Drexel's online MBA can complete the degree in as little as 18 months, or take up to five years to earn it, which was key to Reynolds choosing a virtual program. At the time, she was employed as an account manager by the Delaware Blue Coats, an American pro basketball team of the NBA G league and an affiliate of the NBA's Philadelphia 76ers, and was looking for a program that wouldn't take her away from a busy basketball season. Though she already had her foot in the door of professional sports, Reynolds wanted to fully prepare herself for greater opportunities.

"I wanted to continue to set myself apart in the industry," she said. It took her two years to complete her MBA.

The biggest challenge she faced while in the program, she said, was time management. 

"Working my full-time job as well as taking accelerated courses was intense and required discipline," she said. "Through planning and organizing, I utilized my calendar and became fully in tune with my schedule." This meant that she planned out her week every Sunday night and submitted her assignments in advance when eligible to balance out her workload. 

Read more: I started my own sports agency when I was 22 and now represent 8 top WNBA stars — including the legendary Lisa Leslie. Here's how I landed major clients and built my business.

A post-graduation promotion

Reynolds left the Delaware Blue Coats about six months after earning her online degree. 

"An amazing opportunity became available for the Washington Football Team in their new group sales department, so I packed my bags and moved to the nation's capital," she said.

Her initial role was as a ticket sales associate, but with her MBA in hand she was promoted after one year to director of group sales, where she leads a team of account executives and teaches them how to sell and build business relationships with corporations.

Reynolds said that she took other steps to make this transition, including seeking out counsel from others in the industry. "I would study the behaviors of individuals that were in leadership positions and learn from them in every way possible," she said, connecting with them through networking events and mutual friends. 

While one might assume that it would be more difficult to make professional connections in an online program, Reynolds said that she's still close with her MBA cohort.

"Even with my classes being online, I interacted with some amazing individuals from all over and we stayed connected on LinkedIn and other social media platforms," Reynolds said. "The connections I developed exposed me to different business strategies, point of views, and cultures."

Read more: 8 accelerated MBAs offered by top business schools that allow you to get a degree quicker than at a traditional program

A higher level of confidence

Reynolds feels that her $50,000 degree has more than paid off and helped to increase her confidence level in her work.

"Knowing that I had the knowledge, skills, and experience to be an executive gave me the reassurance that I am more than capable of doing my job," she said. "It has given me the ability to understand the concept of business through bottom-line/revenue patterns," she added.

Reynolds suggested that you consider the financial commitment required for an MBA before applying to schools.

"It is best to research financial resources and compare tuitions between schools to evaluate which program is best for you," she said. She added that she factored in the program's benefits. "I looked into the courses covered and determined if those would teach me the skills I needed to advance in my career," she said.

She applauded the growth in diversity and inclusion in sports, but said that more needs to be done to get more women of color into the C-suite. "My goal is to influence women of color to break barriers and seek opportunities in leadership positions," she said. "I advise aspiring sports professionals to take risks and don't be scared to go after the job they want because there aren't individuals that look like them in the position. I let them know that they can be the change that organization needs."

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