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New career led Jodine Mitchell to NBA

22 Jun 2016

By Tanya Balian, Digital Content Strategist, Sheridan

Leaving a successful career in human resources (HR) wasn’t easy for Jodine Mitchell. But when she got an amazing opportunity to plan the NBA All-Star 2016 national tour, her decision to leave HR was validated. 

Mitchell is from Oakville and worked in the financial industry for over seven years. Her colleagues used to tell her she was ‘cool, calm, and collected’, but she seems more energetic and enthusiastic.

As a Human Resource Analyst at one of Canada’s top five banks, Mitchell planned important campus recruiting events from VIP receptions to national information sessions. Through these corporate events, she realized event planning came naturally and that it had always been her passion. 

“I remember the day it was announced that Toronto was hosting NBA All-Star 2016. As a fan I was ridiculously excited, but as an events professional I knew it was something I had to be part of! It was a tough decision to leave banking but I needed to be involved in this epic event,” said Mitchell.  


New freelance career

Mitchell started her freelance events management business planning birthdays, anniversaries, weddings and showers for friends and family. Then came her first break as Director of Events for the Women’s Executive Network (WXN) in 2014 where she planned WXN’s national breakfast, cocktail events and annual awards gala.

Still keeping her eye on the NBA, in the spring of 2015 she saw a golden opportunity when the organization posted a vacancy for their All-Star initiative. Mitchell was ecstatic.

“I was telling my family, friends and whoever else would listen that I was going to be a part of the NBA All-Star. So when I saw the posting, I worked my network and the rest was history.”

Mitchell landed a huge opportunity to plan the Bell NBA All-Star Challenge and the BMO NBA All-Star KidsFest. Mitchell helped design and deliver these events in 14 Canadian cities, from Vancouver, British Columbia to St. John’s, Newfoundland.

The Bell NBA All-Star Challenge was a national competition in search of the best dribblers, dunkers and three-point shooters. Mitchell planned these four-day ‘land and expand’ events down to five-minute increments – yet there were still many obstacles.

Mother nature was one problem. The tour led up to the NBA All-Star Game scheduled for February 2016, coinciding with Canada’s winter season. Heavy NBA equipment needed to be shipped across Canada to each event site, intact and on time. The events were hosted at various universities, some with problematic loading docks that required the crew to push equipment up snowy hills.


Managing NBA Talent

Along with the unpredictability of winter were talent logistics. Schedules of NBA Dance Teams and NBA Mascots from the Toronto Raptors, OKC Thunder and the Phoenix, Suns had to be coordinated. NBA basketball legends including Isaiah Thomas, Alvin Williams, Mo Peterson and Jason Richardson, required VIP treatment.

“We provided ‘white-glove' treatment for all the NBA Talent, from the time they landed at the airport to their departure. Coming from a corporate environment, managing talent was a newer element for me," said Mitchell.

One of the young winners competing in the NBA All-Star Challenge, was an energetic 14-year old – a true sports fan. He won the skills competition in Ottawa and was a contender for the all-expenses paid national competition – but almost caused a public relations crisis.

“We were about to begin the live broadcast on TSN, when I noticed our winner was about to be interviewed wearing his Blue Jays cap. The young man wanted to camouflage his 'bad hair day' by wearing a Jays cap during an NBA event being broadcast to millions.”

Thanks to her quick thinking, the branding ‘faux-pas’ seems a memorable and humorous moment now for Mitchell, who speaks fondly of the teenage competitor.

After the NBA All-Star activities were completed, Mitchell had a flashback to her own childhood when the NBA headquarters gave her an official NBA All-Star basketball as a special gift – a gift that reminded Mitchell of her brother’s special basketball.

"I loved basketball from a young age and remember walking to school with my older brother, dribbling his basketball, when it suddenly rolled off my foot and bounced into the street. Before I could cross and get the ball, I saw an Oakville Transit city bus. Just like a movie scene the bus came roaring down and there was an extremely loud pop as it ran over the basketball. My brother was absolutely devastated because it was his prized basketball – signed by Michael Jordan.”

Now Mitchell had a one-of-a-kind NBA All-Star basketball in her possession and she knew what to do. She phoned her brother and told him about the special gift that would soon be his.

 

Special event planning

Mitchell is now back in Oakville, shifting from the NBA search for Canada’s next generation of basketball stars, to teaching the next generation of event planners. Mitchell is taking her NBA and corporate experiences and sharing them with Sheridan students.

She recently refreshed Sheridan’s popular Special Event Planning course that’s been offered since 2007. It now covers the key elements of events: design, logistics, budgeting and evaluation. Mitchell also infused her valuable real-life experiences into the course.

“My career wasn’t a straight line. Graduating in HR, I never thought in my wildest dreams that I’d work in events management. I discovered my opportunity and now I’m looking forward to engaging with students, helping them identify opportunities to plan events for their current employer or start event planning as a volunteer in their community," said Mitchell.

Whether you want to make a career change like Mitchell did, or learn to plan personal events, this event professional has good advice: “Even when things don’t go as planned, keep your cool. Keep your guests at ease and your special event will be successful.”

If you can keep your composure even under ‘triple threat’, then you may want to register for the Special Event Planning course. It starts June 28 and runs Tuesday nights until the end of July. 

 

 

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