If there’s an event on campus, chances are Commodore swimmer Johanna Goldblatt will be there. The senior says she enjoys taking every opportunity to hear speakers introduce her to new ideas. It was at one of those speaker events that she made a connection that led to an ESPN internship. And that internship very well may lead to her dream job working in sports.
I was raised by a single dad. It was me and my sister, who is now on the swim team at Vanderbilt with me.
We were trained from birth to compete with the people around us and with each other. It was always about competing and never settling on no for an answer.
Now my dad’s paying the price for it. We always argue with him, we always compete with him. We see commercials and the first person to guess what company the commercial is for wins. Wins what? I don’t know.
That love for competition is how sports became a big part of my life. Swimming is such an objective way to know who’s best. Your time speaks for itself. With other sports it can be more of an opinion as to who’s the best.
I was really immature when I got to Vanderbilt. I was selfish and didn’t really see the whole big picture.
I was at the bottom of the pack, and that was a big change for me. I was used to winning and having it come naturally. Here, I was all the way behind and I had to evaluate myself and switch my routines and my habits in order to compete with the girls on the team.
I had to learn about hard work for the first time, and working within a team. Practice is probably the biggest example, just being intentional in everything I do. Also, the new element of teamwork. I had always swum for me and only me, but now I was swimming for this team as a unit, all of us working toward the same goal. I fell in love with that the second I put my mind to it.
I’ve gained more from being a part of the swim team than anything else at Vanderbilt. I’ve taken away the idea that a positive culture can lead a group to positive success. As our team’s culture has progressed and become more positive and team-centric, our results keep on improving. We keep on resetting that record board every year.
My ESPN internship came about because of an experience made possible by Vanderbilt athletics. It was an ESPN W “Campus Conversations” event with representatives from ESPN and Vanderbilt graduates who talked about personal development for females, the change from being a student-athlete to the working world, and how to manage those changes. I loved it. I was sitting in the front row the whole time looking up at my idols. I stayed back for 30 minutes as everybody introduced themselves. I went up and said, “ESPN is my dream company and I’ve been watching it since I was a little kid. I’m so passionate about the sports industry and working there, is there any chance you could tell me more about the internship program?” We talked on the phone after that, and they introduced me to the right people. From there it was the interview process. I ended up getting a job with the programming acquisitions department. It could not have been better.
There were 10,000 applicants and 50 people got it. It’s harder to get an internship there than a regular job. If you are graduating as an ESPN intern, it gets that foot in the door. It was incredible to say I worked there for 10 weeks.
There were three TVs at my desk. You’ve got to be watching ESPN all the time. That was new to me to think that there are people at work and they get to watch sports during the day. Wimbledon was going on. You’d hear a big play and everybody would be screaming at their desk. It was the same with the World Cup. It was crazy.
On my very last day, there was a speaker series with Maria Taylor and Holly Rowe. I went up to Maria Taylor and said, “I want you to know I was at Vandy Campus Conversations, and it was the best thing that ever happened to me. I really appreciate you doing that for female student athletes.” I’m glad I got to see her on that last day and have it come full-circle.
I would love to work at ESPN. I feel like that’s a big dream. What I really like doing is leading people. I love working with people, with customers. If there’s a place I can talk about sports, work with people, and get to help people grow and get better, that would be the dream.
I’ve always been told never to accept that being a woman will hold me back from anything. I’ve worked every single day to make sure I’m not as qualified but more qualified than any other candidate that walks in that door.
Interviewed by Andrew Maraniss