Kalyn Hutchinson of the National Basketball Association is a big movie fan.
“I love a good rom-com, but I'm also a big Marvel person,” says Kalyn, who doesn’t miss a chance to watch the latest in The Avengers series. “As soon as a new Marvel movie comes out, I'm in line trying to buy tickets.”
When she is not watching the big screen, Kalyn takes The Avengers’ team-focused approach to her work at the NBA or is making an impact within her community.
“I do a lot of volunteer work around homelessness, domestic violence, and child abuse,” says Kalyn. “I'm involved in passion programs across my home city of Chicago and here in my current home city of New York.”
Her desire to give back to the community parallels the work she does at the NBA. As a Director of Team Marketing and Business Operations and the co-chair of Dream in Color (the NBA’s Black Employee Resource Group), Kalyn makes it a point to make an impact both on and off the court. We sat down with her to learn about her career journey and tips for creating a well-rounded career.
Turning 2 Passions into a Career
For Kalyn, basketball is more than just a sport.
“I played basketball my whole life,” recalls Kalyn. “It is a huge part of my family. Growing up, everything we did was centered around the sport.”
Pursuing a sports-related career was always in the back of her mind, but when Kalyn went to the University of Illinois in Champaign, another career option surfaced.
“I thought I wanted to be a creative writer,” says Kalyn, who graduated with a degree in Communications. Luckily, there was a route for her that could combine her passions for sports and writing.
“I thought, ‘Why not sports public relations?’,” says Kalyn. “I could put my passions together and bridge the gap there.”
With her new career objective in mind, Kalyn started working in the men's basketball office for the Fighting Illini to gain exposure in the sports business field, and after that started looking for opportunities in professional sports.
“During my senior year of college, I came across an internship with the Chicago Bulls. It was a PR and Marketing position with the Bulls/Sox Training Academy,” recalls Kalyn about her 10-month long experience which set her on her course in professional sports.
However, the ever-changing demands of the sports industry meant making some overwhelming changes.
“Sports public relations is incredibly competitive, especially when you're not ready to move around and go to a new city,” Kalyn elaborates. “And, at that time, I just knew that Chicago was where I wanted to be.”
So instead of taking a step backward, she pivoted into a new field within the industry.
“Someone suggested the inside sales program with the Chicago Bulls.” says Kalyn about her next career decision. ‘‘’You're a great writer. You are a great communicator. Why not try sales?’ And that is exactly what I did.”
Pivoting from PR to Sales
Pivoting into sales helped Kalyn better utilize the talents and skills she had acquired throughout her career.
“I think oftentimes we get set in stone only wanting to do one thing, but we all possess such unique talents and ideas that we can bring to any position,” Kalyn advises.
Because of her flexibility, she continued to step outside of her comfort zone, which included the risky step of joining the Chicago Bulls’ G League affiliate, the Windy City Bulls.
“Not many people raised their hands to join the G League,” she shares. “I was often asked, ‘Why would you leave the Bulls to go to the minor leagues?’”
But for Kalyn, career growth was at the front of her mind, so putting herself in a position where she knew she could learn more and be invested in the business proved to be the right move. Stepping into her new role with the G League helped her to gain leadership skills. With a small team of around 10 people, Kalyn noticed a need to add more diversity to the company.
“There weren't that many women when we first started the team,” Kalyn shares. “I was the only woman on staff, and I made it my priority to hire more women.”
Since then, equity and inclusion have been a top priority in Kalyn’s career — a shared interest of her current employer, the NBA.
Taking Her Shot at the NBA
Kalyn’s leadership skills and work with the G League in Chicago caught the attention of a mentor, Justin Gurney, Executive Vice President of Partner Success at FEVO.
“He thought I was doing a great job building Windy City’s brand and shared that there was an opening within team marketing and business operations, and that I’d be a great fit,” she shares.
After careful consideration, Kalyn accepted the position and made the move to New York to work for the NBA as part of its Team Marketing & Business Operations team under the direction of the highly-respected President of Team Marketing & Business Operations and Chief Innovation Officer Amy Brooks. A bulk of Kalyn’s work involves being the liaison between sports teams and the league business.
“The NBA is the brand and teams are its entity,” explains Kalyn “We serve as a consulting group where we bridge the gap between NBA business and the teams.”
Her work also focuses on bringing in new fans.
“Some people may not be huge basketball fans, but we organize activations in arenas that might entice those individuals to come out to a game in the future,” says Kalyn. “My goal is to create best practices around bringing fans into our facilities.”
Working at the NBA has also provided Kalyn with a more diverse workspace.
“Right now, about 43 percent of our professionals at the NBA are women, that's the highest it's been in decades,” says Kalyn.
Making an Impact with Dream in Color
Diversity and inclusion are big parts of the NBA’s mission, which is why programs, such as Dream in Color, exist. Dream in Color celebrates and promotes the diverse talents of the NBA's Black employees through professional development initiatives and community service.
Kalyn was introduced to this group shortly after joining the League Office.
“I don't have any family in New York and didn’t have a lot of friends on the east coast,” she says. “Another mentor of mine, Mike Taylor [Associate Vice President at the NBA], suggested joining Dream in Color for the social aspect. It was my saving grace. Dream in Color was an opportunity for me to go to social events, but also network and have career discussions. It was an excellent way for me to get to know folks.”
Beyond networking, Dream in Color supports social issues both in and outside of the company.
“All the societal issues that we face, Dream in Color taps into a lot of that,” Kalyn explains. “I knew I wanted to be involved and make change across sports, which is what motivated me to become the co-chair of Dream in Color for the last two years.”
And within that time, she has seen the organization expand and include ERGs focused on other groups of people.
“We have lots of different ERGs — there’s NBA Pride, our Women's Network, Young Professionals,” she elaborates. “For every demographic you can think of, we really are trying to create safe spaces for people and help them advance.”
Advice on Creating a Well-Rounded Career
Kalyn has a passion for creating positive change both inside and outside of her work. For those looking to create a more rounded and expansive career, Kalyn offers this advice.
- Give yourself grace. “Stretch yourself, but not too much. It is good to get involved in different initiatives, but don’t forget to take care of yourself. Women are superheroes. It is important to give yourself some grace.”
- Volunteer in spaces you're curious about. “It doesn't mean that you have to take a full-time position or that you have to do something as a side hustle,” Kalyn states. She recommends dabbling in different spaces and getting involved in conversations that will get you out of your comfort zone. “You never know what opportunities can come to you when you just raise your hand.”
- Allow yourself room to grow. “There's so much that we can explore and do. Try to tap into things that you don't normally do.”
If you’re looking to grow in company that believes in supporting its employees, both personally and professionally, check out the open positions at the NBA.