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Turning pro
Turning pro

Many young athletes dream of turning pro. Most end up in work that’s outside the world of sports entirely.

For Shannon Burley, hard work, flexibility, and a competitive drive have kept her close to her dream.

Burley played soccer for Portland State and worked in the Athletics Department while a student and after graduation as well, rising to the position of assistant marketing director. Then G.I. Joe’s, the sports and outdoor goods chain, found and recruited her, and within seven years she worked her way up to sports marketing director.

When G.I. Joe’s folded in 2009, Burley called the CEO of the Seattle Storm, Karen Bryant, to talk about what possible future she might have with the team, the Women’s National Basketball Association (WNBA) franchise in Washington state.

“It was my experience that was the draw,” says Burley. “When I came out of Portland State, I wasn’t filled with just book knowledge, but also with real-life situations. [The Athletic Department was] relatively small, so I did a little bit of everything—marketing, PR, sports—all the aspects of a franchise, which is what the Seattle Storm needed.”

Now, she’s vice president of marketing for the team.

“It’s a very inspiring place to work,” says Burley. “Every women’s professional sports team around the world is looking at us. Our business plans and marketing plans are sent worldwide as models.” And it does not hurt that the Storm won the WNBA title for the second time in September.

The one thing Burley doesn’t do is play much soccer, but she’s okay with that.

“I’m 33, still in sports, doing what I absolutely love to do,” says Burley. “I’m at the pro level, and I’m in athletics—how many people who love sports get to do that?”

by Melissa Steineger