How to Succeed as an International Student in the US: Miguel Medina’s Career Journey

By: Chase McCaskill, @itsmechase

Miguel Medina, Partnerships in North America for Ticketbis

Miguel Medina, Partnerships in North America for Ticketbis

For Miguel Medina, nothing has come easy. Driven by an entrepreneurial spirit and tenacious grit, he has tackled hardship and climbed mountains in his short career, leading him to where he is today. Miguel is currently responsible of Partnerships in North America for Ticketbis, an international, secondary ticket marketplace that generated +90 million in revenue last year.

The Beginning

Currently residing in Mexico City, Miguel’s journey actually started in Dallas, where he attended Southern Methodist University (SMU). Bottled with a passion for the sports industry, he was involved in nearly every aspect of sport available at SMU.

“I was a water boy for the football team, an athletic trainer (arriving at the stadium at 5:00am), I worked at the school gym, I was even the vice president and head coach of the men’s club soccer team.”

Thankfully for Miguel, his experience paid dividends as he landed a gig with FC Dallas, doing affinity ticket sales and later on with The Marketing Arm, a recognized Dallas marketing agency, where he worked with the multicultural division. Upon graduation, Miguel received an opportunity to complete a year-long internship with the Houston Texans.

“I was making minimum wage and working upwards of 80 hours a week. It was brutal and my social life suffered, but I was able to play a part in over forty-five events over the duration of my internship.”

The Role of an Intern

Despite the long hours and low wages, he spoke highly of the opportunity afforded him by the Texans.

“It was a great experience, very hands on. One of the biggest things I learned [from interning in the US] was the importance of punctuality. I lived about an hour away from the stadium and can recall a day in which I was two minutes late to a meeting. I kid you not, my manager would not speak to me for the rest of the week!”

Miguel expanded on his idea of the vital role of an intern.

“I believe that interns are the foundation of a good organization and [The Texans] treated us really well. Looking back, they really trusted our opinions and gave us a lot of responsibility. I will say, though, we did work a lot of hours. I remember working cheerleader tryouts for nearly 24-hours straight!”

However, that doesn’t sound like too bad of a job. Amidst the long hours and sleepless nights, he was awarded invaluable opportunities, opportunities that money can’t buy.

“I had the opportunity to pitch an international business development plan to the VPs of the organization, which included strategies on how to monetize from increased brand awareness of the franchise in Mexico and the Hispanic population in the US.”

Needless to say, it was well received as the Texans are now scheduled to play the Raiders this year on Monday Night Football in Mexico City!

The Hurdle

Following the completion of his internship, Miguel was unable to continue working in the United States due to Visa requirements. Upon returning back to Mexico, he began working for the 3rd largest entertainment company in the world, as a promoter trainee. Because of a recession within the company, he was laid off after three short months. He quickly moved on to his next job, working for an up-and-coming sport-marketing agency, which holds the licensing rights to the Mexican National Soccer Team and manages sports properties for important multinationals in the country. After another stint doing sports marketing and, with his passion for soccer business growing, Miguel flexed his entrepreneurial muscle and moved away from the corporate life.

“I negotiated the exclusivity of a soccer product called ‘Quick Feet.’ The product was created in England, but I brought it to Mexico. With little or none money for marketing we were forced to do a lot of door to door selling”

The Perseverance and Payoff

Determined to succeed and brimming with experience, Miguel was sought out to be the Country Manager for Ticketbis, overseeing all day to day operations including the site´s supply, logistics, customer service, marketing & comm. and strategic partnerships.

“The US market is highly saturated with ticket marketplaces. However, in Latin America, Europe and Asia, there´s a huge growth opportunity for the industry. Ticketbis is the industry leader in most countries of these regions. Simply put, Ticketbis is the ‘Stubhub’ of the world. This opportunity gave me a chance to deal with all different aspects of the organization, something I wouldn’t have been afforded if I worked for a corporation.”

Perseverance and hard-work continued to pay off as Miguel recently assumed a new role in which he´s responsible for North American Partnerships.

The Willingness to Volunteer

In the midst of his recent success, Miguel harped on the importance of willing to participate in as many events as possible and learn from those experiences.

“I have been involved in almost every aspect of the sports industry [because I volunteered].      I´ve set up tents/inflatables, carried many, many banners (a prerequisite to work in sports marketing…), I even took a Greyhound to Houston for a volunteer opportunity, only to be turned away at the door due to a discrepancy with my social security!”

The International Benefit

Although being from another country has provided Miguel with some difficult challenges, conversely, it has offered him added benefit because of his knowledge of a second language.

“The Hispanic population in the US is growing massively.  With the world being so globalized, and sports growing into emerging markets, knowing a second language is crucial. It gives you an advantage over other individuals competing for the same position. Many folks will have similar internship experience, but knowing a second language can seriously set you apart.” 

The Encouragement – Be Proactive!!

Just as an American student may have trouble adapting to life studying abroad, international students have to adapt to life in the US. A person’s ability to adapt to new cultures will make or break their experience. Involvement is key to adaptability.

“Get involved and get involved quickly. One of my faults is that I got involved too late in the game.”

This doesn’t necessarily imply working for your local NBA team. This doesn’t require helping out the city NFL team.

“Maybe you’re competing against 100 other people for that NFL [opportunity], why not look at a Triple-A baseball team? Or an NASL soccer team? At a smaller organization, it may only take you 3-5 years to obtain a certain position that may take you 10 years at a larger organization.“

As important as it is to get involved, it is more important to not stretch yourself too thin.  

“If you want take on two projects at the same time, you have to be fully invested in both projects.  It is not fair to yourself, or the other people involved with the organization.”

The Alternative

Unfortunately, sometimes circumstances do not afford an opportunity in the sports industry with an established organization. Sometimes, much to our chagrin, open doors are seemingly slammed shut. Miguel, on the other hand, sees a closed door as a catalyst for a different adventure.

“If you don’t get an opportunity [in sports] here in the US, why not start an entrepreneurial project elsewhere? Maybe the US market is too [saturated]; there are other emerging markets that can provide opportunity.”

Adapting a successful US business model to the culture of an emerging market can bring opportunity to those willing to take a risk. Find a need and fill that need.

The Parting Wisdom

“First, look into entrepreneurship opportunities within sports.”

Opportunities abound in this avenue and it is a great way to enhance different skills that are applicable across all industries. Your entrepreneurial ventures don’t have to be your main focus, so why not pursue your entrepreneurial endeavors as a side project to your daily gig?

“Second, create opportunities for yourself to gain experience in each different department within a sport organization to see what you enjoy. I’ve had executives tell me, ‘I’ve been working in Partnerships for 50 years, but at the end of the day, I’m not sure this is even what I enjoy…’”

Maybe you’re a good seller, maybe you excel in match-day operations or maybe you can add value in the sporting aspect of an organization. You will never find your niche without expanding your horizon of experience.

If you’d like to learn more about Miguel, follow him on Twitter and connect with him on LinkedIn.

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