EVP & General Manager of ESPN+, Walt Disney Company
I think when you find a job that allows you to align your passions with your professional interests and expertise, that’s nirvana.
At the 2018 Super Bowl, Russell Wolff D'89, T’94 was sitting between his wife, Patricia, a fellow Tuck alum and a big Philadelphia Eagles fan, and a VIP client. Wolff, the vice president of ESPN International, takes a lot of clients to sporting events. It’s part of his job description.
“Here we are cheering for the Eagles,” Wolff says. “I’m working and enjoying life at the same time. I think when you find a job that allows you to align your passions with your professional interests and expertise, that’s nirvana. And I’ve been here for 21 years.” (It helped that the Eagles beat the Patriots to win their first Super Bowl in a nail-biting game.)
Wolff’s first job in sports was working as a production assistant at the 1984 Los Angeles Olympics. He was 17 and spent most of the time making photocopies. The son of a college basketball player, Wolff was a jock from a young age, too: He played soccer and ice hockey in high school growing up in New York.
After graduating from Dartmouth College in 1989, he worked at Leo Burnett, the ad agency in Chicago, on accounts like Kellogg’s cereal and Keebler cookies. He returned to Hanover for business school. “I went to business school for all the wrong reasons. I didn’t know what I wanted to do, so I went as a transition,” he says.
At Tuck, he played soccer and hockey and served as president of his class. After graduating in 1994, he went to work for MTV doing affiliate sales and marketing. Three years later, ESPN hired him to reopen the company’s corporate office in Hong Kong. “I was working with India, Japan, Australia. It was a great experience with sports I didn’t know much about, like cricket and Formula 1,” Wolff says.
Wolff returned to the U.S. in 2000 and was named ESPN’s executive vice president in 2004. Since then, he’s been responsible for all of ESPN’s international businesses in over 61 countries and has been a critical driver of ESPN’s explosive growth in Latin America. “ESPN is home,” he says. “I love the company and they’ve treated me enormously well.”
Each year for the past 16 years, he’s returned to Tuck to give a speech he calls Game On, where he talks to the incoming first-year class on the last day of orientation about finding your dream job. He encourages the students to ask themselves the hard questions and not to just take the jobs that are easy to get. “Ask yourself, ‘What am I good at? What excites me? How do I align my hobbies with my career?’” Wolff says. “Helping Tuckies find their passion is my passion.”
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