Women, sports executive

San Diego Strike Force President and Ducere MBA student Vivian Lin shares her story of learning, storytelling, and leadership

By Ducere Global Business School on August, 14 2021
Ducere Global Business School

When Vivian Lin was a little girl, her mom told her, “when you fall in love with learning, you will fall in love with life.” She instilled in Lin the idea that no matter what she faced in life, she could overcome anything by falling in love with the learning process and recognising that each challenge presented an opportunity to learn.

Years later, Lin said her mom’s lesson is responsible for a lot in her life— her love of storytelling, leading, questioning, and going back to school.

This is why when Lin decided to enrol in Ducere’s MBA program last year, she was not continuing her formal education with a specific goal in terms of tangible success. Ultimately, it came down to her passion for discovering and understanding more about the world and people around her.

At the time, she had already reached a level of accomplishment that many don’t reach even after going back for an additional degree. She was working for both the San Diego Strike Force as Vice President of Business Development as well as for Wired Right Performance as Chief Innovation Officer. In fact, she was on the road to being appointed as president of a professional football team, making history along the way.

Early career challenges led to a new path

Despite having her feet dug deeply in the field of sports, she might have not ended up there had she not found the lesson in challenges early on in her career.

After graduating with a bachelor’s degree from the University of California-Berkeley in 1994, Lin found herself entering the world of broadcast journalism. It was during the humble days of newsroom internships in the midst of her bachelor’s that she, for lack of better words, took herself off the roster of the weeknight segment.

According to Lin, her current higher-ups were not happy about training her. So she took the initiative to work with and learn from sports producers, which turned out to be a pivotal moment in her life.

From there, there was no question that sports is where she wanted to be. “I fell in love with the stories of athletes overcoming adversity and just the human aspect of it. Sports is all human: the winning and the losing is what I call proof of whether or not the values and the character that you have are actually working,” she shared.

Lin believes that teams win because they have the values of perseverance, determination, practice, discipline, and focus. But to her, it really matters what they end up doing with those values once they win.

“We all know athletes who serve themselves and become obsolete. At some point we can laugh them off, but athletes who take what they do with their discipline and their perseverance, how they overcame adversity to give back to the community…. they’re heralded as heroes,” she said.

Making sports history

Lin’s passion for the athlete’s (hero’s) journey took her on her own adventure. She climbed from KGMB, CBS, and ESPN to making history with the San Diego Strike Force as the first female Asian American president of a professional football team.

Lin’s own experience early on in her career as an intern turned her into the leader who takes the time to help those just starting out in their career. She works with the Sports Task Force to provide young athletes with digital resources that teach about and promote mental and physical health.

Bringing the team into the classroom

Though Lin refers to athletes when she talks about how they use their influence after a win, the message seems to be larger. With each win in the game of climbing the ladder, the character of a professional is shown when they choose what to make of their success and leadership.

Lin notices the character of those around her. She notes about her Ducere community with the University of East London that she has received endless support and care. “When I was appointed as the first woman president for professional football, every single person in my cohort was so supportive; they all cheered me on,” she shared.

Despite being separated by an ocean and computer screens, her classmate from London, Gillian Skinner, is someone who she has formed a particular bond with. “We’re both women who are strong in our industries at very high levels,” Lin said. They meet every week to go over course material and when there isn’t much to go over with school, they give updates on their personal lives. “We support each other, we help each other talk through the challenges that we may have in our respective industries, and then the cohort in general.

According to Lin, she and Skinner plan to walk together at graduation this year in London, if it can occur in person.

“Ducere is a family,” Lin noted. “The relationships that I have made with my cohorts and professors will last my whole life.”

Aside from the life-long relationships, Lin said her past year with Ducere has brought life-long growth. “I don't think I'd be here without Ducere, to be honest with you.” In particular, Lin noted that Ducere has really advanced her leadership skills as she has simultaneously stepped into her role as Strike Force president. “I truly understand now more about the collaborative aspect of leadership.

“Had it not been for the understanding of leadership that I got from the first three classes I took and knowing how to create even a blue ocean concept of business, I wouldn't be where I'm today because it's the strategy that I built,” Lin continued.

Lin might also not be the leader she is today if it had not been for the lessons she learned from her experiences in sports reporting. Though she is no longer on-air, Lin’s love of learning and teaching which drove the journalist in her, is now what guides her as a leader.

“The greatest leaders in human history are great storytellers,” Lin wrote in her Ducere application essay. “Leadership is enhanced through sharing an experience and offering a means for application which I believe is best communicated through storytelling,” she wrote.

Reminiscent of what Lin’s mom taught her, many of the stories that these leaders tell convey a lesson by sharing an experience in which a challenge was faced.

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