Run Your Race: How DeAndrae Watson Defines Success

When DeAndrae Watson enrolled at Princeton, he thought he had already achieved success because his goal was always to go to college. Now, he’s the vice president of Octagon, one of the world’s largest sponsorship consulting practices, and his definition of success has changed. He shared some advice with students at the Charlotte Campus during the Sports, Entertainment, Event — Management (SEEM) Forum for Professional Development hosted by the College of Hospitality Management on December 12.

DeAndrae Watson talking on microphone

The SEEM Forum is an all-day conference that brings industry professionals to campus to provide perspective, insight and advice to students. As the keynote speaker of the event, Watson began by sharing how his love for education started.

“My mom knew the importance of an education,” he said. “She held two jobs and my dad had three. When I was very young, my mom would yell, ‘What are you going to do when you grow up?’ And I would scream back, ‘I’m going to college!’ She would then yell, ‘How are you getting there?’ And I would say, ‘On a scholarship!’ I was four!”

"I thought the race was already over when it was just starting. Run your race. Understand what success means for you."

Once he made it to Princeton, Watson realized that college was only just the beginning of his relationship with success.

“It’s all about what you do with the resources JWU offers you,” he advised the students. “I didn’t take time to appreciate, invest and take advantage of my time at Princeton. I thought the race was already over when it was just starting. Run your race. Understand what success means for you. Be intentional. Start to think about what your race means. Commit fully.”

At Princeton, Watson was a politics major with no clear plan for the future, until he applied for an internship opportunity with Mastercard that he heard about on the radio. It promised the sports internship of a lifetime, offering the opportunity to work for the NHL Draft, MLB All-Star Game and New York Mets that summer.

“My takeaway after my crash course in sports marketing? This is a big industry,” he said. “I needed to step back and learn more. I had the boldness to apply for a corporate sales position with no experience.”

Watson was told to be confident and take his time to learn the position. Now, with 16 years of experience working in sports marketing, he manages a team of 45+ employees and continues to learn new things every day. He encouraged the audience to be obsessive about learning.

“Learning does not stop. Prepare and understand the environment you are applying for. Show up and ‘glow’ up.”

Panel speaking to crowd