During Cassidees’s last two weeks she really put a lot of effort into creating a leave behind binder that I could refer to that had steps for how to send our inhouse publications to print, contacts for all our vendors, and other important information. She was even giving me a crash course in our project management system that I would now have to take over and manage as well. It was all getting to be overwhelming and I could tell that especially with the season starting in the next few weeks, I was going to be working a lot of overtime. It was clear that very soon, my role as a designer would not be the same job that I had come to love.
I leaned on my partner and had a lot of conversations around if I even wanted to stay on with the Broncos and take on all of the work that was going to come my way. I already came in under the salary that I requested and now I’d be doing three people’s jobs for an unknown amount of time. We had just moved to Denver, I had only been with the organization for six months, and there was still a lot I did not know. I kept thinking, ‘Will I have to leave to find something at another org or outside of sports to advance? Should I just find something new now? Should I stick it out here and see what happens?’ In the end, I decided I’d stay. We tried to look at how the situation could benefit me and the growth that I wanted to have from a management/leadership perspective. I chose to embrace all the challenging and uncomfortable moments that were inevitably heading my way.
The first Monday I was back in the office on my own there was a switch that flipped inside me. I went back into entrepreneur mode. Back to the six years I had spent by myself running my company and wearing all the hats. I was the designer, manager, accountant, production artist, etc. It was a mode that felt all too familiar to me but I knew, just like last time, I wouldn’t be able to keep it up for long.
Well before I even came onboard, Cass had been spearheading an effort to restructure how our creative departments are organized. Now that I was the only person left in my department and given the turnover we had had prior to me arriving, HR finally decided to embrace the importance of needing to restructure so it would be some time before I got any permanent help because we needed to plan and get new positions approved, starting with a Creative Director. HR was sensitive to my situation and told me I could hire up to 2 freelancers to help with the workload in the meantime. This was very helpful but now, on top of everything else, I would have to manage 2 freelancers as well. So I decided to be strategic and hire 2 freelancers who both worked for sports teams and already understood what the day-to-day would be like.
I had to learn a lot, very quickly. Not just on the job, but for myself, personally. One of the biggest things I had to learn was to set boundaries. Even though I knew I was going to be working a ton of hours, I couldn’t do so at the expense of my own mental health. At first, I was working so much that I wasn’t showing up as my best self at home and it was clear I wasn’t taking good care of myself either. After the first month or so, getting at least seven hours of sleep every night became non-negotiable for me. I also had to make sure I made it to the gym at least 3-4 days a week. Taking care of myself felt like even more of a job now because I just didn’t have as much energy as I am used to, but making that a priority over my job was the best decision I could have made. We can easily get caught up in “the grind” but trust me when I say, that email, those revisions, that “urgent” request will all be there tomorrow. Do what you need to do to take care of yourself, first and foremost.
The only thing I knew for certain before Cass and Kristian left was that I was a great designer. I didn’t know if I had what it takes to be a great leader, manager, or mentor. When I first started at the Broncos in February 2021, I wasn’t sure what I wanted for my career outside of becoming a senior designer. That was the next natural progression in my career so that was the goal I thought I should be aiming for. But I was listening to a podcast called Strong Black Lead and I heard an episode where Halle Berry had this to say about goals:
“I learned a long time ago not to set goals for two reasons: 1. I might not reach the goal and I might feel like a failure and feel disappointed in myself, and who needs that? And 2. I might not set my goals high enough and I might limit myself and I may not get where I can go. So I try to just keep challenging myself, staying authentically who I am even when others criticize and don’t understand – And I try to be authentic in my approach and stay relentless in my search for what I want. And if I can continue to do that, I have all the faith in the world that I will arrive at the exact place at the right time.”
I look forward to evolving even more in 2022 as a person and within the Broncos organization. Everything I went through last year has given me the confidence to know that I can take on any challenge that may come my way and I get to have the freedom to choose whatever path I want to take next.