Megan Perry, is a former Division I College Basketball Player, WNBA Executive, and Sports Broadcaster, whose super power is the art of communication and being a champion for the advancement of women in sports, media, and entertainment.
As an experienced broadcaster, Megan is an impactful speaker who understands the power of communication. Her talks have inspired young professionals, college athletes, seasoned business leaders and entrepreneurial women. Megan exemplifies the spirit of Lift & Be Uplifted by working to help career driven women navigate the path leading to their biggest goals and dreams. Megan helps position, polish, and perfect her client’s communication style so that they can establish greater voice, visibility, and presence in their career path of choice.
After nearly 10 years navigating the corporate landscape, Megan recently assumed a new role with the Sports Innovation Lab, where she will be focused on using advances in data, research, and technology to elevate the conversation around women in sports. AMAZING! Connect with Megan on LinkedIn HERE!
1. Rarely is someone’s journey linear. Can you explain what you wanted to be when you grew up and how your career landed you where you are right now?
I love this question because you are absolutely right! In fact, my journey has definitely not been linear... it’s been left, right, upside down, and backwards! Although sports have been the common thread in my journey. When I was growing up, I knew very early on that I wanted to play college basketball. As a young girl I played AAU basketball. I was very competitive with the travel leagues and high school teams and I always had an affinity for competition. My goal was to play basketball at the highest level possible and get the best education possible. This was influenced by growing up in Charlottesville, VA, home to the University of Virginia. I had the opportunity to see some of the best college basketball players and some of the best women basketball players in the entire world at a very young age. I grew up going to basketball camps with WNBA legends Dawn Staley and Jennifer Boucek, and people who inspired me to play the game early. Fast forward, my love story with basketball then continued from high school into college. I had the opportunity to play for Cornell University! Even better, at the end of my senior year I was fortunate enough to lead my team to a 2008 Ivy League Championship which was the first ever in Cornell women’s basketball history! That gave me the opportunity to compete in the NCAA tournament, referred to as the “big dance.”
Participating in March Madness was a dream come true because I was competing against some of the world’s best players and teams that inspired me to love the sport. I grew up watching the late, great, Pat Summitt, in the Tennessee Lady Vols, compete against Geno Auriemma and the renown UConn Huskies. As it turned out, in the first-round matchup, my team, Cornell University, was matched up with Geno Auriemma and the Huskies! I was competing against the likes of Maya Moore and Tina Charles who are Olympic gold medalists and champions.
During my time in school, I was always very focused on not only playing basketball with a goal of getting my marketing degree to someday become the General Manager of a sports franchise. So right after I graduated, I got my foot in the door of the WNBA as part of the league office staff. My work was focused on developing our WNBA franchises and teams, so in had the opportunity to interface with the top league executives to learn about the sport from the business side. That experience served to further fuel my passion for the game. I used the 8 years working for the WNBA to continue to grow in experience and knowledge, transitioning into basketball operations and player relations. This gave me the opportunity to interact with league officials, general managers, coaches, current and former WNBA players.
I brought Maya Moore into rookie orientations and worked with Dawn Staley to send her on trips to Africa. I coordinated different WNBA appearances for Lisa Leslie. It was interesting to see how it came full circle -starting with my love for the game as a girl, to using my skills, knowledge, and experiences to interact with it live during my time at the league office, to become a part of the history of the game.
So, my love for basketball heavily influenced my career path. Now I work as a basketball analyst doing freelance sports broadcasting for CBS Sports Network covering college basketball. I’m stepping back in my career to work around causes and platforms that inspire, educate, and empower women to advance in sports media and entertainment. That’s currently what drives me and has served as fuel to land me where I am in my career today.
2. Which single word do you most identify with?
Competitive. I say that in the best sense of the word. I am wired to compete to be the best and want to be the best, I don’t just want to win. I have a drive to continue to become better, to give my best self, and to help others around me be their best selves each and every day.
Now you said one… but another one is Empathetic. I make a point of treating people the way that I want to be treated. That’s the way I try to operate in my professional life and personal life. Professionally this has helped me grow relationships and advance and navigate the professional scene because people remember more about how you made them feel than all the things that you do or say. I strive to make sure that I make people feel the away I want to feel and be treated.
3. What moment in your life was the most formative in your development as a woman in the professional world?
That moment happened because of my influential mentor and former manager Renee Brown. As the Chief of Basketball Operations and Players Relations, Rene was part of the inception of the WMBA she helped the first players, Rebecca Lobo and Sheryl Swoopes, sign their first WNBA contracts. When I first started out in my career, she recognized how timid I was about something I was struggling with. She told me something that has stuck with me every time I doubted myself, “No one can ever take your confidence, you have to give it away. Hold your head up high when you walk in a room, own it! Don’t doubt yourself, keep pushing forward, learn to ask questions, be diligent, be a devil for the details, but overall, be confident in what you are doing." Her belief in me allowed me to recognize that I am in control of my own emotions and how I show up - this means I have the power!
4. What do you think holds women back from fulfilling their greatest potential in going for their dreams?
Imposter syndrome. I can say was guilty of that myself when I made the transition from a corporate space, after leaving the WNBA at the end of 2016, into sports broadcasting, and then recently when I launched my own consulting doing professional career coaching. What I often hear in discussions is, so many women think that maybe somehow, they don’t have enough credentials, that they are too new or inexperienced, so they don’t know as much as everyone else, and they have to be careful in how they move and what they say. They approach things just being a bit more shy. That’s what holds a lot of us back! I think the most important thing we can do is walk boldly in the direction of our dreams and aspirations and to not allow self-doubt to get in the way! So, imposter syndrome is one of the biggest things that hinders our ability to grow and succeed professionally.
5. What is the most memorable experience you had working with the Women’s National Basketball Association?
There are just so many that are near and dear to my heart, so I’ll just hit you with some of my favorites! Working at the WNBA, welcoming the draftees, the rookie class, every year was fantastic. Being heavily involved in the college scouting and talent evaluation process, I watched college basketball games very closely and I was out on the road scouting looking for the top 12-15 college players that we wanted to invite to the WNBA draft. I had the honor and pleasure to actually call a lot of those young ladies to congratulate them on their great collegiate career, and inform them that we wanted them to attend the WNBA draft! So being a part of the moment that these young women are given the chance to realize their goal and dream was memorable! Especially meaningful because it was a dream of mine, I always dreamed of being drafted into the WNBA. While basketball didn’t take me there on the court, off the court I had the opportunity to not only be able to share that moment with these young girls, but to help them through that transition. It meant the world to me! I was so proud to say that I had a really close hand in welcoming Elena Delle Donne, Skylar Diggins, and Brittany Griner, the top 3 draft picks in 2013 that got a lot of press and media attention, to the league as the next generation of leaders, to help grow the WNBA! It’s something I’m very proud of.
6. Favorite ice cream flavor?!
I don’t really have a favorite. I always end up getting chocolate chip cookie dough, I never stray from that. But the ice cream I love the most, they don’t really have everywhere. I love me some COLD STONE Founder’s Favorite! If you don’t know about Cold Stone, it’s #1 on their menu, with vanilla ice cream, brownies, walnuts, chocolate syrup, and I think there’s even a little bit of caramel! That is definitely my go to even though I try not to have it too much because I know what a problem it can be if I eat too much of it!
7. Describe a time when you were underestimated in your career or life and how did you react and what did you learn?
Oh boy! I’ll take it way back to high school. I wanted to play college basketball and I was pursuing that goal as hard as I could, training as much as I could outside my school time. I played AAU basketball and I did travel league. I was playing a big national tournament where there were a lot of college coaches scouting the games. I was down in Orlando FL at the Wild World of Sports, actually where the NBA bubble was this past year. It was the summer before my senior year which is a big time in the recruiting calendar. In the front row there were all these big-time head coaches, Dawn Staley, Geno Auriemma, and I think Pat Summitt was in the building. So, for that time it was just the “who’s who” of college basketball. I was going for a loose ball when I tripped over another girl’s foot and I ended up sprawled out on the floor. Long story short, a pile of people running for the ball out of bounds actually fell on top of me, breaking my leg. It was very traumatic, super gross, and I don’t even want to go into all the gory details of it. Many colleges quite frankly stopped recruiting me. With my injury, they just didn’t think that I could come back to be the level of player or the caliber of player that I was destined to become.
I think them underestimating what I could bring to the table fueled my fire a little bit. Cornell University was one of the schools that stuck with me, along with Princeton and Brown University. They had the confidence to believe I would come back from my injury and to be able to excel. I had the great pleasure of being able to kind of ‘take my moment’ my senior year, winning the Ivy League title, and advancing to the NCAA tournament. That was my moment of realizing that despite what others believed about my ability, I was able to overcome. I’m always reminded of the quote, “A step back is nothing but a set up for a comeback.” That was my comeback, and it was so sweet to be able to achieve that dream and to overcome the physical and mental obstacles that come with a serious injury.
8. Which leadership characteristics do you learn through sports that allowed you to best lead your team to success?
What playing sports has taught me is the power of being able to focus under pressure. When you’re working in any kind of environment, corporate or otherwise, you are in a space where you have to assume a leadership position. It’s then that people are tested and you can discover their true character and what they are capable of. Playing sports mentally prepared me for situations when time is short, the stakes are high, and there is a lot of pressure on the situation. I see other people get all stressed out about what might be pending or whatever is that gets people all worked up, and I can handle those feelings, because I know that I pushed my body harder and had to mentally and physically persevere through things that most people have not gone through. I take that strength and courage with me in every moment. I know that I can do it. The mental wherewithal and mental endurance to be able to endure tough moments is what has really helped me thrive in my professional life.
9. Who is your female icon?
So many! I’ll run off a list. I’ll start with my mom. She’s just the most courageous and compassionate woman. What she’s taught me about patience and perspective serves me in so many capacities every day. Other favorite people that I look up to are Oprah and Michelle Obama.
If I put it back into the sports universe, when I was growing up, I looked up to and was inspired by Alana Beard when she played for Duke University. I saw her play at the University of Virginia and it was the first time I ever saw, in person, someone score 41 points! I remember being amazed like wow, how do you do it? It just seemed impossible! I was so enamored by her prowess on the court, I wanted to do everything like her. I wanted a physique like her, so I started working out hard to have strong arms and to be in shape. I wanted to go to a good school. Having her as a role model taught me the value of aspiring to a good education and top-notch basketball.
An icon is a difficult word to live up to, so my mom is my icon, but Alena Beard was an example to me. I was constantly modelling my game, my preparation, and how I moved in the spaces that I did, after her.
10. Why is important for women to establish a great voice visibility and presence in the professional environment?
It is supremely important for women to establish a greater voice, visibility, and presence, in their professional environment. I think it is important to be seen and heard, and to have a presence, because there is always some watching. Everyone has heard the quote, “If you cannot see it, you cannot be it.” It’s so true. Even if you are not doing it for yourself, to personally advance your own causes, it’s important to be your authentic self and to show up, be visible, and have a presence in a professional space.
There is always someone who is watching, learning, and taking notes about you. Either they are looking up to you or you are being evaluated. In many ways, how you perform can influence what opportunities the young women who are behind you get. I think it’s just so critical for women to be able to have the confidence that they need to establish their voice in a space where they may not be comfortable. To have the courage to be more visible, to show up, and then to be able to combine your voice and visibility to create a presence that is so undeniable that when you are walking out of the room, they are still talking about you! I would say it is extremely important because you are always being seen - you are the example. We need more examples and more women leaders in spaces across various industries!