Marc Washington ’97 – Football

polImagePlaying football at Princeton was unparalleled preparation for my career in business. It goes without saying that my classroom experiences also significantly contributed to my preparation given the rigorous academic demands, the quality of the learning environment at Princeton, and the countless hours spent in the E-Quad. However, my experiences competing with my team on the football field toward a common goal (which we achieved with our Ivy League championship in 1995) provided me unique development opportunities that would have been difficult to replicate outside of a team sports environment. As I reflect on the impact of being a student-athlete at Princeton on my career, some of the most influential attributes include learning how to contribute as a member of a team, how to effectively compete in the face of adversity, and how to be an effective leader.

Although the value of teams is well-documented and discussed, I have experienced many situations in my professional career where it was apparent that the importance of working together effectively as a team was underappreciated. I believe athletics are the best environment for learning how to contribute as part of a team (especially football). There is no substitute for the feeling of dependency that comes with competing as part of a team where your success is based on the performance of the team as a whole. This experience is directly relevant in my business experiences. I’ve found it to be beneficial to invest in developing strong working relationships instead of solely focusing on completing “the task at hand” or just relying solely on what I can contribute as an individual. I would not have been successful as a consultant for McKinsey & Co. in advising corporations on many broad-ranging topics if I was not able to develop good relationships and bring resources from my team and from around the company to assist in delivering the best end products for our clients.

Succeeding in a competitive environment is obviously highly relevant in both sports and business. In my experience, former student-athletes not only have a strong appreciation for teamwork, but are also effective at knowing how to compete while dealing with adversity and pressure. While competition can bring out the best and worst in people, I believe someone who has played team sports has the benefit of experience responding in competitive/pressure situations. I think my experiences as a student-athlete at Princeton prepared me for dealing with the competitive pressures of the business world and help me remain “cool under pressure.”

I have never felt a greater sense of responsibility than serving as the Co-Captain on the football team during my senior year. In addition to the considerable sense of responsibility for the team’s performance on the field, I also felt a responsibility to the team and the program to help instill some of the characteristics I had learned along the way to the younger members on the team. In my current role as Director of Strategy for Roll International (the company that owns FIJI Water, POM Wonderful and other consumer brands), I am responsible for leading my team in driving performance improvements for the FIJI Water business and also for the professional development of my team. I have benefitted from each of my leadership experiences in different environments and I feel fortunate to have been granted the opportunity while at Princeton. My football experiences definitely provided exposure to the responsibilities that come with leadership positions which is something I know will continue to benefit me throughout my career.