Editor’s note: In March, the Walt Disney Company and President and Chief Executive Officer Bob Iger announced an important new initiative to recruit and hire military veterans across all segments of the company.
“Heroes Work Here. Employ excellence. Hire veterans” is Disney’s pledge to find career opportunities for 1,000 veterans over the next three years. The company has launched a national campaign to encourage all employers to hire veterans. Additionally, employees will be encouraged to serve veterans organizations through Disney’s VoluntEARS program.
This week, in honor of Memorial Day, Front Row will spotlight some of ESPN’s employees who are also veterans. Today’s profile is Allen Black.
Hometown: Detroit, Mich.
Current Title: Manager of Content System Design in Engineering Content Systems
Length of time at ESPN: 7.5 years
Favorite team(s): Detroit Lions and Tigers
What branch of the military were you in and what was your role?
I joined the Navy right after high school and was enlisted for 10 years. I was a Fire Control Technician First Class Submarines based in Groton, Conn. This dealt mainly with weapons control, in a sense we were responsible for operating and maintaining the electronics and computerized portions of the submarine weapons systems. This included tracking other ships, enemy submarines, enemy surface ships, the Tomahawk targeting system and non-combative ships.
With your background was this an easy transition into civilian life?
The military was a means to an end. I grew up in a pretty tough situation in Detroit. For me, it was getting out of a bad situation and the Navy was my ticket. My main criterion was to go in and learn a trade and after my enlistment go out and get a good job.
What made you choose to work for ESPN?
I was told by a friend whom I served with that there was an open position and that I should apply. So I came on a tour and tried to see how I could leverage my skills to fit the role that needed to be filled. I’m a huge sports fan. Therefore to work at a place where we’re on the cusp of new technology and driving the industry, as well as being surrounded by sports is like a dream job.
How do you feel your military background helps out with your current position?
The values that I learned from the military were very beneficial. Especially working in submarines, it’s a different type of environment that isn’t comparable to anything else. Leadership, communication and taking initiative are important qualities that I took with me. Also, it’s not about what you did yesterday, it’s about what you’re going to do tomorrow. I think ESPN is a lot like that because even though we’re such a huge company there’s still a startup kind of mentality with taking pride in what you do. In a lot of ways it reminds me of the submarine force.