Business Director, ESPN Inc.
New York City. Age: 34
Rolanda Gaines, business director at ESPN Inc., is responsible for the management of ESPN-branded properties, brand strategy and overall business growth. Prior to joining ESPN, she was advertising manager at Major League Baseball, and, before that, marketing manager with NIKE Sports Entertainment. She enjoys working in the sports industry, she says. Despite that industry’s reputation as “a man’s world,” she has met “amazing” women sports executives and credits some of them with helping to shape her career. Indeed, a former co-worker’s advice to “stay close to the business of the company and seek roles that are revenue-generating” guided many of her professional decisions, Gaines says. Although she has adopted the mantra of author-psychologist Arnold H. Glasgow—“Success isn’t the result of spontaneous combustion. You must set yourself on fire”—she acknowledges the influence of her parents, who emphasized the importance of education and the value of entrepreneurship.
A beneficiary of tremendous support throughout her professional life, Gaines is committed to “paying it forward” by helping others make the right connections. She prides herself on being an advocate of networking and surrounding oneself with positive relationships.
Gaines volunteers her time to several organizations, including the National Association for Multiculturalism in Communications (NAMIC), the Lower East Side Girls Club, the V Foundation for Cancer Research and the Hope Program, which helps men and women from disadvantaged communities find and keep jobs. She once taught a course on careers to eighth graders at the Mott Hall Middle School, a magnet school for academically accelerated children in central Harlem.
Raised on the West Coast, with family roots in Louisiana, Gaines holds a bachelor of arts degree in international relations from Stanford University. Some of her studies were undertaken in Kyoto, Japan. She participated in the NAMIC Executive Leadership Development Program at the Anderson Graduate School of Management at UCLA.