A few years ago, Taylor Epps decided to leave the Jersey Shore where she grew up to spend four years in snowy Syracuse for college. While the weather was cold and sometimes unbearable for her, attending the Newhouse School gave her what she considers to have been an excellent experience in journalism, technology and production. It put her in the room with great people, like Mike Gursha, whom she met while studying in NYC for a semester. They chatted about Rookie Road (he’s CEO), a digital destination that provides the rules, lingo, and gameplay for a variety of sports in an easy-to-understand way (we checked it out, it’s awesome! Cricket anyone?). Already a huge sports fan – every Sunday in the fall, you’ll find her yelling in front of a TV watching football, without fail – she’d previously wanted to be a sports broadcaster, but the intensity of that role took away the fun she typically enjoyed when watching sports.
She now works as Rookie Road’s Lead Content Creator, where she researches, learns and writes about sports, all while completing a B.S. in Broadcast and Digital Journalism at Syracuse (she graduated in May). We sat down with Taylor to get a look into her role in a growing tech startup, her thoughts on career growth and future leadership, remote work and storytelling.
As someone who’s just about to start their career beyond college, how have you been thinking about your next five or ten years as a professional?
I’m really excited. Frankly, at school, I felt a bit limited. Syracuse is such an amazing place and it has prepared me well for this next step, but now that I’m out of the classroom, I’m looking forward to the freedom that comes with being a professional. I’m ready for anything that comes my way. I’d like to accomplish as much as possible as I continue to play a large role in Rookie Road’s growth. In the next five to ten years, I’d like my work to be impactful and I’d say the work I do now is a good start!
When you think about growing into a leader as your career progresses, are there any traits that you consider as good (or bad!) marks of a leader?
I think communication, transparency, diligence, empathy and the genuine desire to help others can make the difference between good and bad leaders. It’s a privilege to be in a leadership position and it’s important to remember that you’re still just one member of the crew. I firmly believe in working with others as a team to reach a common goal. There are always bumps along the way, but as long as there’s an open line of communication, we can work through any obstacle.
You’ve put in some focused time producing various forms of content. What can you tell us about storytelling?
It’s incredibly important. There’s a significant amount of content consumed daily, millions of stories at the palm of our hand. Though there’s a ton of content, we tend to hear the same voices over and over again. My idea of storytelling is allowing people everywhere to have their voices heard and presenting it in a creative and visual way that informs or enlightens. It can be really tough to find those voices – they don’t exactly show up to your doorstep – but once you do, everything seems to fall in line. Let the subject lead, make the story fun, and pack a punch. It should always be based on the truth and show a side of humanity.
How has your experience been with a remote working set up? Have you found it rewarding? Difficult? What processes have you put in place personally to manage it?
It’s been the best! Thanks to Mike and Doug Gursha, working is incredibly easy to do. As long as I have my computer and an internet connection, I’m set. As a senior in college, it gave me the flexibility to do work on the go and in my free time. I’d review a few pieces in between classes, catch up with other content creators on my days off and I always kept in contact with the team. This flexibility has been key to successfully working remotely.
Working remote has been awesome since it has given me total flexibility on where / when I can do my work. Setting clear goals and expectations has been essential for me and other remote team members to be successful. Having great communication and good systems in place at the company has allowed for the same level of collaboration as if we were in an office together.
Rookie Road teaches people about sports and their rules. What types of content have you been putting together, and what have you found works and doesn’t work?
We’ve been putting together a huge amount of content about anything and everything related to sports. From popular U.S. sports like basketball and football to more niche sports like curling. We create content that teaches the basics as well as deeper facets of sports strategy and history. We always try to connect with our audience, whether they’re beginners or experts, we make our content accessible and easy to understand, while keeping things light and fun. The technical aspects are important, but people tend to engage much more with content that they can easily digest. That’s the kind of content we make really well.
You’re working for an early-stage tech startup, not necessarily the first place a college student would look for stable, resume-building work (or one that career offices necessarily recommend!). What made you take this step?
Startups offer an incredible opportunity, especially for college students and recent graduates. It’s a parallel of sorts, since we’re both finding our way as we move things forward meaningfully. I took this step because Rookie Road’s mission resonated deeply with me. As a sports fan, there’s nothing else like it and helping to create this important resource was an opportunity I couldn’t pass up. The role also helped me home in on my writing skills and has given me leadership opportunities that’s allowed me to develop an entirely new skill set of managing people. I knew being at an early stage startup would give me a chance to make an impact and grow as a person and professional, and it certainly has.