I could have been sitting courtside, rubbing shoulders with Jack Nicholson and listening to bad Kobe Bryant jokes... okay more like editing bad photos of Kobe while sitting at a desk in El Segundo, miles away from every home Laker game. Still, ever since I realized that Lakers.com existed, I've considered it the white whale of webmaster jobs. I had no idea how much they paid, how much work was involved, or even where their offices were. I just knew that my passion for web development would be in perfect synergy with my passion for the Lakers, in a perfect union.
Well, recently, I had my chance at that job. I subscribe to the NBA job listings and every week I opened the email hoping to see a Lakers position. I applied for a job with the Spurs about a year ago, but never heard back. Finally, after an entire year of hoping, an email was delivered with a listing for the Lakers "New Media Content Coordinator". Based on the job description, I knew I could nail this if given the chance. I submitted my cover letter and resume through the terrible NBA application website, and hoped that I would make the cut.
About a week later, I received an email from Nick, with an @la-lakers.com email address. The Los Angeles Lakers wanted to interview me! What a rush. I think I read the email three times. I've never been more excited for a job interview. I was already imagining myself hanging out with Kobe and whipping up Lakers wallpapers all day. I knew the reality was that I probably never came in contact with the players and would be doing a lot of maintenance work, but I didn't care! I was so excited just to have the opportunity.
The first phone screen went well, except for the devastating bomb that Nick dropped on me at the end: the salary for the job would be a 50% paycut for me. Yikes. Not only that, I'd be moving to one of the most expensive places in the country, with a child on the way. Given the chance 4 years ago, I would have jumped at this. Maybe I wouldn't have had the experience in order to land the job then. Regardless, trying to support a family while taking that large of a paycut just wouldn't work for me today.
Still, this was the Lakers we're talking about. Would they fly me out for an interview with Pau? Maybe Mitch Kupchak would shake my hand. Hell, I'd settle for a glance at the towel bin at the practice facility. Maybe if I aced the rest of the interview process, I could haggle my way into Jim Buss' office and negotiate a higher salary. I could work half time! Part of my me wanted to do anything just to get my foot in that purple and gold door.
By the second phone screen though, I started to realize that the ladder within the Lakers organization isn't very tall, at least for the web team. There is no marketing team, so the webmasters are running the show. Pretty amazing for one of the most valuable sports organizations in the world. The person who I would essentially be replacing, had been there for over 5 "seasons" (they all count their time this way) and although he didn't announce his salary, it didn't sound like he was rolling in the dough either. "You don't join sports to make it rich." he said. I guess he's not talking about the players.
The grim truth was starting to formalize. I knew I still wanted to make an impression. Maybe in another year or two, they would get a bigger budget, or need to hire a more senior developer, and they would remember me. They wanted to keep moving forward with the process, but asked again if I was still interested despite the salary. I felt like I had to be honest with him, I didn't want to waste any more of their time. So I pulled out a virtual briefcase technique and gave him about 10 suggestions for improving the Lakers website and social media campaigns based on research I had done. I also told him my situation and that I just couldn't afford to support a family on that low of pay. He responded that he understood, he appreciated my suggestions and felt that they were all valid ideas that they had come up with on their own as well and wanted to try. And that was it. My interview with the Lakers was over.