We have good news for you. You can have a cool career and make a good living. No need to choose between loving your job and paying your mortgage. The following profile, part of the BlackEnterprise.com Cool Jobs series, offers a peek into the nuts and bolts, perks and salaries behind enjoyable careers.
The It Factor: Founded a not-for-profit. Check. Started a digital sports marketing company, 5th Avenue Sports. Check. Led successful ad campaigns for Fortune 500 companies including Mountain Dew, GNC and the NBA. Check. And all this before the age of 30? Need anyone say more? Ali Abdullah took a love for creating and building things and turned it into lucrative ventures, with revenues in the millions and growing. Among his latest boss moves, Abdullah serves as founding partner and chief marketing officer of Players 2 Fans (P2F), a sports entertainment media platform set to change the social media game when it launches in July.
Early Self-Learning: Abdullah, 27, remembers back to this teenaged years when he knew exactly what his passion and purpose was. “When I was around 13 and my father bought me my first computer, I knew I wanted to be in touch with technology,” he says. “And not just basic learning, like software and basics you learn at school, [but I wanted to go beyond that.] I picked up a book and mastered a few things immediately, and I saw the bigger picture.”
Abdullah says he knew, then, that technology would play a major role in how people communicate with one another and share their experiences. “I knew computers were going to take over in terms of communication, and I was very intrigued and wanted to know how I could get involved.”
Full-Court Advantage: As a youth, Abdullah took classes to learn HTML and other tech skills, even while appeasing another passion for playing basketball. He would later study computer science and marketing at Alfred State College in upstate New York while balling there. “I was the only African American in the program. … My roommate and I would be up all night programming. … I loved playing sports, but really what was my exit strategy? I thought ‘I could focus on what I really love to do [that had longevity], which was sitting at my computer, being creative and working as a collaborator to build software and platforms that could affect millions of people.’ ”
As his desire to create innovations in technology became stronger and stronger, he decided to mix sports with enterprise, quitting basketball and traditional study to found 5th Avenue Sports. He’d grind for that business for more than 5 years, building relationships and partnerships with sports players, brands and professionals that would help catapult Abdullah’s career even further.
Hard Press: Like any innovator—and New York native with the Harlem hustle in him—the drive to continue building, creating and cashing checks is always strong. Abdullah has now partnered for his newest venture Players 2 Fans, a social media portal that puts the power of Web marketing in the hands of sports celebs and allows them to interact and engage their fans in a unique way. NBA players Dahntay Jones and Al Harrington, NHL player Sean Avery and skateboarder Nate Principato are already signed on, along with more than a dozen others.
Family Focus: The father of one counts his daughter, Amirah, as an inspiration to continue pushing himself for greater. “She’s amazing and definitely motivates me,” he says. He shares duties with her mother, who he describes as “hard-working, smart and someone I learn a lot from.” Even with a busy schedule, he makes times with Amirah a top priority and says being a young father helps keep him grounded. “It’s an awesome experience and we definitely make it work,” he adds.
Winning Advice: As a young boss, Abdullah says having a voice and a platform is key if young professionals and entrepreneurs want to have a prominent seat at the table of success. “Young people, especially those in the tech space, have to forge partnerships, and find ways to impact more people at once.” He also advocates for having a major Web presence, where your ideas are evident and you can build an audience. “Have a platform that’s live and that you’re working on every day. Utilize that platform as your mouthpiece, to market yourself and to help encourage your network to pay attention.”
Also, be dedicated and love what you do, he adds. “ Everyone’s adapting to or looking at trends, but they may not want to put in the work and grind for what they really want. You have to really have a love for what you’re doing and put your all into it to be successful.”