Burton Girls

Empowerment Through Sports: Sangee Manoharan on Her Burton Mentorship

by Sangeetha Manoharan

When the espnW Global Sports Mentoring Program teamed me up with Burton Snowboards' CEO Donna Carpenter for my mentorship, I wasn’t sure what to expect. 

I knew I wanted to develop skills in sports marketing, gender equity policymaking, and fundraising that would help me grow my Ultimate program for women and girls in India, but I can’t say I came with set goals in mind. I ended up leaving with so much more than I anticipated.

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As a by-product, this mentorship let me discover ways in which I can start using my existing platform to amplify my voice, and the importance of social media in present times.

Three Weeks at Burton

I shadowed Donna for most of my three weeks at Burton, but along the way I met so many awesome folks from throughout the company. Each of them had valuable feedback that I was able to incorporate into plans for my own business. You know how they say it's easier to learn it right the first time than to relearn something? This early advice gave me the opportunity to get more things right from the beginning. 

Other than the irreplaceable professional advice, Donna inspired me to be the best version of myself every day. She gave me more than I could have ever asked for, throwing open all of her resources and providing me with extensive insight into what a sustainable organization looks like. I learned that not all corporations choose profit over humanity, and that restored some much-needed faith.

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Burton has found the fine balance between humans and technology without letting them overwhelm each other's strengths.

First impressions

Between all the interactions, lunch dates, and excursions through my stay, I’ve never felt more at home. That deep sense of belonging surprised me. On my first day back in DC after my mentorship, I suddenly felt weird and didn't realize why until one of the program directors asked me if something was wrong. Up until then, I don't think I've ever felt homesick before.

What surprised me most about Burton was this: From the minute I arrived, I felt like I found my tribe.

Lessons learned

Ultimate and snowboarding both attract similar types of people due to the rebellious nature of both sports. They both evolved as an alternative to the mainstream ideology of competition, and what was considered a 'proper' sport. I find both communities consciously inclusive of all populations, a little quirky, and highly invested in our respective sports. Ultimate Frisbee is a couple years behind snowboarding with regards to professional recognition, but I see it on a similar path of growth.

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For the long-term plan, I want to build a human-centric, socially-conscious company in alternative sports. As far as short-term goals go, I'm planning to drive to all of India’s 29 states, using Ultimate Frisbee as my medium to engage with adolescents and their parents to show my country why it's important to take charge of our bodies. 

The main lesson I will take away with me is to constantly work on myself and my ideas, like Burton does, to be a little bit better than yesterday. ∆


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