Wednesday 9 January 2008

The Sky article (Sept 2007)


When people chose their profession, most people’s aim is to get to the top. So a politician would want to be Prime Minister, a glamour model would want to emulate Jordan and a professional footballer would aim to play for the best team- Manchester City (of course!) So when I had the chance to work for the best in sport news, Sky Sports News, I jumped at the chance.

Okay, the job wasn’t exactly a permanent position it was a summer paid placement. But the experience I would gain would be priceless, not to mention this was Sky Sports News, the channel I watch on a loop for my daily football fix. I knew it was a long shot, but as soon as I received the email from my lecturer, I thought I may as well apply.

The actual process of applying for the job was quite long-winded, with a series of questions and a 500 word critique based on Sky Sports News part of the requirements. Once I had filled it in, I actually forgot about it and went about my business of applying for a summer job. Being a very poor student, I was in desperate need of cash and was made up when I got a job working in a mobile phone call centre not far from my house. The hours are good and the people are friendly, despite the fact that I’m the only blue!

Sky Sports News had definitely become my first port of call over summer as the rumour mill surrounding the vacant manager’s job at City went into overdrive. Constant updates on the Shinawatra saga were broadcast and I have to admit that I was gutted when Juventus snatched Ranieri from us.

But one Tuesday, as I was enjoying my dinner at home, a phone call was about to turn my world upside down. I had been left an answer phone message by Ashley. Who? I don’t know anybody called Ashley. Oh, Ashley, from Sky recruitment. I immediately grabbed a pen to jot down the number for her, and I dialled the number excitedly. Ashley explained that I had been successful with my allocation for the job and had been selected to attend an assessment day- an X-factor type knockout with some of England’s brightest young sports journalists.

I was taken aback. I was honoured just to have been invited to the assessment and not for one second did I think that I stood a chance. Mum threw her arms around me screaming ‘I’m so proud!’ After the euphoria had died down, we began planning our journey to the capital city.

The Sky studios are based in Isleworth, which is situated in South-West London, and I really didn’t know the area. I knew Central London well through my many shopping trips and away days with City, but mum managed to find a hotel that was five minutes away from Sky, and we decided to fly instead of drive. My assessment was set to begin at 11am on a Wednesday so the plan was set to fly down on the Tuesday and stay the night so I would be fully prepared for the next day.

Our flight from Manchester was at noon so we set off quite early for the airport, only to find out that our plane to Gatwick had been cancelled. The airline offered to put us onto a flight to Heathrow only an hour later, which was better for us anyway as our hotel was only a couple of miles from Heathrow.

The plane journey only lasted half an hour then the real journey began. We were advised that a bus would be our best way of reaching Isleworth but, to cut a long story short it took us two buses, a half an hour walk and a taxi ride to reach our destination. Five hours after reaching the airport we arrived at the hotel- I could have driven down in half the time!

The day got even worse when we realised that mum had checked us into a hotel that was a cross between Faulty Towers and the Bates Motel. We tried ringing round hotels with no luck- it was Royal Ascot and every hotel in a 20 mile radius was fully booked. It was only a bed for the night and, after going for a delicious Italian in Twickenham, I arrived back at the hotel to prepare for the big day.

I awoke the next day at dawn to the sound of rumbling jets in the sky overhead. The hotel was on the flight path to Heathrow- it’s always nice to be greeted by the constant roar of aeroplanes when you have got a hugely important date with broadcasting giant Sky.

I booked a taxi and got dressed into smart business attire- I wanted to make the best impression possible. After a mouthful of cold tea and toast from our very inhospitable hosts, I grabbed my portfolio and jumped into the taxi. I was on my way to Sky HQ. I was shitting it.

The Sky complex is massive and I had been emailed a map from Ashley to guide me to the correct building. When I walked in the reception I checked in and was given a visitor’s badge and asked to take a seat. All the seats had been taken by smartly-dressed males engaged in sport-related conversation. I noticed Ian, a lad who was in the year above me at Preston doing the same course and began nervously talking about the day ahead. Ian is quite a character; he has a finger in a few career pies and he is possibly the most career-driven person I have ever met. I had gone to Sky for the experience- he wanted the job badly.

After about 20 minutes we were greeted by two women and taken into a glass boardroom. The desk was laden with an assortment of drinks and biscuits and on each chair was a Sky Sports goody bag. I actually felt like I was on the X Factor. The recruitment team consisted of about eight people who explained that they would all sit around the room and observe us while we participated in a group activity.

I was up against nine lads; most of them were teenagers who were studying similar courses to me and looking for a ‘foot in the industry door’. We were set a task of arranging how to cover the fictitious (at the time!) breaking news that Thierry Henry had signed a four-year deal at Barcelona on Sky Sports News. We had an hour to discuss this then had to present our ideas back. I did find it quite hard to get a word in but, realising I was being watched, spoke up and contributed as much as I possibly could.

After presenting back our ideas and being questioned over which presenters and reporters we would use, we had a very welcome break for lunch. Sky provided us with a sumptuous feast: a collection of deli sandwiches, crisps and drinks and left us alone to dissect the day so far.

Most people would think that I would be intimidated being the only girl. But I chatted to all the lads there about university and football, and even tried cracking a few jokes to lighten the mood. I didn’t want to be treated any differently for being the only woman (and the oldest there), and I was hoping that Sky would have the same opinions.

In the afternoon we filled in a quiz while people had their individual interviews. I showed my interviewer, Liz, my portfolios and answered the questions thrown at me to the best of my ability. Then, when the grilling was over, I went back to the boardroom and waited.

When all the interviews had been conducted, we were introduced to a lad called James. He had ‘won’ the work placement at Sky last year and, at the end of the three month period, had been offered a permanent job at Sky Sports. He then proceeded to take us on a tour of the Sky Sports studios.

For me it was like a surreal dream. We walked past the Soccer AM shootout set and entered the studio building. As I walked down the narrow corridors, I noticed that the walls were lined with familiar faces. Jeff Stelling, Claire Tomlinson and Andy Gray all smiled at me as I walked towards the studios.

James took us into a couple of the sports studios and into the director’s gallery, which was a mass of television screens all covering different sporting events. I was completely fascinated; people were running round with tapes and hurriedly shouting to each other. Pictures from Ascot, tennis and cricket were featuring on the screens. I was so excited. This was the epicentre of my favourite broadcasting channel- and I was there! Stood in the middle of the action.

James then led us to a door and advised us to look inside. There, sat at the familiar desk in the studio was Georgie Thompson and Dave Jones broadcasting live on air. Georgie was tiny but even prettier in the flesh. In front of the presenters were several big television screens and an autocue and behind them a huge white canvas sheet separating the presenters from the director’s gallery. It was spellbinding.

The only thing left to my day now was to find out who had been successful. I had really enjoyed the day and I already had a feeling from how my interview went that I hadn’t been successful but I honestly didn’t mind. While James had been giving us a tour round the studios, the recruitment team had been deliberating and making their choice from the 10 of us.

We were all called back to the boardroom and told to wait while a decision was made. Now it really was like the X Factor. An awkward hush descended onto the room and everybody nervously shared frantic glances. I looked out of the building and the Wembley arch caught my eye in the distance, its metalwork glistening over the London backdrop in the sun.

My daydreaming was interrupted abruptly by the head of recruitment walking through the door:“Can I speak to David and Matthew please?” she said. The two lads looked apprehensive as they followed her.

That was it. The other members of the recruitment team filtered in to advise us that the day had come to a close, and that they were going to make a decision between the two lads. I was still made up at just getting to the interview; over 150 people from England had applied and I had made the final 10. The last woman standing. I wasn’t disappointed in any way- I had been lucky enough to have had a taster of what life would be like working at Sky. If anything it had only made me hungrier than ever to succeed. After all, there was a gap on that corridor wall where my picture would fit perfectly…right next to Jeff Stelling!

Emily Brobyn xx

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