Beau Branton on Playing for the Seattle Mariners, Working for Disney, and The Need For Student-Athletes to Explore Beyond Their Interests

Beau Branton

First, tell us a bit about yourself:

I graduated from Stanford in 2018 with a B.S. in Management Science and Engineering and a minor in Computer Science. I played baseball for Stanford and was an infielder for the Cardinal. I started working for The Walt Disney Company in October as an Industrial Engineer at Disneyland.

What was your experience as a student-athlete like?

My experience as a student-athlete at Stanford was incredible and I wouldn’t have traded it for anything in the world. Getting to be a part of a great community, and getting to represent that community as an athlete was a blast. I had a lot of fun living one life on the field and another life off of it. Studying alongside some of the greatest minds and stepping on the field with some of the greatest players of our generation at a place like Stanford is an extremely humbling experience that forces you to grow as a person. There were definitely days where the responsibilities of a student-athlete seemed unmanageable, but I know I’ll cherish those days for the rest of my life.

What was the biggest lesson you learned and the most challenging thing about your time as a student-athlete?

As a student-athlete, the biggest lesson I learned is to always be prepared, because you never know when the team, or the organization that you’re apart of, will need you the most. I didn’t play much during the first three years of my career at Stanford and played sparingly as a pinch-hitter and defensive replacement. It wasn’t until my senior season, after I had assumed that my playing days were over, that I was thrown into a role as the starting second baseman because of an injury. As a senior who’s role for the last three years had been to jump into games on a moment’s notice, I was accustomed to being ready at all times. All the hours of practice, hard work, and preparation I had previously put in, is what allowed me to step in and fill the shoes of one of our best players to become a valuable part of our team. I’m sure that if I hadn’t been prepared for something like that to happen, I’d be kicking myself to this very day.

Describe your transition.

The transition from going from college to the real-world has gone pretty smoothly. Although paying bills and not being right next door to all your friends can be a bummer, college teaches you how to be independent and manage all these different responsibilities that translate into the world of adulting. Transitioning from schoolwork to adult work hasn’t been too bad either. I’ve found that time management, problem solving, communication, and teamwork are all things I’ve done at Stanford that translate to the work environment. I guess you could say there is a little more at stake, but I like the idea of using my brain on a problem that actually matters as opposed to using it for a problem set to be graded.

When did you know you wanted to work for Disney?

To be honest, the idea of becoming an Industrial Engineer at Disney didn’t cross my mind until the day I applied for the job. I was just a senior in college looking for a job like everyone else. Once I started learning more about the company, the people behind the scenes, and the role of an Industrial Engineer, I got really excited about the opportunity.

What is it about being a student-athlete that you feel helped prepare you to handle the transition into the workforce?

Time management, work ethic, and poise under pressure are, in my opinion, the three greatest habits that student-athletes develop that translate to the workforce. Balancing responsibilities and deadlines from 9-5 Monday through Friday is tough, but not any tougher than 20+ hours a week of baseball, school, and a social life.

What was the toughest part of the transition moving away from being a full-time athlete?

I think the toughest part is no longer playing the sport that has been such an integral part of my life for the past 20 years. I definitely won’t miss 6am weights or grueling four hour practices, but the joy of competing at the highest level along side of some of your closest friends is something you can’t find anywhere but college athletics.

What was it like playing for the Seattle Mariners?      

Getting the opportunity to play for the Seattle Mariners was an incredible experience that I’m incredibly proud to have had. It was a childhood dream of mine to play for a Major League Organization and accomplishing that still feels like a dream. I was getting paid to play a game that I love and I was very fortunate to be offered the opportunity. I even got off to a great start, garnering player of the month for the Arizona Rookie League and getting called up to play with their High-A team the Modesto Nuts. Yeah, the Modesto Nuts. One thing that I quickly realized was that even though I was playing a game, I was still a professional who was being paid to perform. There were time commitments and expectations that made playing baseball feel much more like a job than a game. 

At what point did you say to yourself that it was time to move on from the MLB? 

There wasn’t a single point in time when I told myself that I was ready to retire. For me, it ultimately came down to happiness in both the short term and the long term. I was at a point where, whether I was playing well or not, I didn’t wake up excited to go to the field and play the game that I had been so passionate about for such a long time. Even though I was playing in the Minor Leagues and playing well, I also knew that it would be extremely difficult to make it to the Major Leagues and make a living out of it. I told myself that I could continue being unhappy to chase a dream that would likely never materialize, or I could pursue another opportunity that I was also very excited about. So a week after my first season, I called the Mariners and retired from professional baseball. It was both a calculated decision and a gut feeling to retire and start my career with Disney. 

When you were thinking about what was next, what were some of the things you wanted out of a job / work environment?     

I knew that I wanted to be a part of an organization that was the best at what they do and had fun doing it. Happiness is not something that most companies specialize in, but Disney is the best in the world at it and that really appeals to me. Besides a role where I could develop professionally, solve challenging problems, and learn a lot, I was looking for a place that valued people as people, and not just labor. I wanted to work with unique, creative and talented people that were also great people. I’m fortunate that the workplace at Disney is an environment that caters to all of those things.

How do you like working at Disney?   

I really enjoy the role I have as an Industrial Engineer at Disneyland. The Industrial Engineers serve as internal consultants to the different operations that go on in the park with a focus on efficiency. We do a lot of things like data analysis, process optimization, and general problem solving. My current focus is on supporting attractions so the work I do involves things like shortening the amount of time guests wait in line and increasing the number of people who get to ride the rides. Regarding my studies in Management Science and Engineering, I’ve gotten to further explore my skills and interests to apply them in a real world setting. It’s cool that I get to apply that all at the happiest place on earth.

What's the one thing that you wish you knew about building your career when you were a student-athlete?

I’ll just give some advice for student-athletes looking to start a career outside of sports: I think I speak for a lot of athletes when I say that after you leave the sport you have played your whole life, it can feel that your entire identity is in question. What am I passionate about? What do I do now? A job? My advice would be to get out and learn as much as you can about the different opportunities that exist whether or not you think you’d even be interested in them. Be patient and explore as much as you possibly can. Reach out to your network, go to career fairs, ask your friends, ask your friends’ parents. Although it may not involve the sport you love, you’ll find something out there. I say this because I now realize how much a part of your life your job becomes. If you’re applying to a job because your parents want you to do it, or because it pays a lot, I think there is little chance you’ll like what you’re doing, and little chance that you’ll be end up successful or continuing with it. Consider all your options before jumping into one.

If you could go back and give yourself one piece of advice as a student-athlete, what would it be?

Throw out the plastic twin mattress that’s provided in your dorm room and get yourself a queen or king mattress that’s soft and comfy. There is really nothing more important for a student-athlete than sleep.

Finish this sentence: My biggest strength as a leader is…

The way I lead by example.

Ungoogleable fact about you:

I was born in Dhahran, Saudi Arabia and lived there for the first 13 years of my life. My parents worked for an oil company called ARAMCO and had both originally grown up in Hawaii. I moved to Hawaii for high school and went to the same high school as Barack Obama.