CEO Corner With Jopwell's Porter Braswell: Getting Advice From Magic Johnson



CEO & Co-Founder, Jopwell

Yale University ‘11 | Men’s Basketball

Greatest Piece of Advice He’s Been Given: In the early days of Jopwell, I had the incredible opportunity to meet with a hero of mine, NBA legend Magic Johnson, whom I am now lucky enough to have as a mentor. I told him I was having trouble finding my footing in the corporate world since being an athlete had shaped my identity for so long. Mr. Johnson knew how I felt and shared insight on how he was able to successfully transition from basketball player to businessman. He explained that the character traits that he gained from playing basketball — discipline, adaptability, hard work, confidence, competitiveness, and teamwork — allowed him to carve out his own niche in the business industry and differentiate himself from his competitors. He didn’t tell me exactly what to do but rather showed me that I, too, had transferable skills that could be applied to the business world. Hearing his story made me realize that each of us has our own unique gifts and talents that can help us deliver value at work and grow our careers, and that was great advice.

Career Failure He’s Most Proud Of: When I told my parents that I wanted to leave finance to launch Jopwell, they told me I was crazy. One on hand, they were right. I had no experience in tech, recruiting, raising capital, or managing employees, and I was sure to face additional barriers just by being a Black man. On the other hand, they were wrong! I had a sound idea and the right co-founder, and knew I could do it. But I learned a ton from their doubts. If I was really going to do this — essentially ignore the people who are looking out for me — failure was not an option. Now I have an opportunity and a responsibility to help pave the way for future founders of color, so while venturing into unknown territories was exciting and nerve-wracking at the same, I am so glad I took the leap.

Biggest Lesson From Sports That Informs How He Leads Jopwell: I’ve been lucky enough to have several incredible coaches in my basketball career, and I think there are many parallels between a good coach in the sports world and a good manager in the corporate world. This is something I talk a lot about in my new book Let Them See You. In any game, winning is the ultimate goal, but it’s always more complex than simply scoring more baskets, and a good coach knows that. A coach knows that each team member has distinct responsibilities and goals and adds value in different ways. When everyone involved knows the playbook and understands how and where to contribute, wins come easily. If, on the other hand, each player tries to score every time they have the ball, the game ends up a confused mess. We’ve all seen little kids swarm a soccer ball like its magnetic. This team will almost certainly lose, and the locker-room culture will soon become tense and toxic as players feel disgruntled. In both cases, it’s up to the coach to create a framework for the players to succeed, to teach them the playbook, and make course corrections as needed. The same is true at work—each team member has a playbook to follow and a role to play according to their skills and abilities; each offers unique ways to contribute to successful business outcomes, and it’s up to the manager to steer everyone toward the same goals.

Advice to Athletes About To Graduate: Being a student-athlete prepares you for the workforce like nothing else — you’re disciplined, you know how to be a good team player, how to get your work done in the time you have available, and that practice makes perfect before a big game or presentation. My main advice to student-athletes would be to identify those elements that made you the best in your sport and position, and apply that same athletic mentality to your career.