Jakeim Jackson-Bell, ’15 dreamed of the day he’d win an NBA championship—a goal he achieved last summer. But, his path didn’t follow the route he envisioned as a child of becoming an NBA superstar. He received his NBA championship ring while serving as the Diversity, Equity and Inclusion Outreach Manager with the Milwaukee Bucks and Fiserv Forum Arena.
Driving their DEI initiatives, Jackson-Bell is building pipelines for recruiting diverse talent; managing three employee resource groups to support African American, women and LGBTQ team members; as well as creating programming to help provide job opportunities for youth.
“This is my dream job,” said Jackson-Bell, who grew up in Baton Rouge and Dallas playing basketball from the age of 4. Working in a fast-paced environment, every day is different for him. In the off season he attends numerous career fairs and focuses on recruitment. He also partners with business leaders to move the city of Milwaukee forward, serves on the board for Employ Milwaukee and is the co-vice president for the Milwaukee chapter of Black Sports Professionals.
“At the end of the day a lot of candidates are looking to see what an organization is doing from a diversity, equity and inclusion standpoint,” said Jackson-Bell, who majored in human resource management at UTSA. “I’m most proud of being able to connect more minorities with job opportunities in sports entertainment, hire more women, work with veterans and provide opportunities for individuals with disabilities.”
Since he began his role in March, he has been able to diversify the organization’s talent pool which has led to a 46% increase in women hires and 31% increase in minorities.
Standing 5 ft. 11 in. on a good day, Jackson-Bell realized as a high school student that he needed to start focusing on the business side of basketball. Attending a magnet high school focused on business, his teachers and family encouraged him to pursue a career in human resources based on his people skills.
When it came to selecting a university, he and two of his best friends put the names of all of the universities they were accepted into in a bowl and drew. UTSA was their choice.
“I had a great experience at UTSA,” said Jackson-Bell, who was active with the student chapter of the Society for Human Resource Management and Men of Honor while on campus. “I connected with people from all walks of life, and it helped me better understand different perspectives.”
He credits retired faculty member with preparing him for life as a human resources executive. “I learned a lot from Professor Werling,” he said. “My classes were hard, but they translated directly to my current career. I gained real life experiences.”
Looking to bridge his passion for human resources with sports, he accepted a nonpaid internship with Standard of Athletics, a non-profit organization that supports youth athletes while at UTSA.
After graduation, he worked in several generalist human resources roles in Houston and received his MBA from Texas Southern University. He thought he’d pursue a career in healthcare, but his passions took him back to sports and entertainment.
Following a connection made through LinkedIn, he began a career with the Atlanta Hawks as a people and culture specialist.
“I created my LinkedIn account as a student at UTSA,” he said. “They were just starting to build their platform. I began engaging with HR professionals in sports and next thing I knew I had a job offer and relocated to Atlanta.”
Several years later LinkedIn was the catalyst for his role with the Bucks. “The Bucks stood out to me with their leadership, the work that they do in the community and their stance on social justice issues,” he said.
Jackson-Bell encourages business students to build their professional brand and their networks. “Your network is your net worth,” he said.
During the playoffs last summer he was able to witness firsthand the joys of winning an NBA championship. “I never thought I would have the opportunity to work for an NBA team this soon. But by putting out positive energy and connecting with industry peers, I was able to achieve my dream.”
While he has seen great success early in his career, Jackson-Bell is not complacent. “My goal is to be a chief people officer for an NBA team or work in the league office leading human resources for all teams. The NBA is one of the more progressive leagues in terms of diversity, equity and inclusion,” he said.
With his enthusiasm and positivity one thing is for certain, he will keep making those connections until he achieves his dreams.