Dr. Janice Hilliard’s career path may not have followed a predefined plan, but her story is a testament to the power of merging passion with purpose. A member of the original cohort of the Brand Leadership Institute (BLI), Dr. Hilliard’s transformative journey from a secondary education teacher, coach, and counselor to Vice President at the National Basketball Association (NBA), to the President and CEO of Hilliard Solutions is not just impressive but serves as inspiration for aspiring professionals.
Reflecting on her unconventional career trajectory, Dr. Hilliard admits, “I never really had a predetermined career plan. Everything evolved through my experiences, through what I enjoy doing, and the opportunities and challenges that came along with that.” Her dedication to education, love for sports, and an innate desire to pursue a Ph.D. and become a consultant were the cornerstones that eventually led her to carve a unique niche in the sports consultancy arena.
Before founding Hilliard Solutions in 2016, Dr. Hilliard spent over 15 years at the NBA focusing on the professional development of athletes, team and league staff. When the time came for her to transition away from the NBA, uncertainty loomed. That’s when she turned to the BLI and its founder, Melissa, for guidance.
“I had mentors throughout my career but never a career coach. Unlike in corporate America and some other industries, sports doesn’t typically focus on transitioning professionals. So I didn’t have any help to figure out how to make the transition from 15 years at a company, to figuring out what was next.”
“The BLI was extremely instrumental during my transition from the NBA to starting up Hilliard Solutions,” she recalls. The coaching sessions with Melissa helped Dr. Hilliard identify her Mission, Vision and Purpose (MVP), a concept central to the BLI philosophy. This step enabled her to integrate her passion for education and sports, creating a brand that not only defines her but also guides her company’s mission.
Hilliard Solutions specializes in career coaching for women pursuing sports-related professions. The company addresses the unique challenges women face in a male-dominated industry, offering a supportive community that now boasts over 300 members. Their recent venture into an innovative online virtual platform, featuring career coaching programs, masterclasses, and an athlete development course, reflects the company’s commitment to empowering women in sports.
“There’s not a course in athlete development; there’s not a degree that teaches people how to deal with athletes, how to build a business through sports, or how to overcome barriers as a woman. How do you gain the necessary knowledge, skills, experience, and network to work in this multifaceted, multibillion dollar industry as a woman? There’s nothing that trains for that, or prepares for that, and that’s exactly how this niche of mine came about.”
Looking ahead, Dr. Hilliard envisions expanding Hilliard Solutions’ offerings, and focusing on publishing training materials for leaders in the athlete development space. Her goal is to fill the void she identified early in her career—a lack of formal education, resources, and a supportive community for women navigating the complex landscape of sports business.
As she continues to grow professionally, Dr. Hilliard remains connected with Melissa, considering her a mentor and a source of ongoing inspiration. Their collaboration extends to the She-Suite Team, where Dr. Hilliard has shared her insights as a speaker at a previous She-Suite Summit virtual experience.
Dr. Janice Hilliard’s journey, shaped by the BLI’s principles, stands as a testament to the program’s impact on empowering individuals to transform their passions into purposeful careers. As she and Melissa continue to champion each other, Dr. Hilliard’s story exemplifies the possibilities that unfold when passion, purpose, and mentorship converge.
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