Overall, you are a social media specialist and digital creator. What skills are involved with these trades and what has been your process of development overtime?
Social Media was something I’ve loved before I was even old enough to have it. I remember begging my mom to let me create a MySpace account when the platform was at its peak. I was 10 years old, so of course she said no. Today I’m grateful for that but at the time, probably not so much. My first social media account ended up being a parental-controlled Facebook page at the appropriate age of 13.
Photography and videography piqued my interest before I truly understood what they were. There are endless embarrassing photos of my friends and I when we were young because I refused to go anywhere without my family’s Sony Cyber-Shot Digital Camera. Somewhere in the deep depths of the internet are YouTube videos where my childhood best friend and I interviewed each other about our favorite stuffed animals and gave our “viewers” tours of our Webkinz collections. It's inspiring to look back at my life as a child and see bits and pieces of my passions in everything I did. I was truly born a creative. I genuinely believe that I was put on this planet to create. However, I wasn’t always so sure.
Fast forward 10 years down the line from my less-than-amateur YouTube endeavors with my childhood best friend, and you’ll find me lost and hopeless in my freshman year of college. I was only 24 credits away from completing a bachelor’s degree in biology, thanks to dual enrollment during my high school years. I was at my dream university earning straight A’s, right on track to be accepted into medical school. I was chasing after the career I was told would make me the most money. It was the “best and safest” option, according to my teachers and guidance counselors.
I knew it wasn’t right. I had never been more miserable in my entire life and I knew there was more out there for me. I took a semester break from school to reevaluate, and it was the best decision I ever made. I spent those couple of months self-reflecting and really challenging myself to identify the things I’m passionate about. It’s like a fog was lifted. How could I neglect all of the things I’ve loved for so long? Why did I have to throw all of that away for a career path that meant absolutely nothing to me? I decided that I didn’t. I changed my major to Telecommunication, joined the College of Journalism and Communications, and never looked back. 5 years later, I’m working my dream job as a social media coordinator and content creator in the NBA. At this moment, I couldn’t picture myself doing anything else. Overall, I’d say the skills I use the most in my job today are photography, videography, editing (photo and video), social media copywriting, storytelling and time management. The two things that help me improve my skills even to this day are repetition and believing in myself.
What advice do you have for those still figuring things out within or outside of their careers?
My advice to anyone who is still trying to figure things out is to find what sets your soul on fire and go after it with everything you’ve got. You’ll thank yourself for it. Any opportunity that you get, say yes. Even if you don’t think you’re good enough, say yes. Even if you don’t think you’re capable, say yes. Even if you have no idea what you’re doing, say yes. The only thing holding you back is you.
My final piece of advice is this: build meaningful and lasting relationships with the people around you. Everyone will tell you that networking is important, but that’s not what I’m talking about. Get to know and learn from the people in your field. Boost each other up. Support one another. This world and this industry are hard enough to be in. The people doing what you’re doing are the only ones who will truly understand your challenges and successes. Value that. Value people.
Can you elaborate on your specific career path towards your current position at the Houston Rockets?
I’m able to do what I do now because of how I diversified my experiences and internships throughout college. I said yes to every and any learning experience I was offered. I was extremely lucky to attend the University of Florida, where they offer a wide range of involvement opportunities even outside of classes. During my free time I was volunteering at our school’s ESPN radio affiliate writing and voicing radio excerpts, or working as a video producer for the Florida football and basketball teams, or anchoring the sports segment of the college’s news broadcast, or producing feature pieces on local high school athletes, or working as a utility and runner for College Game Day. The list goes on, but I kept myself busy. I was constantly learning. I was hungry. Even if it was something that I didn’t think would be valuable for what I wanted to do, I still wanted to learn it and put it on my resume. It felt like all my hard work really paid off when I landed my dream social media internship with ESPN in the summer of 2020.
During the 8 months I spent doing remote work with them, I made leaps and bounds in my knowledge and skills surrounding social media. By then, I felt ready to take on a job like the one I have now with the Rockets. And I’m grateful to my superiors with the organization for recognizing that and giving me that opportunity.
What role has basketball had in your life outside of your professional status?
Basketball has been a huge part of my life since I was very young. I joined my first organized team when I was six years old, and my mom was my coach. She played basketball throughout her childhood and my grandfather was her coach. The sport has always been a special part of my family. I played organized basketball up until my senior year of high school. I even coached a team of first graders with my mom during my high school years. Before you ask, no, I never thought about pursuing a basketball career. I accepted my 5’3 fate a long time ago. Haha. Simply put, I love the game of basketball. I wake up every day excited to be a part of this sport at the highest level. I truly couldn’t imagine myself doing anything else right now.
Photography seems to be a big part of your brand. Describe your shooting style.
My goal with every single piece of content I create is to give the viewer an intimate and unique experience with the subject of the content. You’ll see that the majority of my sports photography is portrait-style with a high depth of field. This is done on purpose. I want whoever is looking at my photo to feel like they were there in the moment that it was taken. This is the style of photography that made me fall in love with taking photos.
For example, one of my favorite photos I’ve taken was right before our first home game in my first season with the Rockets. We had just drafted Jalen Green as the No.2 pick in the 2021 NBA Draft, and he was about to play his first regular season home game as a Rocket. Every seat in the arena was draped with a T-Shirt with his name and number on it. He came out to the court for his pregame warmup, but the first thing he did was sit in a chair and look up at the seats around him. He was taking in everything he saw. Taking in the moment. Probably thinking about the journey to that very moment. I can’t imagine what was going through his head, but I felt honored to capture it. (I’ll attach the photo to this document)
Similarly, my favorite type of content to create with our athletes is behind-the-scenes style videos. I love giving our fans an inside look at the players’ lives and a glimpse into who they are off the court. I believe that this is the kind of content that creates a lasting fan-to-athlete or fan-to-team relationship. There is so much more to an athlete or even a team than what happens on the court, and my main priority is giving our fans access to that.
What projects and initiatives with the Rockets have you enjoyed working on most?
One of our most recent projects that I was extremely proud to be a part of was our 2022-23 schedule release video. It was a HUGE collaborative effort between several departments of our organization. To see the project go from ideation to completion was absolutely incredible. It really does take a village to create these kinds of things, and I’m extremely proud of every single person that touched this project.
The video was extremely hyper-local, so most non-Rockets-fans probably missed a lot of the jokes and references within it. But that was the goal. We wanted it to be tailored specifically to our biggest fans. We wanted them to feel connected to it. With that in mind, we actually used nicknames, inside jokes and memes straight from our fans on Twitter. So, in a way, our fan base actually contributed to the creation of our schedule release video. That was probably my favorite aspect of the project.
Another one of my favorite projects that I’ve worked on with the Rockets is our “Day in the Life” series. I pitched the idea to follow one of our athletes around with a camera on a game day to show their routine. Like I mentioned before, giving our fans inside access to their favorite athletes is my main priority, and my goal with this series was just that. With the blessing of my supervisors and team, I was able to follow rookie and 17th pick in the 2021 NBA Draft, Alperen Sengun, throughout his entire day before a home game. I chose Sengun for this piece after getting to know him and his witty personality. With Alperen being a favorite among the Houston fan base, this vlog performed as one of our most highly engaged pieces of the season.
This piece of content is a perfect example of where all my skills that I’ve worked so hard to develop came together to allow me to execute my vision. I was responsible for directing, filming and editing the video for IG Reels, TikTok, Facebook, Instagram and YouTube formats. I couldn’t have been happier with the final result and fan response.
My favorite part about the Rockets organization is the people. My team makes every project a joy to be a part of. I wouldn’t be the creative I am today without the ones I’m surrounded with. I’ve grown an astonishing amount during my time with the Rockets, and that’s due to the incredible talent that we have in our department.
What are the next steps for Hannah? In what ways are you looking to grow?
I’m working every single day to get better at what I do. It’s what fills me up. To look back at who I was a year ago and know that I’m stronger, more knowledgeable, and a better human overall is all I’m ever really working towards. I want to be a better teammate, a better friend, a better daughter, a better sister, a better creative, a better stranger.