It wasn't that far of a stretch to think that Amanda Leon would one day work for an organization like Ironman.
At 25, the always-active St. Petersburg, Fla. resident has already built herself a nice career path after attaining her bachelor's in sport business from Saint Leo University.
Movin' on Up from South Florida
Originally from Miami, Leon was recruited to come run cross country at Saint Leo University in Central Florida in 2011.
"It was definitely a big transition coming from Miami to Saint Leo," she admits.
Like many young college students just starting their journeys in higher education, Leon says she was no stranger to uncertainty before ultimately choosing a degree track.
"The first major I chose was medical technology," she explains. "When I got my first schedule of classes, I was a little intimidated by all of the science classes. So I changed to psychology, and then I finally landed on sport business. I've always been into sports and thought it would be interesting to study."
"I loved all of my sport business professors," she says. "Dr. Philip Hatlem, Dr. Eric Schwarz and Dr. Susan Foster were all just wonderful."
She also has a special place in her heart for Dr. Dene Williamson.
"She was my advisor. She has given me lots of career advice and has helped me make certain decisions. I still keep up with her today."
Classes covering marketing and law and a senior seminar course that taught practical job interviewing and career search skills were among her favorites.
A Full-Fledged College Experience
Leon lived on campus for over three years and says she loved every minute of it.
"One of the buildings I lived in had a nice view of the lake. My roommates were some of my sorority sisters. I liked the smaller size of the school because it wasn't too big and wasn't too small. You do get to know a good handful of students to have a nice social life balanced with the academics."
Joining the women's cross country team for two years was one of the best decisions she made, Leon confides.
"Everyone was very welcoming as soon as I stepped on campus," she recalls. "All of my new teammates asked if I needed any help and were there to support me. I really enjoyed it, and it was so tough to give up later on."
Along with running, she worked as a team manager for the women's volleyball team and competed in intramural sports like basketball, soccer and flag football. As a freshman, she joined the Alpha Sigma Tau sorority and eventually served as its vice president of risk management, having to keep members in line and following the rules of the organization.
Saint Leo is known for its six core values, one of which Leon says continues to ring true for her.
"Integrity has always been so important to me. I have tried to have integrity in my career, and I've learned that if you have a misstep, you have to own it and learn from it."
She has some advice for prospective students who may have Saint Leo on their consideration lists for college.
"You should get involved in as much as you can. It's easy to get hidden in certain organizations and sports if you don't put in enough effort. Find a club because there's basically something for everyone. Go out and learn new things. Don't just sit around in your room watching TV all the time."
An Ironclad Career with Ironman
Upon completing her senior seminar course, the motivated student landed a unique internship opportunity with Ironman, a longstanding organization that hosts triathlons and other athletic events around the globe. She first assisted with Irongirl, doing marketing and outreach to attain 500 registrations for the event in Clearwater, Fla.
"When the event finally took place, it was very rewarding to see all of the hard work pay off. This experience really opened the door for my career."
She moved back to Miami but was soon offered a full-time position with Ironman headquarters in Tampa.
"I got a call from them asking if I wanted to come back and work in customer service. It was a big decision and wasn't quite exactly what I was looking for, but I knew it would be a great opportunity for my future."
For the past two years, Leon has worked as an athlete development coordinator at Ironman, assisting with loyalty and member retention programs. Her role has led to plenty of opportunities to travel both nationally and internationally. She has visited California, Kentucky, Massachusetts, Utah, Puerto Rico, Canada and Mexico.
In her view, there are three keys to being a successful triathlete.
"You have to follow a training plan, have good nutrition and have a large amount of commitment and desire."
Wise Words for Young Professionals
Thanks to what the 2015 Saint Leo alumna has already experienced, Leon offers up some insight into how to be successful for those in college or for anyone just getting their feet wet in the working world.
"Just be a sponge," she suggests. "Always be open to taking in any new information and knowledge, even if it's part of a process you don't necessarily understand or agree with. Always ask questions, and being patient is key."
Photo credit: The photographs included in this blog article were provided by Amanda Leon and are used with permission.