South Dakota State University (SDSU) has no shortage of great success stories when it comes to its graduates. One such case is recent graduate Kyle Harris, who currently works as an account manager for Brookings, S.D.-based Daktronics, handling 190-plus accounts across the NHL, MLB, NBA and NFL.

Let’s get to know Kyle.

About Kyle

During his time at SDSU, Kyle majored in business economics and was an active member of the Jackrabbits football team. He was a kicker from 2008 to 2011 and later served as an assistant special teams coach in 2012. During his college athletic career, he was part of the team that won the Dakota Marker in 2008 and 2009, was a team captain in 2011 and was among the top three in college football for kickoffs as touchbacks in 2009. 

What does a normal day in your life look like?

I manage customer accounts, sell service agreements, oversee outstanding service escalations and service projects—and build relationships. Having more than 190 different customers, including professional and college athletics, event centers, race tracks and casinos in Texas, Oklahoma, Louisiana, Mississippi, Arkansas and other locations throughout the United States—there is not a normal day.

Who do you count among your notable clients?

Some of my larger clients include the Texas Rangers, Houston Astros, Oklahoma City Thunder and Memphis Grizzlies. Every day welcomes different challenges and offers many triumphs along the way. It is an extremely fast-paced world. You must be able to multitask at a high level, manage your time wisely and be prepared for any situation that might be thrown your way.

About Daktronics

Established 1968, Daktronics is the world's industry leader in designing and manufacturing electronic scoreboards, programmable display systems and large-screen video displays. It strives to continuously provide the highest quality standard display products as well as custom-designed and integrated systems.

What have you been up to since leaving SDSU?

Since graduating and finishing up my football career at SDSU, I have been an assistant special teams coach for the Jackrabbits and an intern in sales for Daktronics before my current position. I am involved with a few nonprofits—St. Louis Strong, promoting unification between St. Louis County and the city of St. Louis, and United Brachial Plexus Network (UBPN), a group assisting families and patients born/injured with Erb’s palsy or brachial plexus, both of which are severe injuries to the shoulder which limits growth, feeling and function. I was born with this handicap and have lived with it my entire life. It has shaped my motivation to be successful.

What have you learned from your career experiences so far?

All these positions have helped me develop and challenged me in different ways. The most important thing is to work hard, and good things will come. Find a mentor who you respect, and find a way to earn their respect. Learn everything you can about them. Set goals and accomplish them!

How did SDSU prepare you for your career?

The first thing that comes to mind is relationships. The number of great people I crossed paths with at SDSU was remarkable. Every person I met while in Brookings was genuine. Not only was I welcomed with open arms, but my parents and family were as well.

Another item to note is “Make a Difference,” or “M.A.D.” This was a saying Coach Stiegelmeier preached, and it applies to everything in life. In my personal life, it means to treat everyone with respect. Think before you speak, and try to make a positive impact on anyone you come across. In my professional life, it means to raise the bar for yourself and those around you. Find a way to make positive changes within your organization that benefits everyone involved (including the customer).

What did you love most about the SDSU campus?

Everyone’s passion. The student body, faculty and residents of Brookings love their Jackrabbits. It was a blast to play football for such a great fan base. To be honest, I didn’t know what to expect when I signed my letter of intent for SDSU. There were four feet of snow on the ground and it was -4 outside when I went on my recruiting trip. (I’m originally from Florissant, Mo., near Ferguson.) The transparency and trustworthiness I received from the coaching staff sold me on SDSU. I would take genuine and trustworthy coaches versus playing for a bigger school any day of the week! 

What are your future career goals?

Last February marked five years for me with Daktronics. It has offered many unique opportunities, challenges and learning experiences. My first goal is to be the best at what I do. I want to ensure I am working in a position that helps develop my skills, allows me to take on interesting projects, and gives me the chance to work with people I can learn from. A second career goal of mine is to earn my MBA. Third is to take on more managerial or supervisory responsibilities. Being able to provide advice and coaching is a strength of mine. I would love to apply these attributes in a professional setting and help grow those around me. A fourth goal of mine is more of a long-term one. I have always wanted to start my own company. Lastly, I want to get a vote on the ballot for the citizens of the St. Louis region to merge the city of St. Louis and St. Louis County. Hopefully by changing the mentality and merging the city and county we can work together to make the entire STL region successful!

What advice would you give to current SDSU students?

  1. Be patient—try your best to be patient, and, instead of changing jobs, challenge yourself to look at things differently. If you don’t like how something is done within your organization, analyze the situation and develop data or specific solutions to those concerns.
  2. Go the extra mile—work your tail off, and retirement will come sooner rather than later. Second, work your tail off now, and good things will come. Shoot for the moon, and, as the saying goes, land among the stars.
  3. Respond promptly—I try to apply a 24-hour rule with my work. If someone emails me, I will respond as soon as possible. This creates trust. Over time, this turns into respect, and you can build those all-important relationships.
  4. Be more than an email address—it is easy to send emails or IMs. What is difficult is to pick up the phone, visit someone in person or even send a hand-written letter. These “customer touches” go a long way.
  5. Network—challenge yourself to attend networking events within your industry or even outside it. If you are new to a city, download the app “Meet Up.” It has a ton of common interest groups located within your area.
  6. Find a mentor—a mentor to me means someone I respect and admire, someone who will take the time to assist with and understand my goals. Challenge yourself to not only find a mentor, but to also learn everything about that person. Earn their respect and understand how they got to where they are.
  7. Get away—find something that gets your mind off things. (For me, it’s running and lifting weights.) It gets me away from my phone, email, social media, calls, etc. It helps give me a fresh outlook and essentially hits the refresh button for me.
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