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Volume 20 No. 42
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Samita Mannapperuma, NBC Sports Group


amita Mannapperuma has always loved sports, so much so that her college admissions essay focused on how she wanted to work in sports. “From the time I was 16 years old, this was all that I wanted to do,” Mannapperuma said. “I feel very fortunate to be in a job that I love.”

Samita Mannapperuma
NBC Sports Group // Vice president, business development
Soon after graduating from Harvard, Mannapperuma was hired as an investment banking analyst in Goldman Sachs’ technology, media and telecommunications sector. “I loved sports so much, they pretty much just let me do sports and media deals,” she said.

NBC Sports Group hired Mannapperuma five years ago to head up its business development team. The group computes the financial modeling around NBC’s rights deals and figures out how much the network should spend. “What’s interesting is that we have a challenging and dynamic role that touches every part of the sports group,” she said. “I’m able to work with all our business unit leaders on the biggest deals for their division — not only within our own unit, but a lot of our deals touch NBC-Universal more broadly and even Comcast.”

Over the past year, Mannapperuma helped figure out everything from NBC’s plan to extend its Premier League deal to its local deal with the Washington Wizards and Capitals. She also was instrumental in setting up the streaming service Playmaker and buying youth sports software developer SportsEngine.

— John Ourand

  • Where born: Colombo, Sri Lanka.
  • Education: Harvard University, AB in economics.
  • Attributes I look for when hiring: Passion for the industry, intellectual curiosity, and someone who is a team player.
  • Networking tip I’ve learned: Make it more authentic and casual rather than forced … sometimes attending a sporting event or catching up socially with your colleagues and some of their contacts can result in the best connections.
  • Best advice I’ve received for career development: Lead with your work product. Treat every assignment as if it’s going to the CEO of your company. Even if it’s a seemingly minor deliverable, a commitment to excellence in everything you do will help you stand out.
  •  Sports business industry can foster a healthier work-life balance by: Continuing to encourage a culture of teamwork where employees support each other on the work front to enable each to pursue and prioritize personal obligations.
  •  If I had it to do over again, I would: Probably not change too much. I feel very fortunate to have a job that I truly enjoy.
  • Woman in sports business I’d most like to meet: Condoleezza Rice. I would love to hear about her varied experiences ranging from Washington, D.C., to the College Football Playoff Selection Committee.
  • Is discussion about challenges women face working in sports necessary or played out? I believe these discussions are important, as are broader discussions about continuing to evolve the workplace to reflect society today.
  • Causes supported: I support a local elementary school in the town in Sri Lanka where my parents live as well as the Asia Foundation here in New York. I also support many friends and co-workers in their fundraising efforts for cancer-related charities including Cycle for Survival and the Pan-Massachusetts Challenge.