By Tom Morlan
When Paimon Jaberi was a kid, crisp autumn days were all about football — especially when the Seattle Seahawks played at home. He'd race to his seat for the opening kickoff, roar in unison with the crowd and revel in the game-day atmosphere. And as he grew older, the native of Bainbridge Island, Washington, knew he wanted to be a part of the team.
Mission accomplished. The 24-year-old Willamette graduate plays an integral role in the Seahawks organization — not as the linebacker he was during his Bearcat days, but as a business intelligence analyst.
"Honestly, for me, it's a dream come true," said Jaberi '17, MBA'18. "The experience of being a Seahawks fan was incredible growing up — it was something that brought me great pride and joy. Now I get to be on the other side of it, and it's pretty phenomenal."
The work he does is essential to the team's success. Jaberi and his colleagues analyze data related to ticket sales, fan preferences, stadium operations — anything that touches the business side of football. Then they present actionable insights to Seahawks executives to help drive business strategy.
"We're in a position to arm our stakeholders with data that helps them make better decisions, which is pretty rewarding," Jaberi said. "We not only use data for optimizing revenue and building business processes across the organization, but to improve our fan experience. We wouldn't be anything without our fans, so we want them to have the best experience possible."
As he strolled through the team's corporate headquarters on a recent Saturday, Jaberi reflected on his journey to the NFL. He said it all began with a memorable visit to Willamette University while he was in high school.
"I stayed with someone who became a mentor of mine, and I made a lot of good friends on that trip," Jaberi recalled. "I got to experience the university as a whole. After spending some time there and getting to see what Willamette was all about, I fell in love with the place."
Jaberi was looking for the full college experience, and that's exactly what he got. He competed as an athlete for the Bearcats. He developed deep relationships with his classmates and fraternity brothers. And he took courses that broadened his perspectives and sharpened his problem-solving skills.
"My undergrad experience at Willamette really challenged me," Jaberi said. "It made me learn how to solve problems and think critically in new ways. The liberal arts education — taking all kinds of different classes, being exposed to so many different things — really helped me develop myself as a learner."
His career path came into focus after he spoke with his teammates about Willamette's accelerated dual-degree (3-2) business program. The prospect of finishing a bachelor's degree and an MBA in five years instead of six was incredibly appealing, and he went for it.
"Up until that point, I truly didn't know what I wanted to do," Jaberi said. "I saw the 3-2 business program as an amazing opportunity."
Jaberi majored in economics and pursued his MBA at Willamette University's Atkinson Graduate School of Management. Working closely with professors Mike Hand and Robert Walker, Jaberi learned how to analyze complex data sets. And under the critical eye of professor Larry Ettner, he became a highly polished presenter.
"Larry really demanded that of us," Jaberi said. "You had to know your stuff, and you had to present it in a way that was engaging. I learned how to command a room and present my work and insights with confidence."
While he was wrapping up his fourth year at Willamette, Jaberi contacted a member of the Seahawks' business intelligence team. That led to a part-time job in the summer of 2017, which turned into a permanent position one year later.
"I saw that he worked for the Seahawks, and I just reached out," Jaberi recalled. "Part of that is my natural personality, but the MBA program gave me opportunities to develop my networking skills and my confidence at a pretty young age, which I think is pretty cool."
Only 10 months out of college, Jaberi has a full NFL season under his belt. He loves coming to work every day – and he said Willamette was the perfect launching pad for his career.
"Without that 3-2 program, I would not be where I am today," Jaberi said. "It just really catapulted me into what I want to do – and I feel the sky is truly the limit."