Spotlight on: Celeste Bell

Celeste Bell. Photo Credit: Mary DeCicco

Celeste Bell is the Senior Director, Talent Acquisition at Major League Baseball.

How long have you been working at MLB?

It’ll be ten years in October.

Wow. That’s awesome. I take it you like it, then?

It’s a great place. It’s been the best place that I’ve ever worked.

How did you find out about it?

I’ve spent basically my entire career in professional sports. I started with internships at the Atlantic Coast Conference, and the Falcons… I spent two years at the NBA, and then came here. I was literally just searching opportunities online and found it and interviewed and the rest is history!

What do you like about it? What has kept you here?

It’s been a combination of things. For one, the people. The people really make the place what it is. You’ve got some really smart, driven people who are also really down to earth, that are willing to help you and guide you and in general want the best for you. No one wants you to fail, everyone wants you to win. That’s one of the things that has been really helpful for me because I’ve been able to grow so much. We’re pretty lean, as a company, and that has enabled me to do more than just one thing. I’ve been able to wear many hats over the years, touch a lot of different areas, and I’ve enjoyed that as well. It hasn’t just been recruiting, there’s been community outreach and compensation, there’s been a mix of skills I’ve been able to develop over time simply because there wasn’t another person to do it.

We’ve grown so much. We’ve kept pace with technology, and as technology changes, we’ve stayed current. We want to stay on the cutting edge of things. If there’s a new technology, there’s a team in our company that’s exploring it, whether it’s VR, or AR, or AI, you name it, there’s someone exploring what’s new in the world.

That’s fantastic. You focus primarily on recruiting, right?

That’s correct. When I started ten years ago, I was the sole recruiter here. I had to learn how to recruit across the board for both business and technology. Since then, I’ve been able to hire a staff, and we have a team of technical recruiters. I primarily work on the business side, but I oversee the entire team. We recruit across the board, from accountants, to lawyers, to every kind of engineer you can think of, software engineers, mobile engineers, system engineers, network engineers, IT personnel, video game designers. It’s overseeing that group that’s building the latest and greatest.

You’ve seen all the All Stars shining up their LinkedIn’s, building their resumes, preparing to enter the workforce. Is there one characteristic that makes a prospective employee stand out?

What makes people stand out for us is their attitude. Because we operate pretty lean, the willingness to do whatever is asked of you, if anything is thrown your way to pick it up and run with it whether you know about it or not. That willingness to learn it whether you know it or not. And knowing that you may fail, that’s okay, everyone does, it’s accepted. You learn from it, you grow from it, you move on. And so positive attitude is one of the most important things someone can bring to our organization.

On the flipside, bad attitude is the fastest way to not get a job here. To come in and not want to do whatever is asked, the little things that make a difference. Attitude, I can’t speak to it enough. Skillset you can learn. Whether you know something or not coming in the door, you can always learn it. Attitude is a lot harder to teach.

It’s funny. I don’t think before this conversation I ever thought of it this way, but it seems like a lot of the way MLB is run is similar to a lot of startups, in that you’re looking for a flexible, responsive, fast team.

That’s correct. That adaptability is really important.

Do you find, as a person of color, that there’s a lot of support within MLB for you and your experiences, and spaces to air them?

We certainly are growing in that area. We have a diversity team. But I’ve always felt supported. There’s never been a time when I’ve felt discriminated against, or that something was happening because of the color of my skin or my gender. In terms of support, whether you’re the only woman in a room, or the only person of color, it really doesn’t matter. What you bring to the table in terms of your ideas is what matters and what people care about.

I hope that the rest of the company feels the same way, and that our employees feel the same, but I can only speak for myself.

How were you introduced to All Star Code?

I was looking for an opportunity to volunteer, and I literally just did a Google search. I was looking for organizations that supported kids of color that were local to New York, and All Star Code came up. I reached out to the contact person on the career site, and they got back to me. I didn’t know anything about the organization, but the person explained the mission and I thought “You know, that would make sense for us as an organization to be a part of.”

I was really just reaching out for my personal time, to volunteer, but after really hearing all that they do, it just made sense to start a conversation from an organizational level.

You’ve hosted for three years in a row, right? What keeps you coming back?

Because I’m able to actually see the difference. Anytime you’re able to actually see how a program is impacting the lives of its students, there’s no question of whether you’ll continue. The first year was great. The second year, one of the students, Brian Antoine, came back as a teaching fellow. Really smart, really great — he’s going to do really wonderful things. The fact that they’re able to learn, grow, develop, and then come back and help others, paying it forward right away, I think that’s awesome.

There’s so many wonderful things I can say about the program because I’m able to see it myself. A lot of times, when you give to an organization you don’t get to actually see the benefits. But when you get to see it yourself, it just makes a difference. It makes you think “We have to continue. I want to see this grow. I want to see it in every state in the country. Every city should have a program like this, because it’s so important.”

Do you have any stories, memories, of hosting the program? Mentorship stories?

I consider myself a mentor for the whole program, in a way. I normally don’t sign up for a mentee, because I don’t want to take away that experience for others. We always have more people signing up than we have mentees — which is a great problem to have! But I don’t want to take away from a mentor, especially being that they’re in technology and I’m not. I can’t shed light on how to code or anything! But I told all of them that they can think of me as a big sister. If there are issues, questions about their future, resumes, internships, all of those things, they can reach out to me.

One of our students, Mohammed Ajao, was in our program last year. He also has come back as a teaching fellow at Oath. We did a site visit where we hosted Oath’s cohort, and I was so delighted to see him come in as a teaching fellow! I didn’t know he had become one. We’ve since connected and I’m putting him in touch with our product team to talk about product opportunities and internships since he’s going to NYU in the fall and he’s got a real interest in product. It’s just being able to reconnect. I really do consider them all my little brothers.

It’s so moving to see how someone has changed over the years.

Yes! Definitely! And with Mohammed, it’s only been one year. He was here last year! I remember him from the orientation because he asked the most questions.

It’s a wonderful program that we plan to continue supporting for years to come. As long as you guys are in existence, we plan to continue to support. Being able to see the products has just been fantastic.

I’m so glad you had Cole Mattox speak at the benefit because seeing what is possible, and for the other students to see what is possible, is amazing. I hope to see more of those stories, where high school students or college students decide that “I don’t have to wait until I’m done with school, I can do this now. I can create and build and make opportunities for myself now.” I’m hoping that what he has done, and what you all are doing, that it spreads like wildfire.