We Are Knox...
Geoff Ziegler '03
Client Technology Services and Support - Media, ESPN
Shortly after graduating from Knox College, Geoff Ziegler '03 joined the staff
at ESPN -- the world-famous sports network perhaps best known for its
SportsCenter daily television show.
Ziegler's work has garnered him a 2007 Sports Emmy Award (in the category of Outstanding Remote Production Technical Team) and the opportunity to witness some great sports events, including Wimbledon and the World Series.
In his current job, he oversees five employees in the company's Client Technology Services and Support - Media group. The group provides the information technology tools enabling ESPN production personnel to create television, radio, and digital media for sports fans.
As a Knox student, Ziegler majored in chemistry. His extracurricular activities included playing baseball for the Prairie Fire and writing for The Knox Student newspaper. He is married to another Knox College graduate, Joy Thiel Ziegler '01.
Q: How would you describe your work?
A: ESPN as a company is never satisfied with the status quo; it is always seeking new ways to make content available to the average sports fan.
This dynamic approach extends into the technical world of which I'm a part; our group is constantly trying to create ways to improve the technical tools available to our producers and directors.
Like any good job, it has its challenges. We work in an environment where if something goes wrong, millions of people may be aware of the error. The expectations are high, the hours can be long, but the rewards make it worthwhile.
I'd be remiss if I didn't mention some of the other benefits of my job. As a lifelong sports fan, there's no better place to work.
I've been a part of ESPN production crews in 21 different states and six countries. I have witnessed Roger Federer winning Wimbledon. I've seen my hometown Cardinals win the World Series. I've stood on pit road and watched a NASCAR race along with 200,000 fans. I've ridden in a tank on a U.S. Army base in Germany. All of these happened while working at these locations as part of my job.
Heck, I've even won a Sports Emmy Award for my technical contributions of one of our shows! Come on, how cool is that!!
Q: You were a chemistry major at Knox, which people wouldn't necessarily associate with working at ESPN, so can you explain how that happened?
A: In the months leading up to graduation, I had a few job interviews, but nothing of much promise. My girlfriend's brother at the time (now my brother-in-law) was (and still is) a software developer for ESPN.
He was able to get me in contact with a few individuals, get my name out there, get a few interviews, and before I knew it, I was headed to Connecticut. There was still a bit of a trial period for a few months after I arrived, but I'd like to think I was able to quickly prove my worth to my team and company and find my spot.
I will readily admit to anyone and everyone that it was who I knew that got my foot in the door, but it's what I know and what I've been able to prove that has kept me here and allowed me to succeed.
Q: How do you think your Knox education -- a liberal arts education -- prepared you for life after Knox?
A: I believe I'm the perfect example of someone who benefited from a liberal arts educational approach.
Knox empowers students to stand on their own, to expand their horizons, to always ask questions and be open to the answers, regardless of whether you believe they are right or wrong.
ESPN is a company full of people who excel at their jobs, which can prove difficult at moments when attempting to get your point across when time is of the essence or you're at a disadvantage. Taking lessons I acquired at Knox -- having a solid knowledge base, doing the proper research on a given topic, being able to work well independently and as part of a team -- has helped garner me the respect of many of my colleagues to do the right thing in such moments.
Q: Can you share any special Knox memories -- for example, favorite professors, courses, extracurriculars -- and why they are special to you?
A: Knox holds a special place in my life. I met my wife (Joy Thiel Ziegler) while at Knox, so there's an immediate connection to the school which goes beyond the classrooms, the dorms, and the playing fields.
I am also fortunate to have established a number of friendships which continue to remain strong. In 2011, my wife, daughter, and I took four leisure trips -- three of them to hang out with fellow Knox alums. Eight years after graduation, with many of us spread all over the country, I truly think that says something for the type of place Knox is and the type of person who excels there.
Professor (Larry) Welch always was and still is a fantastic professor, but he's an even better person to know outside of the classroom. I don't know if it's the shared love of Pink Floyd or not, but I'll still touch base with Larry even now (and always make sure his ESPN hat collection is up to date!).
One thing Knox definitely did was to afford me opportunities: to write for the student newspaper and be editor-in-chief of The Knox Student my junior year, to continue playing baseball and ultimately become captain my senior year, to be a Flunk Day friar and enjoy that day's atmosphere to the fullest extent, to become a member of the Galesburg community, to arrive at a school in a small rural Midwestern town and leave four years later -- ready to face the challenges of the world head-on.
Q: Anything else you'd like to mention?
A: I'm eight-plus years removed from the daily happenings on the Knox campus. Even now, I wouldn't trade a moment of it.
I was fortunate to reap many benefits from my time there as a student and I look forward to helping ensure each and every Knox student gets those opportunities as well.