Like many young basketball fans, Andrew Sharp dreamed of joining the NBA. His dream finally came true after spending five years with the Navy and then graduating Fort Lewis College as a nontraditional student. But instead of suiting up as a power forward or point guard, he dons a different suit altogether.
“I’m a staff accountant for the Phoenix Suns,” Sharp (Accounting, ’16) says. “Knowing that I’m a part of a whole team is very rewarding at the end of the day, and very satisfying. And the season ticket perks don’t hurt, either.”
Sharp grew up in the Phoenix area, attending Suns games in the same arena where he now works. “I came to this exact stadium and watched Charles Barkley and Steve Nash play,” he recalls. “And now it’s come full circle. It’s fun to work in an environment that I basically grew up watching.”
As a youngster, he did not exactly imagine someday processing those players’ per diem travel expenses. But that doesn’t alter his awe at making his hometown team’s behind-the-scenes transactions run smoothly. After all, his job touches on nearly every financial aspect of running a professional sports team.
“I pretty much do everything that I learned in school,” Sharp says. “Accounts payable, accounts receivable, bank reconciliation, financial statements. Pretty much the whole gauntlet of stuff, minus payroll.”
In more concrete terms, he works with all aspects of the fan experience. Tickets for seats. Concessions. Merchandise. Television revenue. Sponsorships. Advertising. If money changes hands, Sharps says, odds are it comes across his desk.
And his working environment is still surreal to Sharp, who accepted his position in the summer of 2016.
“It’s different in the sense that I’m driving into the stadium every day, and I can go pretty much anywhere throughout the stadium,” he says. “I bump into players walking around. I work with our CFO and other high-up execs. It’s really fun to work in a sporting arena.”
Sharp clearly feels he lucked out, landing this role immediately after graduation. But his journey to his self-proclaimed dream job was much longer than the traditional student’s path, because he spent five years in the US Navy before attending college.
“Coming in as a nontraditional student was definitely interesting,” Sharp says. “Almost everyone else is in a younger crowd. So you get a little of that Billy Madison kind of feel.”
But Sharp was admittedly surprised by how closely he forged relationships at FLC. “I made some close long-term friendships and relationships at Fort Lewis that I didn't think I was going to have, being twenty-four years old going in,” he says. “I’d been on my own since I was eighteen. But it worked out great. I made a lot of close friends and colleagues who I still talk to every week.”
He also feels that his professional support at FLC enabled him to rocket into his chosen career. “I joined Fort Lewis, and I knew I wanted to do accounting. That was my first major,” he says. “I attribute my experience to the small-college aspect, because I actually got to know my professors and was able to get that one-on-one experience.”
“My professors gave me a top-notch education and really did prepare me for accounting and the job force,” he adds. “I walked into this job and I could talk the talk and walk the walk. Fort Lewis really set me up for success.”
And even though the Phoenix Suns aren’t having their most successful season on the court, Sharp appreciates being part of a successful business operation that combines basketball and finances, two of his life’s great interests.
“My job actually matters,” he says. “I’m an important piece to making a sports franchise run and have long-term success—the team that I watched as a child. How cool is that?”