Life Mission Awakened By Tragedy…Erika Swilley, Assistant Director of Community Relations, Detroit Pistons and Pistons/Palace Foundation

When thinking about this interview, I thought it would be pretty normal from the perspective of having known Erika for approximately 4 years.  However, after delving into my questions, I really began to understand and have a deeper appreciation for my friend.  This profile was really supposed to be about her career path and successes as a business woman, but I have decided to shed light on how strong of a woman she is.

Erika Swilley took a life altering situation and made it her career mission.  At the age of 17, Erika’s brother (younger by 4 years) was killed in a car accident while being with friends.  This was the summer before her senior of high school.  She described some of the family dynamics of a father losing his only son, and a sister losing a bother that she was very close to.  Even at 17, she had a mature mindset about the tragedy.  When most could have had an array of emotions about the causers of the accident, Erika had a very mature take on it.  She was very fortunate to have a family that came together and provided a great support system, but even more so, the opportunity to take the situation a step further.

Erika’s brother dreamed of playing in the NBA.  So, Erika kind of takes her position with the Detroit Pistons as part of her brother.  In her position she helps individuals and communities on an everyday basis, which is sometimes her inspiration.

Erika says that from this experience she has realized that “your life and the people around you are so precious, and you have to know and make the best of your time here.  There are no guarantees in life.”  I found talking to  her about this to not only be surprisingly, but also inspiring to see how Erika took an absolutely horrible situation, and has made lots of good come from it.  I am SURE that she is making her brother proud.

To get back on the business-side of things, Erika’s desire to gain professional experience began while she was in high school, when many are not thinking about their future lives.  In high school, she got her feet wet by interning at Chicago radio stations in their marketing and promotions departments.  From there (in college), she furthered her professional experience by working at a marketing firm that worked with record labels (different artists campaigns).  During the school year she worked on campus but planning events for students.

Upon graduating from college, her first job was at a marketing company in Chicago, and her client was Ringley Bros. and Barnum and Bailey Circus.  While in that position, she traveled the nation doing community work and promotions, with the local cities that the circus went to.  After that, Erika worked with the Chicago park district creating programs and marketing campaigns that kept at-risk youth off the streets.  After gaining that experience, she joined the Detroit Pistons team and has been with them for 5 years.

When I asked about how she balances her personal life, with her time consuming work life, she stated that it’s definitely hard to balance the two, but she tries to leave work at work and surround herself with good people and family/friends.

The one word of advice she gives, that she wishes another successful woman would have told her, is that “you’re always going to be looked at different because you are a woman, you have to work much harder and you’re not going to be able to please everyone.”

Q & A:

What college did you attend? The University of Missouri-Columbia

What was your major? Marketing, Communications, and Sociology

What are your favorite beauty products? Moroccan oil products (shampoo condition, hydrating mask for hair.  Less is more.  Natural beauty is the prettiest.

What’s your guilty pleasure? Getting my nails and hair done.  I get them done more than the average person.

What’s your favorite book? I have quite a few, but the one I will say is something that can appeal to everyone.  It’s “Oh, the Places You’ll Go” by Dr. Seuss.

I have a greater appreciation for life, and an even better one for my friend.  I hope that this may help or inspire you, if going through a similar situation.

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