Friday, July 18, 2014

Working in Sports Analytics

I just read this great posting by Ben Alamar (Cleveland Cavs) here!  I was very impressed with his write-up and agree with almost every line.  I really like his four points and want to piggy back on them with some of my own comments:

1. Eyes open
2. Technical skills
3. Audience
4. Do something

1. In terms of having your "eyes open" - this is probably the most shocking thing that newbies to the sports world hear.  Everyone thinks - "These teams have millions, if not billions, I am going to make good money!"  Wrong!  This may be true if you are really high up there (GM, VP, Coach, etc.) - but for most of us - it's enough to make a decent living.  To reiterate Ben's comments, I have frequently heard the quote "30 under 30".  This means that most organizations hire analysts under 30 years old and make less than $30k a year!  Add on the fact that you will work more hours than you ever expected - but if this is what you love, then none of this should matter!

2. Technical skills are becoming more and more important as we enter a data age that we have never experienced before.  One example, NBA's SportVu is a data monster that teams are interested in but need folks that understand programming, statistics, visualization and much more.  If I were to tell you that a single game could contain up to a gigabyte of information, you should be prepared to not even blink at that comment!  Knowing what to do and how to do it will be your greatest weapon when fighting for a job in sports analytics!

3.   This comment is true for any job you apply for, but Ben makes a great comment: "These folks are very smart and know their sport much better than you do - I promise".  This is so true and needs to be kept in mind when interviewing.  Don't try and tell them you know more or know better than them, simply listen and add input about where you could add value!  Sports organizations typically like how they do things - offer ways that you are valuable in the sense that you can enhance their current capabilities without stepping too far outside the box.  Telling them they need to completely rewrite things, reorganize or anything similar - probably not the best approach...

4.  Do something!  This is extremely important and I have firsthand felt the consequences of not doing enough of this.  Professional (and collegiate) organizations actively search the internet to see who is doing what out there.  If they like what they see, they will often contact the authors and explore more.  Many folks in the industry have landed jobs in this fashion (without even applying).  I have talked with several NBA front office staff and they confirm this.  I even interviewed for an MLB organization and quickly realized why I didn't get the job - sure, I may have been more qualified from a professional and educational perspective - but the new hire had been writing baseball blogs for years with unique statistical insights.  So learn from me - get out there and try new things!

Anyways, thanks to Ben for writing his blog entry - I wanted to add more to it to hopefully reach to many more folks out there!  Don't be discouraged - but rather - be well informed and best of luck!