Graduate Blog / Career Development

The Business of Sports: My Experience at the MIT Sports Analytics Conference

By: Michael Perlis, MBA Class 2018  &  Graduate Affinity Scholar 

Are you still looking for that coveted internship or full-time job? I am and it’s not so easy.  What is it that companies look for in their candidates? It is impossible to find out exactly what they are looking for, however, I was able to get some great insight into how students can break into sports and dream careers from leading executives at the MIT Sports Analytics Conference.  Although the focus of the conference was sports, the advice given is applicable to anything and everything we do.

I was fortunate enough to be able to attend this conference through the Graduate Affinity Conference Scholarship who sponsored my attendance.  I highly recommend applying for this scholarship for future events.

After reading this article, I hope that you will have learned something new to help guide your story through Babson and into your future careers.

The two-day conference kicked off with the Titans of the Sports Industry, including Jared Smith (President of Ticketmaster North America), Michael Spillane (President of Product & Merchandising at Nike), Casey Wasserman (Chairman and CEO of Wasserman Group), and Michael Rubin (Executive Chairman of Fanatics).  These executives all told their “rags to riches” stories, while providing guidance to students.  I heard a lot about doing the hard stuff, getting outside your comfort zone and making your own luck.

Michael Spillane (Nike) – “You have to be willing to do things outside of your comfort zone and be passionate about doing the hard stuff.”

Casey Wasserman (Wasserman Group) – “You need to be able to sell.  There are a lot of lessons in selling, it is hard to ask someone else for their money.  You need to be able to show your customers how you create value for them.”

Michael Rubin (Fanatics) – “Create your own destiny and just go for it.”

Jared Smith (Ticketmaster) – “Always be willing to do whatever you are asked to do, it will help you make your own luck by experiencing new things.”

Casey Wasserman’s advice about creating value for customers and your ability to sell hit home with me.  As I pursue a career in Product Management, I know this is something that I need to experience.  Selling doesn’t necessarily mean that you are making a transaction with a customer, but you may need to sell your leadership team on an idea.  This is just as important whether you work in a startup or a Fortune 500 company.

During another talk about overcoming cognitive bias, the General Manager of the Houston Rockets, Daryl Morey, said “I look for someone that is passionate and who can advocate for their decisions”.  This is all about “selling” your decisions to your team.  You need to be prepared to make a decision, have reasoning behind the decision, and advocate for it.  Same Hinkie, General Manager of the Philadelphia 76ers, echoed these remarks, with a slight twist. He said, “Be critical of your decisions. Write it down and read it to yourself out loud.”  To me this is all about double checking your work and preparing yourself for the tough questions.

Mark Cuban, Owner of the Dallas Mavericks / Investor in Babson’s DartDrones / Shark on NBC SharkTank, was asked about how it feels to be scrutinized with every decision he makes.  His response was “I like the challenge because any position that I have, I want to be smarter about it.”  Mark Cuban is clearly a successful entrepreneur.  He recognizes that he doesn’t know everything, but he wants to know everything.  He has the intellectual curiosity to figure it out and learn.

As you continue through your job search, think about what you need to work on to land that dream job.  It could be anything from nailing down your elevator pitch to taking an elective that gets you out of your comfort zone.  Whatever it is, do as Mark Cuban does and learn from it.

I will leave with a few other inspirational quotes from the conference and wish you luck on your career journey:

Jason Robins (CEO, DraftKings) – “We look for people who are technology oriented and understand how sports and technology fit together.”

Bob Kotick (CEO, Activision Blizzard) – “I look for someone who has a sense of humor and can do math.”

Jonathan Kraft (President, The Kraft Group) – “I look for someone who is selfless and service oriented.”

Bob Bowman (President, Business & Media at MLB) – “I want someone who is interested in what we do, engaged, and intellectually curious.”