Original Source : The Interview Portal
Can you imagine for a moment, the world of sports without records? How would it be if we never discussed Sachin’s 50 centuries or Federer’s 18 Grand Slam victories? What would commentary be like without the records associated with players? If there were no sports analysts, there would be no numbers to discuss and sports would be a monotonous subject like any other subject taught at school. The most interesting and engrossing aspect of any sport other than sports itself, is the mind boggling numbers and statistics.
But thanks to our diligent number crunchers who meticulously analyze every piece of data associated with any sport to identify and annotate records that commentators can dwell on and make the subject very interesting to us viewers
Shyam Krishnamurthy from The Interview Portal chats with Gaurav Sundararaman, Senior Stats Analyst at ESPN about his experiences and journey .
Hi Gaurav, Can you tell us a little bit about your background?
I grew up predominantly in Chennai , studied at PS.Senior Secondary school. My parents were academically inclined and I have an elder brother who did his MS in computers and is currently abroad . As customary in India, I ended up pursuing Computer Science Engineering at Venkateshwara University where I majored in Computer Science Engineering.
What was your first job after graduation?
After graduation, I was pretty clear that I didn’t want to pursue the regular IT career path .Inspite of getting a placement from TCS I was very keen on taking up an offbeat career. In the meanwhile I got an opportunity at Frost & Sullivan through a reference where I was accepted after an interview. I worked there for about 3 years. Frost & Sullivan , being a very small firm , gave me enormous responsibility and the business skills that I learned very well complemented my background. My time was primarily spent on market research and making customer centric presentations that gave me a very useful and fresh perspective on addressing business needs.
What were the key influences that shaped your career?
My brother was a big influence in my early years. My love for sports, especially cricket, came from him. Also, after my graduation, I had opportunity to travel to the US to visit him and that trip opened my eyes to a completely different perspective which also influenced me in a big way. When I came back I had made up my mind that I would pursue a path based on my interests rather than pick up a regular job. However, to mitigate my risks, I decided to pursue an MBA to make sure I had a strong educational foundation to take risks so I had something to fall back on. I also had a very strong emotional support system in the form of my family (my mother and wife) who were very encouraging and supportive of my career choices. Great Lakes Institute was an upcoming MBA program at that time and I got admitted. Throughout my career, the drive to pursue a sport related career was always on my mind.
How did you plan the transition to a Sports Career?
My stint at Frost & Sullivan which happened before my MBA, helped me quite a lot in honing my business skills. After graduation, I got an immediate placement at Wipro where I worked as a part of their Green Consulting Practice. I worked at Wipro for a year. During all these years there was always a desire deep inside me to pursue a career related to sports, especially cricket. Sometime in 2012, I came across an article regarding a sports venture that was being funded by top cricketers related to video analytics. The firm, SportsMechanics, was being headed by a cricket veteran. I emailed him regarding my interest in cricket and potential opportunities where I could contribute. The firm , being a startup, was in no position to pay me to market standards . However, they needed a person who could lead the team from a data analytics perspective in order to provide insightful recommendations to their clients. I accepted the offer after consultations with my family who were very supportive. I worked at SportsMechanics for more than 4 years, heading the data analytics team where I was responsible for analyzing cricket data and providing valuable insights to various teams to improve their performance in future matches. This venture was great learning experience for me. I had several opportunities to travel overseas, work with the Indian Cricket Team, IPL franchises and also play a small but valuable role for the World Cup winning West Indies T20 team in 2016.
How did you end up at ESPN?
In 2016, having worked at Sport Mechanics for more than 4 years, I was looking for a larger platform where I could leverage my skills to promote cricket analytics to a larger audience. That’s when ESPN happened. I realized with ESPN I had an opportunity to be the data guy behind their digital ventures as well as their online website cricinfo.com. There was also a great opportunity to interact with the core audience, the cricket fans. I felt this gave me a larger canvas to expand my skills and especially capitalize on my earlier experiences at Frost & Sullivan and Sport Mechanics.
How is your work at ESPN?
We work on a flexible schedule, based on cricket match schedules. The working hours aren’t fixed. I also write several articles and interact with cricket fans across the world. I have an opportunity to work with a lot of data and provide insights.
What is your advice to students who are interested in pursuing an offbeat, unusual and interesting career such as sports?
You need to be very patient and persistent. You also need to have a very strong support system backing you, especially family. It’s not just about taking risks , but calculated risks and having a reasonable financial backing to support your choices. You also need to be aware that you would be working with experts in the field and you need to handle conflicts and situations amicably. Passion is great but you need to plan your career well enough to meet your goals.
Gaurav can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org for any career guidance regarding sports based careers !