Queen Mary Careers and Enterprise Centre recently hosted a talk by an alumni, David O’Brien from Squawka, an app company that delivers real-time data to you on any football match you’re watching. David had graduated from QMUL with a degree in mathematics in 2013 and is developing a career that is allowing him to combine his talent for maths with his love of football and his support for Manchester United.
So David, what does Squawka actually do?
“We have a range of products all based on analysing football statistics – we don’t collect these, a company called Opta does that – but we produce Match Centres, Comparison Matrix and Rankings tables. Opta provides the raw data by tracking everything that happens in top flight games – everything from assists, goals, saves, completed passes and tackles. We can then process the data and write algorithms produce products. Our Customers are the everyday football fan, we look to provide them the extra information to settle debates at the pub.”
We heard that you got this job through networking…
“I was just talking to somebody in Drapers and they told me about the internship they had done with Squawka, a football statistics company. Once he found out that I loved football and was doing a maths degree he said an internship for me was a possibility as well. So that’s how it happened and it’s hard to believe that I only left Queen Mary in the summer of 2013.”
And what’s your job like?
“I’m not involved with the statistics and algorithms so much now but have been given more responsibility for overseeing the development of our products. For example, we have had some interest from a sponsor of one of the biggest teams in the world who want a version of our football fantasy game for their site. I managed the project. This involved writing a specification, working with the designer and front end coders, moving then to the back end coders and finally testing the product.
Another great part of the job involves broadcasting appearances. Football statistics are very fashionable at the moment and I get called on by broadcasters such as Tip TV to present and comment on football statistics – to be honest some of the TV pundits don’t really understand what the statistics are telling them so it’s good to get a chance to talk about them directly – if somebody had told me I’d be on TV talking about football when I was in the middle of my maths degree I would not have credited it. In retrospect though some of my modules that required me to make presentations actually helped for this part of my job. And even though my current role has moved me away from statistics, lots of my colleagues are still very much using their maths degrees. For example, we have to analyse things like ‘click through’ rates to see whether companies are getting value from our products.”
Any tips for students thinking of this type of work?
“Since I’ve been a Squawka the company has grown so much – now nearly 100 staff work there and new offices are under consideration. We’ve also moved into other sports; games like Rugby, for example, have lots of data points. So there are opportunities out there. Maths is a great qualification to bring to the business. Any statistics modules are great for this work. If students get a chance to develop coding skills that would also be helpful. So any mathematics computing modules, database design experience and languages like php and CSS would be a great bonus.”
If you’re interested in being a sports statistician you can read another post about it here: http://blogs.ucl.ac.uk/ucl-careers/tag/stats/. You also join the Royal Statistical Society – they have an active group of sports statisticians which holds regular meetings. Like David, you could find something through networking.