If you’re serious about working for TeamRankings, we’d encourage you to learn about our company, work environment, and hiring process.
TeamRankings (or “TR” for short) is a unique organization, and working with us is a little different than most companies. For the right person, a job at TR is as good as it gets, but how we operate is definitely not for everyone.
Read on to find out why.
Our inspiration for starting TR
For sports geeks, working at TR is one of those once in a lifetime opportunities to get paid to do what you love. When someone asks what you do for a living, it’s pretty awesome to say, “Oh, I design algorithms to predict NFL football games” or “I help people use data and game theory to win March Madness pools.” Eventually, you get used to the stares of disbelief.
At the same time, we’re only the fascination of the cocktail party because we’ve built a successful business, and great people make great businesses. So when it comes to hiring, we’re extremely selective. We screen for skills, attitude, and cultural fit, and we don’t compromise our goal to build the smartest and most productive team we can. (Here’s our current team, by the way.)
In addition, there are a few particular details about TR that you should consider carefully before contacting us about a job posting.
We obviously like to hire people who love sports. We all love sports; being a college basketball superfan inspired our initial founder, Mike Greenfield, to launch TR from his Stanford dorm room way back in 2000. Here’s what the v1 looked like, in case you weren’t born yet. (The graphic design was stunning, we know.)
However, our love of sports did not propel TR’s growth from a stat geek’s pet project into a successful full-time business. Technical, analytical, and marketing skills made it happen, along with a ton of hard work.
So while knowledge of sports and/or the sports betting markets is always a big plus, we care a lot more about how good you are at building analytical models, writing code, designing responsive web sites, synthesizing data, interacting with customers, or writing numbers-intensive prose that still appeals to millions of sports fans.
A can-do attitude and a passion for excellence rank similarly on the recruiting totem pole. Do you pride yourself on delivering great work? Are you eager to tackle big challenges? That’s far more important to us than whether you can recall who won the NL East in 2002. (The Braves in a landslide, by the way....a 19 game lead!)
As a self-sufficient business that’s majority owned by the founders, we’re not subject to the external pressures and politics that many tech companies face. (Our initial goal was to build TR without the help of institutional venture capital, and we’ve succeeded in doing that.) We call the shots, and the entire team has input into major company decisions.
Our primary business objective is not to build the biggest company in the world. We’d much rather build the smartest small company, where we all have fun working together and learning from one another.
Along those lines, we do everything within reason to enable TR team members to lead balanced and happy lives. One of our developers coaches his kids in soccer; he rearranges his work schedule so he can take off early three afternoons a week. He still gets his work done, and nobody thinks twice about it.
Don’t be mistaken, though -- none of this is possible if the business doesn’t thrive. So we work hard, and occasionally put in very long hours. In addition, our work hours tend to peak when most other sports fans are partying it up. (Don’t expect to work at TR and head to Vegas for the first weekend of the NCAA tournament; that’s business time for us.)
We’re a virtual company, meaning that we have no physical office. We all live and work in various cities and time zones, and the current geographical representation of our extended team spans from California to Florida.
This structure has many benefits. Individually we’re very productive, and we can hire awesome people wherever they prefer to live. In addition, no one has to work in a soul-sucking cube farm. We all choose the work environment that suits us best, whether it’s home, a coffee shop, or a local coworking space.
At the same time, thriving in a telecommuting environment takes certain set of skills and discipline. It can be a tough transition if you’ve never done it before, and it does have some downsides. If you learn best via interpersonal methods (e.g. detailed training sessions or extensive one-on-one mentoring), our work environment will not be a good fit.
Of course, we still value face time with one another, and enjoy hanging out. So we typically get together at least a couple times a year at company-sponsored meetups in fun places.
In November 2014, for instance, we did a three-day strategy session and food truck extravaganza in Austin, TX. (Most pleasant surprise: this taco truck.) In recent years we’ve hit up Memphis, Las Vegas, San Francisco, and ESPN headquarters in Bristol, CT, where we debated the randomness of turnovers with former NFL head coach Eric Mangini.
Micklethwait Craft Meats in Austin, home of the brontosaurus-sized
(and quite tasty) 1.25 pound beef rib
Most years, you’ll also see us parading around the MIT Sloan Sports Analytics Conference in Boston in our TR t-shirts. Side story there: One year Pistons coach Stan Van Gundy shouted us down in the hallway and told us he loved using the site. That was fun.
Our web site initially launched back when the Oakland Raiders actually won their division, so we aren’t technically a “startup” anymore. However, we absolutely act like one. We make decisions quickly, we experiment a lot, and we’re not afraid to tackle big, complex challenges.
Two other things about our approach to work deserve mentioning. First, we do all we can to minimize unproductive time, primarily by eliminating long meetings and conference calls. Outside of a brief team status update every morning, we communicate mostly via group chat, which also happens to be an ideal forum for sharing great music and horrible puns.
So if you excel at putting together exquisitely choreographed slide presentations or deftly navigating the internal politics of a large organization, that’s wonderful, but those skills will not be valuable here.
Second, everyone at TR wears multiple hats. We all have our primary job, and then we have the five other things we do to help move the business forward. (If you email our customer support account, for instance, you may get a response from our CEO.) Opportunities to learn new skills pop up daily, and we’re more than willing to tackle projects even if none of us have extensive relevant experience. If that sounds fun to you, fantastic. We love it.
Once we identify a promising job candidate, our hiring process almost always involves at least one short-term test project and/or an initial “trial period” of several weeks or more. We pay for all of this work, because trying to squeeze some free labor out of a prospective hire sure doesn’t seem like the best way to start a successful and trusting working relationship.
This trial period is, of course, a two-way street. It also gives you the opportunity to experience working with us firsthand. If you decide you simply can’t take the onslaught of bad puns, you can easily “opt out” without creating a messy situation or any hard feelings.
When we evaluate a new candidate, we tend to place a high value on what he/she has actually done, and don’t place too much emphasis on resume. So the best way to make a positive first impression on us is just to show us something great that you produced. Anything that provides a tangible demonstration of your skills and your ability to drive a project to completion is a fine example to send us. It doesn’t have to be sports related.
As an example, back in 2010 our soon-to-be intern extraordinaire, Austin, simply sent us a link to his blog. We hired him shortly thereafter. That was mostly because his blog provided ample evidence of his quantitative skills and ability to communicate statistical concepts, and only partly because it was called Kobe, Tell Me How My Stats Taste.
Finally, we’re firm believers that happy employees will deliver the most value to the business in the long run. So we pay competitively for top talent, and we have a lot of leeway to craft a compensation and benefits package that best fits each candidate.
Our hiring process is quite stringent, but if you make it through, we’re not going to ask you to work for peanuts and water like lots of other sports-related companies do.
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