Back to the future

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Back to the future
Beating the odds:
Successfully managing a
rapidly-expanding statistical team
Dr. Tim Paulden
(Innovation & Development Manager, ATASS Sports)
Back to the future...
• May 1995 edition of Lancaster Uni newsletter:
CAROL VORDERMAN AND TOMORROW'S WORLD
were filming Mark Dixon and Mike Robinson (football
pools research reported in NewsView) in the Maths
and Stats department on Friday. (Ms Vorderman was
at school in Rhyl with Dr Francesca Gibson (Italian)
who beat her at Maths.)
From INKYTEXT 80
www.maths.lancs.ac.uk/~rowlings/Inkytext/InkyPrev/msg00085.html
Back to the future...
2012...
• ATASS HQ on Exeter Business Park
A bit about ATASS Sports
• Sports forecasting
• Hardcore statistical research
• Fusion of ‘academic’ and ‘pragmatic’
Social responsibility
Work hard, play hard
How have
we grown?
Recruitment: Why?
• Hugely successful company
– Desire to expand future operations
– Opportunity to move into fresh areas
• Universally supported
– Focus on logistics, rather than "buy-in"
– Acknowledgement that change is inevitable, and
needs managing thoughtfully
Recruitment: Who?
• Talent spotting
– Highly specialised research, beyond PhD level
– Sharp, ambitious problem solvers with personality
– "Fit" with values and goals of company essential
• Principle propounded by Joel Spolsky:
– Smart & Gets Things Done... And Not A Jerk
– True for statisticians, not just developers
Recruitment: Where?
• Focus on universities (green talent)
– Young company by circumstance
– Average time since joining: less than 4 years
– Intensive and thorough induction process
– Importance of embracing CStat
• Dedicated recruitment manager
– Substantial budget; supported by marketing
Recruitment: How?
• Bespoke online testing
– Revolutionised the recruitment process
– Reduction in type 1 and type 2 errors
– Leads into a robust, well-tested interview process
• Spectacular retention
– Benefits of the job (new headquarters)
– Opportunities for professional growth
What's
happened as
we've grown?
Shift toward specialisation
• Specialisation as a trade-off decision
– Time gains from individual specialists versus
communication & frictional costs
– Part of transition from small to medium company
– Experience of "large n" versus "small n"
Shift toward specialisation
• New structures and roles
– Separate programming and data teams
– I&D Manager role - technological innovation (at
interface between research and programming
teams), plus staff training, induction, interns, ...
– Establishment of HR department
– Separation of core statistical activity from other
business processes
Training & development
• Development of existing employees
– Promotion from within where possible
– Natural team leaders have emerged (taking on
greater responsibility)
– Data team engaged in new training programme
– Establishment of seminar series (internal and
external), including literature reviews
– Importance of professional development
Communication & project delivery
• Talking the same language
– Statisticians and programmers may approach the
same task in different ways (e.g. structuring code)
– Highlights importance of establishing good
practice (code style guidelines, version control,
uniform toolchains / architecture) by team leaders
• Physical proximity
– Vastly larger office has altered modes of working
Policy & procurement
• Unavoidable increase in bureaucracy
– Absolutely not a bureaucratic company, but some
protocol needs establishing (kept to a minimum)
• Time versus cost trade-off
– Researchers have access to the best possible kit
(computers, software, books), without needing to
jump through hoops
– Makes sense if you "do the math" (Joel Test #9)
Wrap-up
• Our growth
– Focused on recruiting top university talent
– Bespoke online testing has been revolutionary
– "Fit" with the company's culture absolutely critical
– Spectacular retention level - just as important
• What we've experienced
– Increased specialisation (programming, data, I&D)
– Evolving communication and training needs
– Need for protocol, while staying true to our values
Thank you for your time
Dr. Tim Paulden
[email protected]

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