That title might be a bit misleading. I probably would have gotten the job if I hadn’t played fantasy baseball anyway. No, this post is about how I went to school for one thing and ended up doing a completely different thing. I am a project manager at a software company in a department that just established itself as an academic publishing imprint for biblical resources—that seems even odder when I type that all out. I have a degree in history and a degree in education, neither of which lends itself to the type of work I’m doing now. So what happened? How am I able to thrive as a project manager when my education did nothing to prepare me for my career? Fantasy Baseball.
I admit that I’m a hopeless fantasy baseball player. I’ve been playing since 2001. I’ve now graduated from free-to-play fantasy baseball to high stakes, money leagues. What was a fun diversion in high school with my friends became…well, obsession is a strong word. As I became more and more involved in the game, I started to develop my own statistics to use. I didn’t want to rely on “the experts” when it came to analysis. Sure, their insights are valuable but I wanted to have my own input on the decisions I was making in the game. If you’ve spent anytime reading this blog, you’ve probably seen the plethora of Mariners related posts—most of those contain the results of building my own projection model.
There was a time during my undergraduate years that I was working towards a math minor. Even with around 20 college credits in math and my integrated math curriculum in high school, I had very little experience with statistics and probability. Instead, my education was devoted towards history, political science, and secondary education. I think there’s a myth that many college graduates believe as they face the “real world” right after graduation, “I have to get a job in the same field as my degree.” More often than not, this is the case, especially in highly technical fields like the sciences. But when things aren’t working out and you’re having trouble finding a job in your field, it’s okay to expand your horizons and look elsewhere.
It’s hard to reconcile working a different kind of job than the one you always imagined. I pictured myself as a high school teacher since, well, high school. I went to college so that I could make that dream a reality. And when it didn’t work out, I had a hard time figuring out why. Did I waste those six years of hard work? Will those dreams ever be realized? There was a significant grieving period for about a year for me. This blog post is part of that grieving process. One thing that helped me through that time was realizing that I was good at my new job. I had a skill set that I had developed and hadn’t even realized it.
Back to fantasy baseball. As a project manager, I’m responsible for projecting and tracking the progress and costs of the different projects I’m working on. And you wouldn’t believe how many of the methods I use to project and track baseball players are directly transferable to project management. The principles are there, projecting performance over a certain time period based on a number of different rates. Comparing costs to actual performance to evaluate performance against a standard baseline. It’s all there, I just had no idea that the skills I was developing over years of playing fantasy baseball would actually come in handy someday.
We’re hiring new project managers for my team currently. When I’m talking to potential applicants, I often tell them to think about the skills they’ve developed outside of their formal education. What are your hobbies and how could they transfer to the work you might be doing? What passions do you have that are unrelated to your career field? Your work life shouldn’t exist in a silo, separated from the rest of your life. If you already have a job, how could the things you’re already interested in benefit the things you’re doing at work? I would have never thought that playing around with excel and baseball stats would have helped me in my own career. Maybe you’ll surprise yourself too.