When you were 17, what did you want to be?
I always loved football. It was my favorite sport and I played a little bit of it in high school and middle school. But then I injured my knee, so that was it for playing. But I always wanted to go into sports when I grew up, which is why I started looking at coaching football. Sports was my number one thing. There wasn't a question in my mind.
It's interesting because growing up in an Indian family, there's a general sentiment that you need to work in either the medicine field or the engineering field. So when I said that I wanted to work in sports, they thought, "Oh he's just being a kid." And then I kept saying it through high school, and then I started telling them I was looking at sports management schools, and that's when they realized, "Oh my God, he's actually going to do this." So they tried to talk me out of it. But I was pretty dead set on doing it.
How did you decide to attend University of Colorado, Boulder?
I wanted to go to Oregon because they had a big sports management program and that's where Nike was founded. But my family was very STEM-focused, like I was saying before, and they convinced me that I should go to a school with more options which made sense. So in the end, I chose Colorado. It was interesting because it was the first time I was living by myself, so that was an adjustment for sure. The good thing was, I was getting challenged academically, which I loved. But the bad thing was, I didn't adjust to it well. The first year, my GPA was 1.6.
But I got past it. I got to be a volunteer football coach for the local high school in Boulder. It was fun to coach students, especially because they have to listen to you, which was amazing. The first year, we went six and six. The second year, we went undefeated and then lost in the championship game. So that was really fun.
How did you choose your major?
I originally went into economics because I thought it'd be a good transition to sports business. But economics was the wrong field. When I first learned economics, my sister taught me. She was very good at relating it to sports, and I got to learn economics through a sports prism. So I thought I loved economics when it was really just the prism I loved. Economics wasn't a field that I ended up enjoying.
I needed to choose a major, so I decided to look for something that comes more naturally to me. I thought about it, and I realized, "I love writing. I write all the time. That's my number one hobby.” So I switched to English literature my last couple of years and I did way better. I ended up with a 3.5 GPA, so that was a much better decision for me.
How did you get from college to where you are now?
I took an internship in New York City first. I had visited New York when I was a kid and I had always wanted to live there. I like cities where you can walk around and just kind of get lost. And I feel like it's easier to meet people, if that makes sense.
I worked for a sports memorabilia company there, and that was my first “this is not what you think it is” moment. I found out that they were faking autographs. And they told me one time to go buy a jersey at the store and then said it was a player worn jersey. So that was a moral quandary moment, and I left that internship two months later.
Then I moved to a job at a soccer academy. The European system is very different than the American system. They take their development of young athletes a lot more seriously. They time their practices to the tee, and they have set curriculums like it's a class. So that's what we did for American kids. I kind of took that job because I was just so desperate to get out of that other situation. But I ended up not enjoying it because a lot of it was customer service, and I realized that I’m not really a client person.
I ended up doing that for about two years, and then I needed to change something. I was sitting at this job, Monday to Saturday, averaging about 60 hours per week and just not making the money that I wanted to. At that time, my sister was working in analytics, and I'd call her from New York and I’d be three hours ahead of her but she would already be done with work. So I thought, “Maybe I need to look into this.”
I started teaching myself analytics and coding. I would work all day and then come home and do Coursera. And then on top of that, I decided to try to get into graduate school, so I started practicing for the GMAT. It was brutal because it was basically all day. I didn't go out, I just studied and worked.
In May of 2016, I got accepted into University of Central Florida’s dual degree MBA and sports program. I wasn't totally sure about UCF because a huge part of the program was focused on giving back to people and working with charities. My mindset was that I just wanted to study and get a good degree and I didn't want to do extra work.
We had an orientation and they took us to New Orleans to help rebuild houses in the Lower Ninth Ward because they still didn’t have houses after all those years. They took us on a tour and told us that they had just gotten their first grocery store last year. Before that, people had to walk on the side of a highway to get fresh groceries. And we listened to this guy tell a story about how he had his family up on the roof because the flooding had gotten all the way up into their house, and he had to sacrifice one of his family members to save the other six because the weight couldn't hold them all.
We were all kind of stunned by this story. And I noticed this plaque outside that read, "We want our country to love us as much as we love our country." After reading that and seeing all of that, I thought, "I don't think I want to do sports anymore."
So I changed my mindset at that point. I still ended up getting my MBA, but at the end of it I was thinking, “Instead of going for a sports job, maybe I should go for a political job." I still ended up getting a sports job because that was a condition of the MBA program, so that’s the company I'm currently working with doing sports analytics and marketing. But at the end of this year, I want to transition into politics.
Currently, what I do is look at social media. Anytime a sports event happens, everyone has a reaction on Twitter, Facebook, or Instagram. So I collect all their data, all the comments, and then I classify things. People generally liked this and this is what they liked about it. And people generally didn't like this, and this is what they didn't like about it, using specifically their words. Then I inform the client – the team, the organization - what they did and didn’t like.
And that's what I want to do in politics to help candidates or campaigns. The way I look at it is, polling is way off right now. I feel like if you're able to get through the muck of the bots, social media is the perfect way to actually gauge what people think. And you can tell how much people care because they tweet about it more. So you can tell how they’re going to vote most likely.
Looking back, what seems clear to you now?
I read this article about the role of automation in the future. They said if you go back to 1500, you have horses, no cars, and people use ships for their travel, no planes. If you go back to 1300, there are some differences, but not that big. That's 200 years but it’s not that different. But if you look at where we are right now -iPhones, laptops – and then go back 200 years from now, that’s such a big difference.
The reason for that is that technology is not progressing linearly, it's progressing exponentially. So it keeps getting faster and faster the more we innovate. What people don't realize is, if you take that concept and apply it to automation, it's not coming. It's here now. So as time progresses, the jobs that you think are quality jobs aren't going to be 30 or 40 years from now. And it's progressing at a rate that we'll never be able to predict because it’s exponential.
I feel like people are thinking, "I need to be employed," when they actually should be thinking, "Where am I going to be needed?” I would recommend getting some STEM education, like physics and computer science not because you should go into those fields, but so that you know what can be replicated and you understand those concepts.
I wish I had realized that there's a difference between having a job and having a quality job. If you look at countries in Scandinavia, there's this idea that there should be a balance between work and social life. I feel like most jobs in America don't have a concept of that unless you're in a field that's highly valued. Then they find a way to make it balanced. So I was always looking for a job, but I wasn't looking for a quality job, a job that was highly valued. And I wish I had thought about that when I was applying for jobs, because it would have made my path a lot easier. But then the path that I took made me who I am.