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Author's profile photo Leon Steiner

Connecting Studies and Passion with a Job in Sports Data Science at SAP

How an environment allowing you to explore your intrinsic motivation leads you to creating your own role that has it all. A story of a physics student, young thinker and American Football enthusiast who hopes to inspire others to find their own role too.

My journey began the same way as for many other students: I was looking for a part time job during my master’s studies, that would eventually help me on my way towards a job after college. Since the field of computational physics is closely linked to programming and software, SAP was the way to go for me. While looking for suitable positions, I came across the offer the SAP Young Thinkers program, devoted to bringing 21st Century Skills to high school students. Students should become inspired to learn digital skills, find their passions and take their future into their own hands. And this is also, how the team operated. Within some framework, we could find our roles and tasks and explore what was most inspiring to us so we could inspire others. This variety of tasks and connection to education quickly convinced me, that this would be a great position to start my career.

One of those tasks should ultimately become my steppingstone towards a new position: organization of workshop leads for several events, including the annual SAP Young Thinkers Learning Festival. I immediately wondered “What kind of workshop would have convinced a younger me to attend this kind of event?” The choice was easy: sports!

I am huge sports enthusiast and American Football coach. Therefore, I knew that lots of young people are very interested in sports. This could build a perfect bridge between their interests and the technological world. While doing internal research on SAP’s involvement in Sports, I stumbled across two interesting solutions: SAP Sports One and the NHL Coaching Insights App.

Simultaneously to the planning period of the event, a different partnership began: the organization University Alliances, which Young Thinkers is a part of, financed a project, that would bring SAP Sports One to the KIT, Karlsruhe Institute of Technology, in the form of a sport data analysis course for students. This course would teach students to use SAP Sports One in the “classroom” (which turned out to be the university’s gym) and let them experience the use of the software, while supporting a local soccer club.

And then, a comment was made that changed everything. Achim Ittner, the lecturer of SAP for the course, mentioned that SAP Sports One is not yet used in American Football.

He directly moved on with his explanations on the software and soccer. But my head sparked a fire. Being involved in American Football for half of my life, bringing SAP Sports One into American Football would be a great project to work on. From my experiences as a coach, I knew how tricky it was navigating so many different solutions for player management, performance analytics, etc. SAP Sports One could combine all in one solution and ease the processes.

Fast forward a few weeks and many brainstorming sessions later, the dream actually became reality. Another football enthusiast who worked at SAP and myself pitched our idea to the Solution Area Sports and Entertainment. Luckily for us, we are not the only employees interested in sports. Our passion for this topic quickly convinced the team to provide us the opportunity to join this team. After getting to know the software from an Admins perspective, we are currently exploring possible use cases and potential updates for the software, which can provide an improvement for various disciplines.  One really great aspect of this job is, that we get to use our experience within the field of football and can have really specific conversations with potential users and customers, that go beyond regular sales pitches.

Since sports are very data driven and become more and more tactical with advancing technology, this also created room for inspiration towards a master thesis. Especially in amateur sports, where coaches and staff are no full-time employees, collecting and evaluating of these data is a very time-consuming task. Therefore, I started talking to professors from sport science and data science departments to formulate a topic for my master thesis. It should revolve around the use of machine learning in sport data science. If this works out too, I really could connect all of it – my job, my studies, and my passion.

My advice for other students is to search for a starting point in your career that allows you to explore your intrinsic motivations and supports you in trying out your own ideas, just as I found it at the SAP Young Thinkers and SAP for Sports and Entertainment. Once you find a spark in your head and heart, follow it. Be open to meet new people with similar interest and then join forces to let the thought become reality. Connecting all the dots is possible if you trust your skills and passion. If you need some more inspiration in this field, it is always a good idea to follow the tags of the  SAP Young Thinkers, SAP University Alliances, Sports and Entertainment and if you are particularly interested in my story, you should follow my profile as well.

Extra tip: if you are a student building your skills and want to join classes or events to get inspired and learn, follow the SAP Next-Gen Instagram account. There, they post the latest on the #SAPYoungThinkers and #UniversityAlliances program.

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      Author's profile photo Maren Meyer
      Maren Meyer

      Thanks so much for sharing your story, Leon Steiner !