Football, reconsidered

Do you need to be football crazy to work as an engineer at Football Radar? TL:DR; not necessarily.

I’ve been an engineer at Football Radar for a few months now, and I’ve discovered a whole new world of football analysis, joined a phenomenal team of passionate developers, and already in my first couple of months here have worked in three different languages and across multiple projects. Before Football Radar, however, I wasn’t really into football at all.

Of all the memories I have of my time spent in PE at school, one always stands out. A particularly dreich afternoon on the school football pitches. Sodden wet hair in my eyes, an icy cold wind ripping past my ears, and the waterlogged pitch giving way underfoot in a destabilising and downright unnerving way. This was a games lesson, and I was in the under-13 E football team; a newly-formed squad, created to cater for the particular inadequacy of myself and a few friends.

A game was in progress - 5-a-side, it must have been - and the games master was beginning to lose his patience. We had already undertaken two rather dejected circumferences of the entire playing field, and morale was at a decidedly low ebb. Then came the most demoralising thing a teacher has ever said to me, then or since - “Douglas, you’re about as useful on this pitch as a bookend!”.

I could have expounded a little on how in fact bookends, when applied sensibly, can provide vital support and stability to weightier tomes, but I was so embarrassed to have been singled out that I decided to keep schtum. From that moment on, I did everything I could to avoid football. I scheduled recurring piano lessons slap-bang in the middle of games, volunteered to help with charity projects in the school (choosing them on the basis that they clashed with games lessons) - a great deal of my energy at school was, then, spent on deliberately avoiding football at all costs, and this led to a general lack of interest into adulthood.

When I first came across the Engineer position at Football Radar, I nearly didn’t pursue it any further. There is a well-documented shortage of developers and software engineers here in the UK, and so anyone with enough relevant keywords in their online CV or portfolio will inevitably attract a barrage of 'phone calls and emails from recruiters and the like, all of whom have, invariably, discovered your ‘perfect job’. My curiosity was piqued though, and I looked a little further into what the company did, and where they’d come from. It’s hard to pin down exactly what it is that made me apply initially, but I remember being attracted to the fact that they were a smallish company, and although apparently very successful and growing, they seemed to have held on to that defining ‘hungry’ startup mentality and culture.

My second interview overran by half an hour at least, as it in fact morphed into a discussion around how to turn football into factors, and the challenges around of separating the objective from the subjective (or not!). If one hour in an interview could be as interesting as that, I thought, imagine how interesting it would be to have discussions like this on a daily basis! By the end of my interview, I knew I had to work here.

Since beginning work here I have come to understand football as seen from Football Radar’s unique position, and am really enjoying the wide variety of the work generated by the needs of the business.

Football is at the heart of everything that Football Radar does, providing a unifying context for our work, but the company in no way exclusively employs developers crazy about the world of football - rather, it has the rare quality of always taking people on their merits, focussing on what new perspectives they might be able to bring to the table - people who don’t know much about football are never dismissed. In my opinion, it’s this wide-angled perspective that gives Football Radar its competitive edge, and moreover makes the engineering team such a great bunch of people to work with.

Some of the guys are completely crazy about football, mind you, and that is certainly no disadvantage - but the fact that I am already having such a great time here, with my lack of football background, goes some way I think to demonstrate that Football Radar has something to offer everyone.