If you think that statistics jobs sound dry and uninspiring, think again! Macquarie University graduate Alex Cantori has combined his passions for sports with his stats degree in his role at Australian gaming and lottery company Tabcorp. Alex works on probability costing in the sports sector: specifically basketball. “It happens to be my favourite sport, so it’s the perfect specialisation,” says Alex.
Alex wasn’t sure about his career path when he finished school – he was originally enrolled in a Commerce degree with an Accounting major, but after his first year he wasn’t really enjoying Accounting. However, he’d taken an introductory Statistics course which he enjoyed and excelled in, so he decided to switch to a double degree with a Statistics major.
Statistics jobs are high in demand and the study of statistics is probably one of the most broadly applicable fields of study around, which is why introductory stats is a prerequisite in a huge range of degrees, whether it’s psychology, economics or engineering. One of the units Alex took as part of his was called Gambling, Sport and Medicine, which examines the role of statistics and probability in the context of popular gambling games, the development of sporting strategies and the use of stats in medical science.
“Not very many people do a straight statistics degree, so most of my classes had students from all different majors,” says Alex, who made friends with students from a range of backgrounds. He also played uni basketball competitively, playing three seasons a year. After getting excellent results in a capstone statistics unit, he had the opportunity to try out statistics jobs, working as a part-time research assistant in his final year. Working for two days a week, Alex put his data analytics skills to use assisting a PhD student researching uni staff workloads.
After uni, Alex worked casually at Tabcorp for a year before being offered a permanent role with a specialisation in his favourite sport: basketball. A year and a half ago, Alex was promoted to the role of Quant Trader, which leans more intensely on modelling outcomes in sport to automate the betting odds.
The models are much more complicated than just which team wins the match: “It’s more detailed things like who’s going to score the first try and what the winning margin is going to be. For a basketball game, we’ll have a hundred different markets available,” explains Alex. “We’ll use models to calculate the probabilities of all the events and from those models, we’ll be able to set up the odds of those events.”
Alex leads a team of three to build models in programming languages such as Python and R and over the years, he has increasingly been involved with the automation of the models for odds calculations. He didn’t study programming in depth at uni, but Tabcorp provides its employees with access to online learning platforms like DataCamp to build up their skills. Although Alex doesn’t describe himself as a programmer, he works with a team of developers to build the software that their models are plugged into.
His role also involves analysing data to study business trends and customer demands. “We get a lot of requests from people in business roles who don’t necessarily have the analytical skills themselves,” says Alex, so his team can quantitatively justify whether to adopt a strategy or not. Over the last two summers, Alex and his team have also mentored interns, several of whom now have a permanent position at Tabcorp too.
Alex is happy that his career incorporates his sporting passions and believes that changing his degree early on was a great decision. “Don’t be afraid to change your mind, because when you’re 18 you’re not really sure what you want to do,” he advises. “You can probably find a way to combine your passions too.”
He wouldn’t hesitate to recommend studying stats, whether or not you’re considering a career in statistics jobs. “I think there’s very few careers that don’t benefit from statistics or maths knowledge, so stats is always going to benefit you, no matter what degree you choose.”
Alex’s career path
>> Bachelor of Science (Statistics)/ Bachelor of Commerce (Accounting), Macquarie University
>> Research Assistant, Department of Mathematics and Statistics, Macquarie University
>> Casual Bookmaker, Tabcorp
>> Full-time Basketball Bookmaker, Tabcorp
>> Quant Trader, Tabcorp
“I think there’s very few careers that don’t benefit from statistics or maths knowledge, so stats is always going to benefit you.”
Interested in more science, maths and statistics study options? Learn more about how maths at Macquarie University is applied to the real world.
This article is brought to you in partnership with Macquarie University.
Author: Larissa Fedunik-Hofman
Larissa is the editorial assistant for Careers with STEM and a Chemistry PhD student. Larissa’s goal is to promote public engagement with STEM through inspiring stories.