Zach Kamran, head of technology at esports company Evil Geniuses—a PEAK6 business—may be on the only person working at Evil Geniuses who isn’t an avid gamer. “I’m definitely an outlier,” says Zach. Zach, who earned a BA in computer science with a minor in statistics from the University of Chicago, shared thoughts on sports analytics, data visualization and how technology can help you score discount movie tickets.
As head of technology at Evil Geniuses, I have three primary areas of focus. First is general IT support for the organization. Second is business intelligence. How can we give marketing and our partners and stakeholders the best data to make effective, data-driven decisions? For example, our partnership team may want to know how well a campaign is performing. If we have a logo on our jersey, how much exposure did the logo get? Third is gaming analytics. We use data to help our players and coaches make better decisions. Sometimes that’s scouting players; other times it’s helping coaches and players prepare for matches in quicker, better, different ways than other teams.
I’ve always been interested in how things worked. When I was a kid, I’d take the TV remotes apart. In college, I had the opportunity to take some computer science classes and really enjoyed them, but really hadn’t known much about computer science until then.
Proud tech moment:
I used to do soccer analytics for PEAK6 during the time PEAK6 owned AFC Bournemouth, a premier league soccer team. During that time, we worked with the organization overseeing the US Men’s and Women’s National Soccer teams. In 2018, during the first day of the Women’s’ World Cup tournament, one of the analysts for the US Women’s National Soccer Team called us with a problem. They had been given a new data set and didn’t know what to do with it. In a matter of days, my team was able to build a cool visualization software and analytics platform that enabled the team to use the data. The analysts used our tool in their meetings with coaches, which was amazing. And, the US Women’s National Team won the World Cup that year. I’ve played soccer my whole life, so being involved even in a tertiary way was awesome.
The big thing I’m focusing on this year is taking all the ideas I have related to Evil Geniuses, gaming and data, and learning how to formalize them into an internal product we can build and deliver—not just as one-off analyses to provide to our coaches, but as a long-term scalable solution for our organization.
When I’m not working:
I try to read a book every week. I’m starting to count and track them. Sometimes I also read tech blogs. My choices tend to skew toward nonfiction. The last one I read was Lean Startup. Before that, I read about glaciers in Greenland. I also like to run.
Just for fun:
I built a mobile app and website with some friends to get group discounts. The premise was if you and a few people pool together and create a team on this mobile app, you get 20 percent off. It was essentially a contrived scheme to get discounts. We got some on movie theater tickets, food trucks, etc. It was fun and a good learning experience. It helped me realize the importance of marketing, PR and partnerships. Getting people to do something is really hard. You need to come up with a great product, and also explain why it’s valuable and how people use it.
Best part of my job:
One thing that’s exciting about working at Evil Geniuses and in esports more broadly, is that it’s a pretty new industry, and the formalization around technology and data analytics especially is relatively new. We focus on making Evil Geniuses the best tech-driven esports organization, and we think hard about how we can use data to make better decisions. A lot of discovery gets to happen. I feel lucky to be a part of that.