The PokerStars Business Intelligence Graduate Program

Do you have a way with numbers?

"We like nothing more than finding something we don't understand". This is a statement you won't often hear coming from inside one of the world's biggest gaming companies. But then this came from Steve Walmsley, Director of Business Analytics in the PokerStars Business Intelligence department. The people in Business Intelligence tend to think a little differently.

"We're not interested in the prevailing way of thinking at the time. If something needs changing, we don't wait to be asked" explains Steve, who also oversees the team's newly launched Business Intelligence Graduate Program. "We're interested in finding something that we've never seen before. We examine every part, and have an informed argument to decide what we believe, as a team, will drive the most value for the business. We reach a conclusion together and the best idea always wins."

"That's what we're looking for in our graduates" he continues. "A strong CV with a relevant qualification is a great start, but what we're really interested in is how our applicants go about finding and solving problems, and questioning their own conclusions. We want to know how people think."

Steve W.jpg

Steve places a lot of emphasis on that final point. The PokerStars Business Intelligence Graduate Program, as he sees it, is like a premier league youth team. It feeds in to a department that is built and shaped over years, rather than chopped up and pieced together on the fly.

"We know that the right candidate can be trained to use certain pieces of software. That isn't a concern", he explains. "What we want to know from the outset is that our graduates enjoy the work enough to really want to get it right."

Launched in February 2017, the PokerStars Business Intelligence Graduate Program invites university leavers from all over Europe to apply for a role at the largest poker business in the world. Up to six successful applicants working as Business Intelligence Graduates with a full salary will spend an entire year between PokerStars' three core Business Intelligence units: Data Science; Marketing Intelligence; and Poker, Products and Projects.

Collectively, these units form the knowledge centre of a tech business of 1,700 people, providing online poker, casino and sportsbook to more than 108 million registered customers around the world. That's a lot of data to play with. At the end of the year, once they've found their feet, successful graduates will be offered a permanent place in the Business Intelligence team.

Angus Hopkinson, now a Customer Insight Analyst in the PokerStars BI team, spent some time with the company as an intern while reading maths at University of Cambridge. For Angus, it was the atmosphere that made the difference.

"It's pretty easy to learn a lot very quickly when you're surrounded by people more than willing to answer any and every question", he explains. "The hierarchy is very flat; anyone from any level can comfortably contribute to any discussion, which creates a much nicer atmosphere where bosses are more like teammates. This made a big difference, particularly during the early stages. Data analysis appealed to me, but I was by no means an experienced poker player. The social side really helped tie things together and made me feel part of the company. My advice is if it sounds interesting then go for it."

Steve agrees: "There isn't a single department we don't interact with and because of that we've built a reputation as a team that really understands how the business and the industry works. We analyse, we forecast. We're here to help. We're the go-to guys for anything from a simple information request to defining strategies for years to come."

This integrated approach has resulted in rapid growth within the BI team, which has gone from five to 55 personnel over just five years. "A lot of fives," says Steve. BI now boasts staff from no fewer than 16 different countries, from Peru and Kazakhstan to Ireland and the Isle of Man, home to PokerStars HQ. Many of these men and women are hand-picked for their quantitative and analytical backgrounds, but these are by no means the only criteria for success.

"We've employed graduates and managers from non-analytical backgrounds before, just as we've employed people from very specialized industries - nuclear physicists and deep-sea oil prospectors" says Steve, who had a career in music, business consultancy and professional poker before joining PokerStars. "We've employed experienced poker players and people who'd never played poker before joining us."

"That's a lot of different ideas, but what brings our people together is the imagination needed to apply meaning to the information they work with, and the ability to communicate that to other people in the business."

Which brings Steve to the most important point: "All of this only works because we're a very social team. We're likeminded people. We have lunch together and we go out together. We play poker together. It's a great environment that's only getting better."

PokerStars is now accepting applications for the Business Intelligence Graduate Program. To find out more about the program - and all other opportunities - visit www.amaya.com/rational-group/careers/.

If you would like to speak to someone in the PokerStars Business Intelligence team, email bi@pokerstars.com.

To find out more about living on the Isle of Man, visit https://www.locate.im/.

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