Shannon Ford

MLB job outreach explores new territory

Organization the lone sporting league represented at Grace Hopper Celebration of Women in Computing

MLB job outreach explores new territory

ORLANDO -- As people walked by on Wednesday, heads turned with blatant curiosity at the Major League Baseball booth at the Grace Hopper Celebration of Women in Computing, undoubtedly surprised to see a sports league, the only of its kind, with a footprint at the event.

Many of those head-turners looped back around to connect with female MLB staffers to learn more about the technology opportunities available at the company.

"People don't know that we're a technology company," said Celeste Bell, senior director of recruiting and special projects for MLB. "It's our greatest struggle, getting the word out there, and we hope that our presence at a conference like this will allow us to really cast that net further and spread the word that we are hiring and we are a technology powerhouse."

The Grace Hopper Celebration of Women in Computing is a three-day conference that features keynote addresses, professional development workshops, technology tracks and a career expo for attendees to learn, connect and be inspired by each other and potential employers looking to hire female technologists. Named for Rear Admiral Grace Hopper, who invented the first compiler for a computer programming language, and co-founded by Anita D. Borg and Dr. Telle Whitney, the organization's mission is to "connect, inspire and guide women in computing and organizations that view technology innovation as a strategic imperative."

In its first year at the event, Major League Baseball's goals included spreading the message that it is, in fact, a technology company as well as a sports company that is looking to hire females.

"There are a ton of opportunities across all of the technical teams in baseball right now, whether that's front-end development or the back-end development that I do, infrastructure, data science [and] database management. I hope people take advantage of it, because it's a great place to work," said Emily Voytek, a senior software engineer.

While the majority of Voytek's work happens behind the scenes, fans can see it come to life in the form of in-game statistics like launch angle, velocity and speed of fielding, among other stats that aim to quantify player performance.

Major League Baseball Advanced Media (MLBAM) offers fans the most complete baseball information on the web, including up-to-date statistics, game summaries, ticket sales, player development tracking and much more.

"When you go to any park in Major League Baseball, you can get your tickets digitally now. They are in the ballpark app," said Amanda Whichard, senior director of mobile operations. "My team is the one that works on the interface, makes the tickets look the way they should and makes sure that they work. We're the ones actually getting you into the park."

While Whichard's team spearheads all mobile operations-focused efforts for the league, JoAnn Brereton, senior software engineer on the Enterprise Baseball Team, works with player life cycle, tracking each player from the moment they are scouted as amateurs, through signing as Minor and Major League players, as well as any injuries or absences.

As for a need to love baseball to work at the league, Brereton says, "It helps to like the game and to love the game -- I personally do -- but I don't think it's necessarily a prerequisite to working here. I think it's a great way to develop a love for the game."

So, how does one get a job in technology with Major League Baseball?

"Having a love for baseball isn't required, but obviously that's great if they do, but moreso [we look for] women who are passionate about technology, and if you're coming to this conference you have either a desire to learn more about technology, you're trying to grow in your career or trying to change careers possibly, and we want to tap into that," Bell said.

"It's a really great opportunity to try and get more of these intelligent women in our business," Whichard said. "We work in sports and technology, not two fields typically known as a female's industry, but there are a lot of women who work with us."

MLB may have been the only sports league at the event, but it was among some industry powerhouses including Apple, Intel, Google, Amazon and Cisco, among others. While technology may not be the first thing that comes to mind when people think Major League Baseball, it is undoubtedly able to hang with its fellow tech leaders as a pioneer in the technology and sports spaces.

Shannon Ford is a reporter for Follow her on Twitter @Shannon__Ford. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.