sky bet careers: tyler smithBack
Sport is a constant part of life. 24 hours a day, seven days a week, somewhere in the world somebody will be playing some kind of sport. And whenever and wherever there are people playing sport, there are people who want to bet on the outcome. As an Apprentice Service Operations Analyst, it’s part of 21 year old Tyler Smith’s job to make sure that if someone wants to place their bet with Sky Bet, day or night, they can.
“We had quite a major incident on a Sunday night recently, when I was in on my own,” said Tyler. A fault with a password caused problems for one of the data servers, and calls starting coming in to Sky Bet’s customer advisers. “There were four or five different calls about it, and when five people in five minutes are saying the same, there’s an obviously an issue.
“It was causing major issues for mobile users, because they couldn’t access what they should have been able to access. So it was a high impacting problem, and revenue impacting – we were losing money while it was going on. So I had to be really quick about it!”
As the only member of staff on the service desk at the time, it was down to Tyler to manage the problem, and build a team that could find a solution. “I was the person coordinating it, and as it was 10pm on a Sunday night, you can imagine, at that time getting the right people involved can be difficult! People are going to bed, getting ready for Monday morning. So you’ve got to make sure you’re giving them the motivation to do the job, trying to pass your positivity about getting it fixed to the other people as well.
“People from two teams were involved, so it was getting people not just to talk to me but to talk to each other as well, keeping that communication path open and keeping it on topic as well – making sure it was straight down the line, getting it fixed and fixed fast, because it needed to be fixed fast!”
Within half an hour of discovering the problem, Tyler and his colleagues had fixed it. “I was quite heavily involved in finding the fix, because I’d picked up on some minor details that might have been missed otherwise, which is part of my job really. Our development operations guy looked deeper into the problem, and when he came back with a suggestion of what it could be – I knew exactly what it was. I’d seen this password being changed earlier, so I knew exactly what it was and what to do about it.
“It sounds a bit cheesy, but the fact that the customers were happy again and weren’t seeing that fault, and knowing I’d been quite influential in getting that sorted – it may sound a bit corny but that’s something that you’ve got to love doing, rather than something you just do. They don’t see my name, but the customers know the fault has been fixed by somebody, and so they have faith in the tech teams at Sky Bet. They don’t know who I am, but they know the tech guys are really good here, because we get things fixed.”
Not all the faults Tyler deals with are as serious as that one, but he and his colleagues on the service desk can deal with anything up to 60 faults a day, with many more on high pressure occasions like Grand National day, or during Saturday Premier League football. “A lot of things can go wrong!” he said. “We use a lot of third party companues, so we’ve got to manage feeds that come through from them, and it’s I.T., so everything and anything in I.T. can go wrong. It can range from the smallest thing to the biggest.”
The speed of change at Sky Bet means there is a lot to keep up with. “We’ve got quite a fast release cycle here, so we have a daily meeting with our development team so everyone is aware of what’s going on, and we get a lot of notification emails through for quicker releases. There might be a big change we need to know about, and there are always small releases throughout the day that change just little bits of code, which could be for a tiny little bit of text that you probably wouldn’t notice, or a new background.
“The training we receive around the changes is exceptional. It looks complicated to the naked eye, but once you can make sense of it, it’s really easy to keep up with everything. The guys who are involved with the release cycles are very, very good, you can pull one of them aside for five minutes if you don’t understand anything and they’ll be more than happy to explain it to you. It’s hard to keep up but we’ve got the tools there to keep up, and we do use them.”
Training is a large part of Tyler’s role at Sky Bet, where he is on a 30 month apprenticeship scheme; although he doesn’t always feel like one. “I don’t think anybody actually sees me as an apprentice,” he said. “A lot of people just don’t pay any mind to the fact that I’m an apprentice, there’s a really good, trusting environment here. Even though I’m on the scheme and we go away sometimes for two weeks of training, it never affects the fact that I’m doing a job and people come to me with the same questions they go to the other guys on the service desk with.
“I was actually the only apprentice to come out of a working environment – everybody else came from college. After school I went straight into a job at a call centre for a telecommunications company, and acquired quite a lot of customer service skills. I wasn’t actually looking for a new job, but I was sat there one day a little bit bored because nobody was calling through – I’d been sat there for about ten minutes and nobody was calling through. So I started noseying around, looking at what was out there, and I saw the apprenticeships on the Sky Bet website. I’m quite technically minded, and at the call centre I was constantly ringing the service desk and then noting down what they were doing so I could do it myself in future. I’d sort of become the technical guru everybody came to before they rang the helpdesk, so I had a look at the job description and thought, that’s what I do anyway, only I don’t get paid for it!
“I put in an application but I didn’t really expect anything back – if I’m honest, I probably didn’t spend enough time on it. But fortunately I got a telephone interview, and apparently I interviewed quite well over the telephone; then they invited me down for a face to face interview, and a couple of weeks later to an assessment centre. Once I got through the assessment centre, and passed everything I needed to pass, they said the job was there if I wanted it. And no hesitation, I was definitely taking it.
“I’d say it’s quite an honour to be on the apprenticeship scheme. There were 16 positions and 15 apprentices were taken on, and I guess that shows that Sky Bet does look for the best, because they didn’t fill the last position for the sake of filling it. It’s quite an honour knowing that there were around 460 applicants for 16 roles, and I’m one of 15 who made it.”
Although a lot of the training is to do with Tyler’s current job on the service desk, Sky Bet will also make sure he isn’t short of options when the apprenticeship ends.
“The training aspect of it is fantastic,” said Tyler. “They’ve really tailored it to the job that we’re doing, and you can see that the guys that provide the training work really hard to get good training on the scheme, training that’s appropriate to the job, training that we need to be doing, and also training that can push us further. On the level 3 apprenticeship they gave us a foundation knowledge of things that we’re not doing in this job, but could be doing in the future, and now on level 4 it’s really pushing us toward a leadership role.
“After the apprenticeship they don’t want us just to stay with the service desk, but to use it as a launching platform for a career. The senior management are really open to sending you on any training courses you want to go on, so if you identify an area you want to develop, they’ll push you on in that area, which I find really good. My manager Paul is absolutely fantastic with that kind of stuff. He’s even pointed me to a website and shown me a couple of courses and said, maybe they’d be a good idea – it’s free, it’s in your own time, but you can develop yourself and do this or this. I do feel like I’ve got that support behind me.”
The support for a future career with Sky Bet is only part of why Tyler is willing to commute from his home in Manchester to their offices on Wellington Street in Leeds. “The commutes not as bad as it sounds, but this is a good place to come,” he said. “It gets me up at four o’clock in the morning, if I need to be here by eight! So it can’t be too bad, can it?
“It’s about the people. I do love the people that I work with. I’m a real people person anyway – in my previous customer service job I acquired quite a lot of people skills, and just before I left I was nominated as one of that company’s top eight advisers in Europe – I didn’t get to go to the awards ceremony though, because I left the company! When I came here the service desk was quite an isolated team, so I made it my mission to get to know at least one person from every other team. Now whenmy shift starts every morning or afternoon, one of the first things I do is go down and say hello to the contact centre guys, down to the training team, the platform team – just saying hello to people, letting them know I’m around.
“Because there is such a wide variety of people that I can talk to, even just for a quick chat, it keeps me coming back for more – keeping up to date with what people are doing, really getting to know people, and people getting to know me.”
Commuting from Manchester and taking time to do educational courses and assignments for his apprenticeship means Tyler doesn’t have much free time, although he does have a hobby doing photography. “If my friends are having a party they’ll invite me down, I’ll take some photos, do a bit of editing and a few prints; it’s just for their Facebook pages, but sometimes they want an album as well. It’s just a little bit that I enjoy doing.” Tyler’s sure the hours and hard work will pay off, though, even if he doesn’t know exactly in what way.
“My honest answer about the future is, I don’t know,” he said. “When I first moved here I got asked pretty much the same question, and I gave the response that I thought they wanted to hear, rather than the response that was true. And the true response is that I don’t know. The reason I don’t know is that, in this company, there are so many opportunities that honestly it just depends what opportunities I can either forge out for myself, or are available to me once I finish. Whether it’s staying on the service desk for a bit and waiting for something to open up, or moving straight on maybe into a leadership role, or moving across into another team – I don’t know yet. But hopefully I can stay working with Sky Bet, because it’s a really good place to work.”