Anna Nickel has a lot of respect for coaches.
She’s had impactful coaches throughout her two-decade career as a softball player. And now, as a coach herself, she understands the vocation inherent in the discipline—and how that purpose and drive is found at every level, from paid and professional to volunteer and casual.
“I’ve been coached by so many people in my life. I am where I am because of the people that have done that for me,” says the Softball Market Manager at youth sports platform GameChanger. “Now, to be one of those people who supports coaches, it’s pretty phenomenal.”
One of her favorite parts about coaching and being coached is how outcomes-focused it is, says Anna.
Anna’s worked to embrace that in her own career, especially as she’s worked hard to marry her passion for sports with a meaningful and satisfying career in tech. As a woman, she’s a minority in both areas and knows what it’s like to not see a path forward.
So now, she’s also working to extend that help and coaching to other women who want to succeed in her field.
We sat down with Anna to hear more about how she got to GameChanger, and about what she hopes her field—softball and professional—looks like in the future.
From the League to the Office
Anna grew up in the Pacific Northwest, where she spent the majority of her time outside doing something athletic.
“It doesn’t matter what I’m doing; I’m always competing,” says the lifelong softball player, who played in college and professionally (before being injured), and has coached internationally and privately. She’s now an assistant coach at a local college.
Her athletic passion first sparked her career goals. Anna grew up near the Nike headquarters in Oregon, and says she came to see it as a “mega marketing empire of coolness.” She dreamt of being part of the team that brought new products to market, that set trends, and that won—and kept—consumers’ attention via world-class storytelling.
Anna studied business in college and worked in her school’s sports marketing department. But with her now-husband back on the west coast, she declined a role in collegiate athletics marketing and found a job as a sales and marketing coordinator at a sports company.
A few transitions later, she was working in community marketing at Dick’s Sporting Goods, doing work she found inherently meaningful.
“At a high level, what are we marketing? Sports. Experiences that bring people together. What a great place to work. I just love working for a company that provides you with [things] you’re going to go make memories with,” says Anna, smiling widely.
But four years in, she was ready for a new challenge. Dick’s had acquired GameChanger, a game livestreaming and scoring platform used by 500,000 youth sports teams across the country, when Anna first joined, and she’d been hoping for a chance to work at the tech company for years.
In late 2021, a position for a softball ambassador opened up, and Anna was approached.
“[The hiring manager] said, ‘You’d be in charge of supporting the softball community for GameChanger. Getting the word out on new features, building relationships, doing some grassroots marketing.’ And I was like, ‘Yeah, sign me up!,’” remembers Anna.
Now, Anna’s even happier in her role, serving as the link between a tech product she believes in and a community and a sport that she loves. “Having a lot of passion for something and getting to apply it has been really cool,” she says. “I’m floored by how many people at GameChanger love their job, love our mission, who truly believe that what we do is making things easier for coaches and therefore helps support them.”
4 Tips for a More Equal Playing Field
Anna considers herself lucky to have found a role in sports and tech that she loves, but she recognizes that not many other people like her find their place in her field.
“The amount of women in sports, it’s not very big. And then take the intersection of women in sports and tech, and that’s a whole other thing,” she says. “To be part of a company that values and respects my opinion, and wants me to challenge myself, I feel so fulfilled as a coach and a lover of sport.
She wants other women to have that same opportunity.
“As we grow, I’m making sure I’m turning around and saying, ‘Let’s get this woman in sport into this world, and leverage her expertise,’” she says.
Anna has several pieces of advice for other women looking to break into fields where they may be few and far between, including:
- “Take a lot of initiative. If you see a problem, go and tackle it. And if it's awful, you learn from it. If it's great, it benefits the team. So you're gonna learn a lot faster, not waiting for someone to give you the okay,” she says.
- Reach out for help and you’ll get it. “You can’t be afraid to say, ‘I don’t know what I’m doing’ or ‘I’m feeling stuck’ or ‘I feel a bit hopeless in this situation,’” she says. Going to books and podcasts for perspective and help is a great first step, but don’t be afraid to ask people in your network for a hand.
- “You don’t have to keep trying to go forward. When you hit that roadblock, recognize that there’s a right and a left and a backwards out of it. Don't be afraid to find a new path.”
- If you have to choose between a place you feel like you belong and a place that’s aligned with your career passion, optimize for belonging. “When you feel you belong somewhere, you can show up and do things not out of fear, but out of faith. You have to feel safe to make mistakes,” she says.
May she be the first of many, is the gist of Anna’s approach to leading by example.
“For me, success on the career side looks like helping as many women as I can get introduced to this world and recognize that it’s somewhere they belong,” she says.
“Knowing that their expertise and their love of the game is not wasted. It’s not like they have to hang up their cleats and be done forever. They can hang up their cleats, pick up an iPad, and say, ‘Hey, let’s go to work, and build better softball and baseball products.’”
💎 Looking for some GameChanger interview tips to help you get ready to apply for a role at the company?. Watch this video till the end to gain insight into what to expect and how to prepare for GameChanger's interview process.
📼 Prepare for your GameChanger interview with these great recruiter tips! Brian Testa, the senior technical recruiter at GameChanger, will review the company’s interview process and share valuable information on every step along the way.
📼 Brian shares some great GameChanger interview tips! He often gets asked what the ideal resume looks like. He says, “That's a tough question, because there's no one right answer to it. Make sure not to have a generic resume; tailor yours to be specific to the job that you are applying for. This will show recruiters that you're thinking critically about the position itself, which will make you stand out.” To prepare for the interview process, Brian recommends two things. First, dissect your resume and think about specific examples in the past that might apply to the role. This way, you'll be able to provide context on a deeper level to the interview team. Second, download the GameChanger app! Go ahead and familiarize yourself with what you're potentially going to be working on, which will add value to your conversations with the team.
📼 Don’t miss these GameChanger interview tips for the interview process! After you've applied, you'll typically hear from the company within 24 to 48 hours, should the resume review go positively. The first step will be a conversation with Brian, who will dive into your background and get a better sense of your experience. This first interview is also a chance for you to learn more about GameChanger and the role. After that, you’ll have a conversation with the hiring manager to truly assess your skills as a fit for the position (and give you the chance to learn more about the role’s expectations from your future manager). After this, you’ll receive a small project to work on at home, which will differ depending upon the type of role you're applying for, followed by three to four virtual conversations with additional team members. If all goes well, congratulations! You are on your way to becoming a GameChanger!
Gamechanger Interview Tips - Learn About the Work Environment
The fact that GameChanger is a mission-driven, customer-obsessed company really defines its culture. As Brian says, “We're only as good as the product we release to our users.” Because of that, they work collaboratively, and every team member plays an impactful role in the product’s success. The work at GameChanger is very fast-paced because they're constantly improving and iterating. They're ambitious in their work, setting a high bar so they can deliver value to their customers.
🧑💼 Are you interested in joining GameChanger? They have open positions! To learn more, click here.
Get to Know Brian
Brian has over seven years of full life cycle recruiting experience, primarily within the tech space. He has experience working with various organizations and industries, including ad agencies, start-ups, fashion/retail, media, financial, and Fortune 500. He’s adept with all recruiting channels, such as ATS systems (Greenhouse, Avature, iCims, Bullhorn, Microsoft CRM, etc.) LinkedIn Recruiter, Github, Stack Overflow, Monster, Dice, and Facebook. If you are interested in a career at GameChanger, you can connect with Brian on LinkedIn!
More About GameChanger
GameChanger is a dynamic technology company based in New York City with teammates working remotely to solve some of the biggest challenges in tech. The company has more than 550,000 youth sports teams on its app and it delivers live video streaming, scorekeeping, and team communication tools that connect families to the most important game of the week. So if engineering is your sport, or you love traditional sports, GameChanger might be the team for you. At GameChanger, they believe sports are important because they encourage leadership, teamwork, responsibility, and confidence—critical life lessons that have the power to propel our youth toward meaningful futures. GameChanger recognizes that without coaches, parents, and volunteers, organized youth sports could not exist. The company celebrates those dedicated heroes and makes it their mission to help them do what they do best.
💎 Prepare for your interview with engineering hiring managers using some actual examples of go-to questions!
📼 Press PLAY to hear tips from Ami Kumar and Sarah Schell, both Directors of Engineering at GameChanger, on how to prepare for your interview with a hiring manager. They shared some of their favorite questions to ask candidates.
📼 What's the assessment of soft skills like during an interview with a hiring manager? Ami and Sarah, as Directors of Engineering, assess a combination of technical skills and soft skills during your interview. From a softer side, they'll ask you to think about how the changes you're suggesting would impact the users as well as your past experiences and what you learned along the way. When doing so, it's important to provide context. Some questions candidates will be asked are: Who were you working with? What were the objectives? What was the conflict? What options were considered? What were the trade-offs? And most importantly, what was your specific role in that situation?
📼 There are so many different questions that you can ask the hiring manager at the end of the interview, not only for engineering roles but for any role you'd like to apply for. Some great questions to ask are: What is your day-to-day going to look like? What tools and technologies will you get to learn? What kind of growth opportunities and learning opportunities does the company offer? Showing that you're trying to visualize life inside the company helps you stand out to the interviewer.
Last Tip For Your Interview With an Engineering Hiring Manager
To improve your chances of getting hired at GameChanger, Sarah recommends focusing on a couple of areas. First, always work on improving your craft, whether it's writing the swift code, learning about testing patterns, or performing data analyses. Second, Sarah looks for candidates who can work effectively in a team. This means having the ability to collaborate, mentor, be mentored, articulate novel ideas, give feedback, and even respectfully dissent.
📨 Are you interested in joining GameChanger? They have open positions! To learn more, click here.
Get to know Ami and Sarah
Ami Kumar is currently a Senior Engineering Manager at GameChanger Media, Inc. and she's getting her Master's degree in Machine Learning at Georgia Tech. She graduated from Columbia University's Fu Foundation of Engineering and Applied Sciences with a major in computer science, following the applications track.
Sarah Schell has been a part of the team at GameChanger for more than four years now. She started as a Data Scientist, and after being the Data Science + Data Engineering Manager, she's now become the Director of Engineering at the company.
More About GameChanger
GameChanger is a dynamic technology company based in New York City with teammates working remotely to solve some of the biggest challenges in tech. They have more than 550,000 youth sports teams on their app and they deliver live video streaming, scorekeeping, and team communication tools that connect families to the most important game of the week.
Siobhan Sabino's first introduction to tech was one she's since realized is shared by many women who grew up in the 90s: Neopets.
"It's HTML and CSS," explains Siobhan of the options to customize a user profile and shop on the virtual pet site. "It was a very curious thing, and that was how I got into tech."
Her early interest grew when she went to a specialized high school that focused on computer science. "Essentially the requirement was, 'Are you good at algebra? Come on in!'" remembers Siobhan. "Suddenly there was this explanation of the things I'd been seeing. Here's how the Internet, this crazy new thing, here's how this is working. Here's how computers are working."
Siobhan credits her high school education with preparing her well to study computer science in college—she was the only freshman in her C++ class, she remembers, having skipped all the basics that she'd covered in high school—but it was also the place she first felt unwelcome. "A lot of the guys in my math class thought they were going to go to the computer program and didn't get in," says Siobhan. "And they were very salty when they found out I had gotten in. They were like, 'You don't belong there.'"
Siobhan was shaken at first, and in those early days, she recalls spending some time crying at her terminal, struggling with a QBasic program. "It was the first time I was aware of this idea that girls aren't supposed to be good at math, that women aren't supposed to be good at tech, and I just remember thinking, 'I can give up, or I can just become the top of this pyramid of people who do tech in school.' And I never looked back," she says. "I was not raised to be a quitter."
Siobhan's learned to prove herself, which is something she's leaned on throughout her career as she's taken on new challenges, including in her current role as Lead Data Engineer at youth sports tech company GameChanger.
We talked to Siobhan about finding a company where she felt like she belonged, how to pay forward that feeling to others, and how job seekers can find the fit and the community that allows them to be their full selves at work.
Finding the right culture fit
Siobhan currently does the culture interview for GameChanger. One of the questions she always asks—if you're interviewing for one of their open roles, take note!—is "What's the best team you've ever been on?"
Her own answer to that question, she realized, was a team where she worked with all senior engineers. She was the youngest and the only woman. "There was no sense of 'I have to prove myself, and to prove myself, I have to put other people down,'" she says. When she interviewed at GameChanger, she felt like it was a similarly ego-free place.
At first, she took the interview at GameChanger just to practice. She was ready for a new challenge after being at her last company for four years, and wanted to ease her way back into recruiting. A company focused on providing scorekeeping, statistics management, recap stories, and live streams for youth sports didn't seem quite in line with Siobhan's self-proclaimed status as "not a big sports person."
"Non ironically, my favorite sport is muggle quidditch," she says, smiling.
But Siobhan got on the phone interview anyway. "At the end of this half hour, I was like, 'Oh my god, I want to work there. I want to work at GameChanger because the person I talked to was so excited about the job,'" she remembers.
That wasn't par for the course in the world of tech recruiting, Siobhan had learned. "I've done interviews with famous companies where I go in excited and I leave thinking, 'Well, you clearly don't want to work there. And you're the hiring manager! Why would I want to work there?' I've done interviews with big tech companies where I go in for an onsite and they'll have more than a thousand engineers and they can't find a single woman for me to talk to. For GameChanger, it was that feeling of it is about the culture."
For Siobhan, that culture was one that focused on people and on creating meaningful connections between them. That includes between GameChanger users—"I really felt like the company genuinely valued working in sports and helping to make people's lives better, helping coaches and volunteers, helping kids to learn how to work together, and I wanted to be part of that," explains Siobhan—and between the company's employees.
Here are some specific questions she recommends asking your interviewers:
- How does your team celebrate wins?
- What is the most fulfilling thing you've done that was hard at work?
- What is your day-to-day like?
- What is it that you say makes your culture special?
- What do you love most about your job?
Fostering belonging at work
Siobhan recognizes that a big part of feeling like she belongs at work is an innate sense of confidence—one she's fostered since her middle school experience—and that another is being in a supportive environment with a welcoming culture. Choosing the environment that's right for her hasn't always been easy, but as her career progresses, she's gotten better at identifying places she wants to be, like GameChanger. She's also recognized what she can do to pay that sense of belonging forward and help others.
Creating an inclusive, welcoming environment works both ways: it's more efficient from a workflow perspective, especially on a team of engineers, who will feel more comfortable bringing up problems, sharing interesting ideas, and collaborating on solutions. And it's also more enjoyable from an interpersonal perspective.
"I've had interviews where I asked people what's their favorite part of their day. And they're like, 'I love technology.' Maybe that works for other people. For me, I like other people. I like talking to people. I like getting their ideas. I like hearing what they cooked for dinner. And also, what do they think of this architecture?" she says wryly.
When it comes to what a company can do to support those two aims, Siobhan has a couple of examples of what she's seen at GameChanger:
- Creating a "one team" mentality. When one of GameChanger's co-founders stepped down, explains Siobhan, it was a tumultuous time emotionally, and other companies might've seriously floundered. That's not what happened at GameChanger, and Siobhan credits it to the deep sense that all teams, from data to product to design and beyond, are unified. "I remember the CTO and CFO both making comments that there'd be no work that would happen that day. That that's okay. As a company, we had to mourn that this was the end of an era, that that's fine, that they left us with the tools and the culture to reach out to each other and say, 'We're going to go through it together. Are you okay?'" says Siobhan.
- Truly caring for people. "We were one of the first companies sent home early in the pandemic and we'll probably be one of the last ones to reopen, because this is about the team. This is about everyone feeling comfortable, everyone being healthy," says Siobhan. "You're not a cog in a machine, you are a person who has a family and a life and we want you to feel good because we will do the work. That will happen. But we can't replace you."
And on what an individual can do, Siobhan shares two things she does as a leader and a teammate:
- Creating connections. When she first joined GameChanger, Siobhan reached out to the person hired right before her and the person hired right after her and made a cohort, and she continues to reach out to new hires today. "Then if you're having a bad day, you have someone to talk to. Maybe they're just someone to listen to your bad day. Maybe they'll actually have a solution," she says, noting that Slack has made it even easier to send low-stakes invites to new coworkers to help you get to know them.
- Sharing the unvarnished truth. "In my experience, what makes GameChanger unique is this sense that it's okay not to be okay. I try to be honest about my struggles with mental health and verbalizing it both so that I'm advocating for myself, and so other people can feel they can advocate for themselves as well," says Siobhan.
At the end of the day, says Siobhan, finding and creating a place where you feel like you belong and your ideas matter is the most important part of work, and it's worth investing time in figuring out where you can experience that. "There are places whose answers [to culture questions] make you lie awake at night and go 'No, no, no, no, no, you don't want to work there,'" she says. "It's not that you as a person failed. It's that this is not the right culture fit. And that's fine because it'll work for someone else. You find somewhere that works for you."
If GameChanger seems like a place that might work for you, check out their open roles.