Student Spotlight: Laney Tillman (’23) Accepted into NBA Future Stars Program

Laney Tillman, Class of 2023, has recently begun her journey working in the Future Analytics Stars Program! Laney is majoring in Data Science & Analytics with a minor in Sport Management. She is involved on campus as the Captain of Varsity Women’s Rowing.  Previous internship/work experience includes being a Resident advisor, data science teaching assistant, math center tutor, and student sport statistician. Laney was kind enough to answer a few questions about herself and the steps she took to obtain her position as a Future Analytic Star!

Can you tell us a little bit about why you chose to work there? What makes this company a great place to work?

It was a great opportunity to get hands-on experience and access to real league executives. To be surrounded by like-minded people also interested in the data side of sports and how we can leverage it in competition. 

How did you find this position, and can you tell us a little bit about what you do there? And is there any advice you’d give to other students looking to break into this company?

I was sent the link to apply from Professor Spalding, (a former Merrimack professor) who now teaches sports analytics at University of Oklahoma. We all meet together every other Thursday for two hours. Half of the session is analytic skill development and the other half is professional development. We are currently in groups working on a program-long capstone project with some members of the league office and team offices.

Can you talk us through the process of finding and applying for your internship? 

I sent in my resume, had a video interview, and then a technical assessment before being accepted into the program.

How did you prepare for the interview? What was it like, and do you have any tips on interview techniques or questions?

To prepare for the interview section of the process, I went over previous interview questions I have had when applying for a data science job or one with technical skills. The interview I had was a pre-recorded video interview with two practice questions. I had a maximum of two minutes each to answer the three questions in the interview. My biggest tip would be to take a pause and think before you speak to communicate clearly and stop once you’ve made your point.

Wow. A pre-recorded interview! The O’Brien Center for Career Development has a technology resource tool called Quinncia that gives Merrimack students unlimited access to practicing interview questions online in order to be prepared for those video interviews. It’s free and available 24/7 here.

In general, how did Merrimack contribute to your career development? What resources did you use?

I have used the O’Brien Career Center a few times to work on my resume. While there, they helped me change the wording and format it to best showcase my skills and experience.

What surprised you about your internship experience? Were there any situations that came up that you were unprepared for?

What surprised me the most was how invested the people running the program were in us to succeed and how many resources (people and things) they provided to let us make the most of it. They prep us before any meeting so we don’t go in blind.

What skills have you developed working for this company and what do you wish you had known prior to starting the internship there?

While in the program I have developed my coding skills as they got us all memberships to DataQuest. I have also become more confident in my presentation and public speaking skills with a large group. I feel like I have a better idea of the path I need to take to get to where I want to be as a sports data analyst.

Any campus shout-outs to folks who have helped you along the way in getting you to this point?

Dr. Michael Bradley has been awesome, giving me opportunities to work with sports analytics as much as I could through the normal curriculum just because it interested me. Lauri Gibbons for always being a soundboard when I’m trying to figure out what path I want to follow and of course Dr. Taesoo Ahn for giving me good advice and introducing me to my first sports analytics contact.

Speaking of your time at Merrimack, how did you grow in your time here? Were there any influential clubs, jobs, professors, or moments for you?

While here, I’ve become more willing to ask for opportunities or just create my own. I think being on a team too has taught me a lot of accountability and time management so I could get more out of my days.

Seven Things You Didn’t Know About Laney! 

  • What has been your favorite Merrimack memory so far? Racing in the V4+ at Head of the Charles my fresh
    man year and our team trip to Clemson.
  • What is the best dining location on campus? And your favorite Merrimack food? Mindful Mac stir fry at the ice rink is the best meal on this campus, hands down, but I love to sit and eat in the library cafe.
  • If you could dine with any person, fictional or historical, who would it be? I would dine with J.K Rowling to get clarification on all the details in Harry Potter that she hasn’t told us yet. 
  • What are your favorite musical artist(s)? J. Cole and Harry Styles for sure.
  • What is one thing we would never guess about you? I thought I was going to be a doctor for my entire life, and came into college on the pre-med track.
  • Best career advice you ever heard? If you never ask, it will always be a no, and the worst thing that can happen is they say no.
  • What stands out as Merrimack’s greatest feature? I think Merrimack’s greatest feature is the people and community. I’ve never felt like I didn’t belong to a group or didn’t have a purpose on campus.
By Casey Stevenson
Casey Stevenson Communication & Copywriting Intern