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Internship Spotlight: James Guba ’18

What are you doing this summer? We asked rising second-year MBA students to check in from their summer internships, where they are applying the lessons of their first year at Yale SOM.

James Guba ’18

Internship: Analytics Intern for the Phoenix Suns
Home country/state: Albany, New York
Favorite SOM class:  Entrepreneurship Through Acquisition

I came to Yale SOM to combine my interests in sports and analytics. Before my MBA, I was fortunate to be a student athlete in college and then a management consultant for the next five years. Both parts of my life were fulfilling, but they existed in entirely separate spheres.  After taking Sports Marketing with Grant Son and gaining some valuable career advice from Barry Nalebuff, I realized that my skills working with “big data” in my previous job would translate to the NBA.

Following my first round of calls with various teams last fall, the Phoenix Suns became my desired summer destination. Aside from the fact that other franchises spoke highly about the Suns’ analytics division, I was really impressed by how this group never settles for the status quo.  The team is actively testing new platforms and vendors that push its business forward.

I was excited to hear that my first project with the Suns would involve mobile app activity analytics. While I had spent a lot of time in my previous work diving into cost-cutting metrics, this project made me appreciate how a careful analysis of customer traffic could impact topline growth. Working with the application designer to define meaningful metrics was a blast, and I appreciated leading a project that was new to the organization.  Along the way, I was able to blend some of my pre-MBA skills (SQL, data visualization) with topics found in SOM’s core classes (especially Customer).

Beyond digital strategy, I was also able to sink my teeth into pricing. Any professional sports team needs people in the seats during every game, and determining the price of this particular inventory was intriguing to me. A nice bonus included in researching ticket resale prices was learning how NBA teams shared best practices with each other. Though many organizational policies must remain confidential, as we learned in Innovator, some ideas need to be shared with peers to truly grow.

My only regret from my 11 weeks in the desert is that I turned the ball over way too many times during employee pickup games on Wednesday nights. Beyond this minor setback, I am entirely grateful to the Phoenix Suns for allowing me to explore my dual passions in such a collegial and inspiring setting.