FanDuel: A Career Conversation with Vishal Patel and Matthew Hilger

What motivated you to join FanDuel?

Vishal: FanDuel was a name that I became more familiar with, especially with my interest in sports entertainment. As the dominant player in the market, I kept an eye on FanDuel and saw the growth over time. When I had an opportunity to join, I knew I had to jump at the opportunity to combine my specific skillset with a company that aligns with my interests.

Matthew: Sports betting has been around for decades around the world and online betting is a big industry in Europe and Australia. In the US, this is an industry that is just a few years old so the sky is the limit in terms of growth and what this industry will become. There are similarities if you look at ecommerce back in the late 90s and sports betting today. So it’s the perfect growth industry and who better to work for than the company who is leading the way!

How does FanDuel convey to employees a sense of belonging?

Vishal: One of our principles is “we are one team.” That means many things but ultimately it keeps us focused on the larger picture and that focus is what allows us to foster a sense of collaboration and community. Every single person is valued because they bring a piece of the larger success and being one team allows us to have and sustain this level of excellence. In addition, not only is your contribution valued but who you are as a person is equally as important and that helps drive that sense of belonging for each employee.

Matthew: First, the internal communication and openness from senior leadership is unlike any other company I have worked for before. You have opportunities to ask any question to leadership on tough topics that are top of mind for employees. FanDuel has also done a great job instilling culture within the offices with all kinds of various groups, committees, charity work to be involved in your local office outside of your day-to-day activities.

In what ways has FanDuel supported your professional development and growth?

Vishal: From all the way back as far as my interview, there has always been an open conversation about development and growth. Not only have I been able to be open and honest about the ways I want to grow, but it has been a day one conversation with my leadership team. It is very encouraging when you have leadership who not only supports your growth but actively ensures it is a topic of constant discussion and action. Through these opportunities, FanDuel has allowed me to grow in my role through the numerous resources available internally, as well as coaching, but also external education and conference opportunities.

Matthew: FanDuel puts a lot of emphasis on #1- hiring great people and then #2 – putting them in a position to succeed. I’m a huge Bulldog fan and nobody does that better than Kirby! At Fanduel, there are similarities but within a business context. We have online training across a multitude of topics available to us. FanDuel also supports anyone who identifies a training or development opportunity outside of the company that makes sense. But most importantly, FanDuel puts a lot of emphasis on career path and making sure all employees are given the right opportunities to develop and grow.

In what ways are you supported in maintaining a healthy work-life balance?

Vishal: Maintaining a healthy work-life balance is important to the equilibrium of life. Personally, I try to ensure that I am well organized in my work because that not only allows me to understand my priorities, but able to plan so that work is coordinated in a way to allow for that healthy balance. In addition, I am honest with my leader when asked this question about how my workload is. If I am overwhelmed, I know that my leader and those around me will help step in and ensure things are progressing and that I am able to find a good balance.

Matthew: Essentially FanDuel expects me to do a good job but gives me the flexibility to figure out how to do that in a way that works best for my particular lifestyle. We have a hybrid working model where employees are expected to work at least 2 days in the office so that we can build relationships and culture, while also allowing employees to work at home. Some employees wake up early to work while others prefer working later at night. There isn’t a 9 to 5 mentality – just do a good job in a way that works best for you.

How do you know that you’re making a difference/having an impact with the work that you do?

Vishal: In my role, I can see direct customer impact through reporting, surveys, and other feedback mechanisms that we have in place. I ensure that we are gathering feedback from our customers so that way we are delivering what our customers want. Through those avenues, I know that the work we do has an impact on our customers and contributes to the success of our company. It is equally important to have a personal sense of responsibility to follow-up and learn how the things you worked on impacted customers. It can be easy to grind through the work and quickly move on to the next, but follow-up helps to understand whether the work you did made a difference.

Matthew: Our customers tell us. In the Product department, we constantly are evaluating new features based on customer research and then when we implement a new feature we can see via analytics and surveys whether our customers have responded to the feature in the way we expected. The customer always come first and so it’s easy to know the impact you are having by seeing how customers respond to the new features we roll out.

What makes you proud to represent FanDuel?

Vishal: What makes me proud to represent FanDuel is not only the tremendous success we’ve had recently, but more importantly the way we have achieved that success. We have many principles, such as “we are one team,” “win with integrity,” and “everything begins with the customer” that ensure we are succeeding in the right way. We aim to do always do what is right by ourselves, our customers, our industry, and in general. That makes me the proud to represent our company.

Matthew: FanDuel puts a lot of emphasis on responsible gaming and there is a culture that we want to be successful, but we want to do so in a responsible way. I’ve worked in online gaming for more than 20 years and this is the first company where responsible gaming is a part of the culture and I’m proud of a lot of things we are doing for responsible gaming. 

In what ways do you feel like you’ve grown since working for FanDuel?

Vishal: Though I have only been with the company for a relatively short period of time, I have grown tremendously. Being in a relatively new industry and in a position of tremendous growth for our company, there are many challenging opportunities to tackle. This has been the most challenging role I have taken on in my career and that has been exciting. Not only do I get to learn a new industry, but I get to pave a new path as we explore ways to better serve our customers. This has put me in a position to really lean in on my strengths but also develop other skills.

Matthew: At FanDuel, one of our principles is Assume Positive Intent. I love this principle and have focused on it not only within a business setting but to my personal life as well. For the most part, people are trying their best and want the same outcome as you, but sometimes things can be taken out of context so it’s always helpful to start figuring how to resolve an issue by first assuming positive intent. This makes for great collaboration and culture building.

What do you wish you had known about the professional world when you were a student?

Vishal: I wish I had known two things. First is that it is okay if you do not know exactly what you want to do; your career will take you many different directions. Though I started my career doing what I expected to do, I would have never expected to be where I am today in terms of the type of work that I am doing. Second is that relationships are extremely important. Not only from a networking perspective but building meaningful, reciprocal relationships that will enable you to be successful in the work you do, as you will almost never be working in a silo.

Matthew: When you’re young, you think about what you want to do and then you study that exact subject to start your career, but I think there are a lot of careers where it’s helpful to get a broader background to help you long-term in your career. For example, if you want to get into corporate finance, you should really learn accounting as it’s essential to understand how the numbers come together. If you want to work as a Product Manager, it’s helpful to have learned statistics to speak with researchers, or programming to speak with software engineers.

In thinking about emerging young professionals, what advice would you share to those seeking their first opportunities?

Vishal: I would give a couple pieces of advice:

  1. Network – I am sure the wonderful career center advisors are hammering this point home as well, but I cannot understate the value in this. Meet as many people as possible and build relationships because you will never know when you will be able to lean on those relationships. You may meet people who will eventually be your advocate to land a specific job. You will meet those who can provide meaningful career advice. There are many benefits that can be derived out of building a strong network.
  2. Learn – Spend some time researching the types of jobs and companies that are out there. Often it is easy to just lookup who the leadership is, the stock price, and other surface level information but the more you can research, the better off you will be not only in interviews but in determining whether a particular role or company is a good fit with you, your goals, and your values.

Matthew: Don’t just find a job, find a passion. I was a finance major and I worked early in my career for a banana company and a pharmaceutical company. I don’t really eat bananas very often and I don’t get sick that often. Work became 10 times more interesting when I found jobs in industries that I was passionate about.

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