As an extension of our #MatchYourAmbition series, we have spoken to a number of key staff members from NYCFC to find how they exert their influence on the Club. In this interview, Jose Neto, Head of Information Technology shares his career story and insights into his role at NYCFC.
Can you talk us through your career journey to date and how you reached your current position?
I have spent most of my career working in a completely different industry – consumer packaging. I started as a management trainee straight after university, worked up through the company ranks where I then became Head of Information Analytics for global marketing and innovation. I then moved from the UK to the US which is when I began my role with NYCFC, just six months ago.
One of my highlights on this journey was midway through my previous role. I joined the internal audit group representing the IT function and I think that was a great opportunity for me to understand all of the nuances of how our business operated across multiple functions and multiple countries. I think it is important that you try to have a balanced career that gives you visibility around different functions.
What initially attracted you to the club?
There were two things:
1. I thought it was a great opportunity to work in the sports/entertainment industry, I am very passionate about the impact that this industry and our club can make in society. We run a number of initiatives with “City in the Community” foundation which focuses on programmes to promote fitness/physical education amongst children and teenagers and also a number of educational and youth leadership programmes.
2. NYCFC is part of a multinational group, City Football Group. We have operations in multiple countries across the globe so being part of a global group gives me access to worldwide expertise and support.
In summary, I am working in an industry which I believe benefits our society and a club who operate a business model that is linked to my own beliefs.
Describe your typical day-to-day role and highlight the elements you enjoy the most
There is never a typical day in IT! I normally spread my time between our Manhattan office and the office at our training facility in Orangeburg, NY.
The first thing I normally do is review our social channels, website and mobile apps to try and get an understanding of how our fans are feeling and what topics are being discussed amongst them. This is because being on top of the fan’s digital journey is a key part of the modern IT role.
I also spend time speaking to my team about any issues and how we are going to address our staff when problems come up.
The part that I enjoy the most is when I set some time aside to work with the business to identify new technologies that are going to help us drive the club forward. Soccer is a very competitive sport so any small improvements we can make from an IT point of view makes a huge impact and can be the difference between winning and losing a game.
How do you think your specific role will evolve over the next five years?
I think that technology roles in IT are becoming more and more transformational. One way I have described this before is that we are becoming business navigators, someone that has the ability to help the company identify and navigate the opportunities we have for growth, for efficiency and to differentiate ourselves from the competition.
I always focus on leveraging the current and emerging technologies. I also always like to emphasise current and available technology, especially any that we have brought into our ecosystem because IT professionals always have a tendency to talk about future technology and get bored with the current technology. I think it is very important that we extract the maximum value of our current landscape. IT will become the core function for the business, a revenue generator instead of just a traditional cost centre.
I think from a Group point of view, in the last six months I have already realised that CFG and NYCFC are very passionate and always looking at new ways to innovate, and I am very proud to be part of that.
What aspects of your role are most challenging and how do you overcome those challenges?
I think the most challenging aspect of this particular role is making sure that everything works as it should on a game day. The pressure of a game day is enormous, we have to be very coordinated as a team to serve a whole stadium of fans, members of the press, multiple sponsors and the team on the field. All of them rely heavily on technology and we are responsible for making that engine work.
What are the most exciting/innovative projects that you have been involved with in your current role and how have these enabled you to grow professionally?
The most exciting part of the past six months is when I go and visit different sports venues across the world to understand how technology and data are being used and how they are helping those clubs to improve the fan experience and sports performance. I am using this to inform ourselves in our own journey as we plan our own new stadium.
How do you see your current role contributing to the overall success of the business?
The real contributions come with acting as a ‘change agent’ and helping the club navigate through the opportunities, challenges and risks that we face every day, whilst also keeping sight of our vision to become the industry leader, as part of a global network of clubs. I think my contribution is focused on three main areas:
1. Winning with data
2. Excellence in sports technology
3. Making sure everything works as it should
Do you think it’s important to continuously upskill, and if so, how do you do it?
I think it is critical for everyone, but it is especially true when you work in technology and are in a leadership role. It is important to have a solid understanding of how the business operates. Personally, I try to involve myself in cross-functional initiatives which usually give me the chance to understand and support different parts of the business and see how we really operate. I also have a wide network of peers across the industry that help me establish best practices, challenges and opportunities.
Finally, one very important element for all IT professionals is to be as close as possible to the start-up environment because the future of technology is being driven by the start-ups that are out there. I usually spend one morning a week, focused only on start-ups, technology trends and talking to our suppliers, and I think that is what keeps you connected to the industry and connected to technological innovation.
From a technology point of view, how do you predict the company will be different in two years, and how do you see yourself shaping that change?
I hope that in the next two years we take much more advantage of the start-up system, with that I think we should have a bigger impact on the supply chain in the management of sports performance. I think it will really help our players to live better: eat, sleep, train, reduce injury, recover faster and perform at the highest level. I think through technology and harnessing the limitless data that is available to us – we can really make an impact in this supply chain concept of our sports.
What do you think will be the future trends in digital transformation?
With a sports lens, I think a couple of things are going to happen:
1. Virtual Reality will have a common place in our industry. I think we are going to use that more and more to train players and also in addition to this it will be used to provide our fans with unique immersive opportunities and it will improve the overall experience for our fans.
2. We will see a huge change in how we consume our content. For example, La Liga, who is the Spanish football league, now broadcast matches in India via Facebook, so completely free of charge and outside of normal channels.
Something which I hope will also happen is full-scale 3D holographic games being broadcast live into stadiums/arenas. I think this is a big area where technology can grow and develop.
Is there a piece of advice you could offer to anyone looking to pursue a similar career?
I think it is important to have a balanced career in your core competencies, so for me, technology and business. It is critical to understand how the business really operates, the main objectives that the business has, and how IT can be used to help achieve these objectives. I think senior roles are becoming more and more transformational. If you don’t have significant business acumen you are not going to succeed in this modern IT world.
What’s the best piece of careers advice you’ve ever been given?
There are a few which I think have been important:
1. Have fun, celebrate your success and ensure you have a balanced personal and professional life.
2. The more recent one which I have received in the last two years is to manage your own energy, not time. Balance all the different components such as physical, mental, and emotional energy, this is more important than really managing your own time. Doing your best at all times is what it is all about.
What are you most proud of in your career?
I am most proud of the people I have helped to develop, those who have worked with me and those I have helped to develop their career. I am frequently contacted by my former colleagues to talk about their career goals, their challenges, their ambitions and I am very proud and fulfilled to act as a mentor to them and help them progress in their careers.
New York City FC (NYCFC) is an American professional soccer team based in New York City that competes in Major League Soccer (MLS) in the Eastern Conference of the league. Majority owned by City Football Group (CFG), New York City FC plays its home games at Yankee Stadium and has former US National Team captain Claudio Reyna as its Sporting Director and Domènec Torrent as its Head Coach.
As Official Recruitment Partner, Hays has been pivotal to NYCFC since the Club’s inaugural season in 2015 and has proved instrumental in helping to bring a brand-new soccer franchise to New York City. Together, NYCFC and Hays have developed a truly integrated partnership, with a strong understanding of the synergies between the world of work and elite sport.