In the book and movie Moneyball, an enterprising general manager turns pro baseball upside down by analyzing data in new ways to build a successful team.
For graduating NC State senior Joshua Gandy, analytics is helping build a future – one that might include that same type of data-driven sports career.
Gandy enrolled at the university planning to become a lawyer, eventually specializing in medical law. Like many freshmen, he thought he could predict his life’s general direction. He was, he said, a little timid and a little less mature.
As his time in college progressed, all of that changed.
He is completing his bachelor’s degree in business administration with a concentration in marketing and honors in business analytics, and finishing his career on the NC State track and field team. His time on campus won’t end May 13, however. He has been accepted into the intensive master’s degree program at the Institute for Advanced Analytics, where he will focus on crunching data to help businesses and other organizations innovate and overcome challenges.
As an undergraduate – thanks in part to receiving Poole College of Management’s John Deere Marketing Award scholarship and to being a student-athlete – Gandy recalibrated his road ahead through extraordinary leadership and service opportunities. These hands-on experiences, especially the chance to mentor other students, altered him, too.
More than anything, Gandy said, he thinks differently.
“I’ve developed a more open mind, but I’m also more focused. If I see something I want to achieve, I’m going to go for it,” he said. “Through the things I’ve gotten involved in at State and through networking, I’ve found like-minded people and people who have motivated me to be bigger than I was and to do more than I thought I could.
“Once I developed that mindset, it really elevated my game, I guess you’d say. My grades shot up, my track times started to drop and, most importantly, I realized that it’s not all about me – it’s about making an impact and bringing other people along, too.”
Growing up in Michigan, Gandy expected to attend college there. When he was a high school senior, his father’s job transfer brought him to the Triangle. A phone call from an NC State hurdles coach brought him to campus.
“This really seemed like a place where there was a lot of energy and excitement – a place that was evolving,” Gandy said.
Soon, his goals evolved, too. He enjoyed his classes in political science and biological sciences before an introductory business class lit the first spark of his passion for digital marketing and analytics. He liked what he’d started out doing – but he loved PCOM.
“I’ve really enjoyed being part of a lot of new things. For example, I got to be part of the first group going through the new undergraduate business analytics program,” he said. “There are several things like that, where I’ve been able to be part of organizing, starting or helping change things at PCOM. It’s exciting.”
One of Gandy’s favorite experiences has been serving as a PCOM Peer Career Coach, advising younger students on topics including elevator pitches, resumes, interview skills, business attire and workplace behavior. Similarly, he served as a mentor for the PCOM Student Network Groups program and as leader of the African-American group.
“It has given me a lot of joy and satisfaction to play a small role in helping other students succeed,” he said.
Gandy has volunteered for the on-campus food pantry Feed the Pack, the Special Olympics and other organizations, and participated in additional NC State mentoring and leadership programs. He focused on career and servant-leadership skills at the NCAA’s annual, by-application Leadership and Career in Sports Forum, held at its Indianapolis, Indiana, headquarters.
As for track, Gandy – injured much of his senior year – most enjoyed his junior outdoor season, when the Wolfpack finished as ACC runner-up and he achieved many personal bests.
He also completed an internship at Cisco, applying skills learned in his classes.
Gandy is keeping an open mind about where analytics will take him professionally, although he definitely leans toward sports – which could mean anything from helping shape draft-day decisions to figuring out how to improve a team’s marketing and ticket sales. His advice for new students is simple.
“Don’t let fear influence your destiny and never be afraid to bet on yourself, because you never know your true potential until you put yourself out there,” he said. “Now, I see myself doing bigger and better things. NC State laid that foundation to be successful, and for that I am forever grateful.”