Help Caleb Get a Job at 538!

Hi everyone!

So, if you’ve been following me for a while, you probably know that much of my work is modeled after work done at 538, which is a so-called “data journalism” website that I’ve been a fan of for years. My most popular article, the 1114 is FRC’s Greatest Dynasty article on the TBA blog was directly inspired by a similar 538 article, my event simulator draws heavily from 538’s various interactive sports models, and various other works of mine have been directly or indirectly inspired by similar analyses from 538. All this to say, I like what 538 does.

Back in October, 538 had a job posting for a “Quantitative Editor” position, which is essentially what I’ve been trying to do around here for the last few years with FRC. Since I doubt you guys are ever going to pay me for this kind of work :grin:, I thought I’d apply to the position to see where things would go. I have yet to get a response, so I have been working to follow up in these last few weeks. I’ve tried multiple communication routes with no response, I’ve just sent a physical letter and emailed Nate Silver directly, so hopefully I can get a response there.

So this is where all of you come in. I want some way to convey to the hiring team that I am qualified for this job, and a normal letter of recommendation doesn’t seem adequate as all of my standard recommenders would be recommending me for engineering jobs and not a journalism job. So instead, I’m making this thread so that all of you, if you want to, can say nice things about me and I can link to this in an application. I understand that much of my work will not be easily interpretable to the hiring team if they lack familiarity with FRC, so if you could explain why you think I would fit well in this role to someone without an FRC background that would be awesome. Providing direct links to some of my works with short explanations of why you think they are good is fine, but try not to get too technical. I also just sent a tweet to 538 here. So if you have twitter you can like/comment on there.

If things don’t work out with them, at least then I’ll have this thread that I can use to stoke my own ego. :blush:

Thanks in advance, I’ve learned so much these last few years with my work, and I still have plenty more to learn, hoping this is the next step in that journey.


Caleb’s threads have been an incredible inspiration to my team over the last few years, almost all of our data collecting sheets have been modeled after the work Caleb has produced. The work that he has done has helped teach my next generation of students how to properly manipulate complex data. He has always been eager to help teams and answer questions, always looks to improve his work through discussion with those that use it. My team uses his data for our pre-scouting and to reference when looking back on our data.

The “ELO” calculation that he has created does a great job of taking a large number of variables into consideration in order to determine a teams competitiveness. Which has inspired our own team in our efforts to create a concept similar to this calculation. Caleb Sykes is very good at what he does and it seems as though this position would be a perfect match.


Caleb has sparked - and continued to be the best source of - data analysis and breakdown among a room full of very smart people.

What he’s done for the FIRST community can not be overstated - both as a communicator and an analyst. He’s spearheaded a revolution that has woven itself into all areas of FIRST as it has expanded the last five years. FIRST is more like a sport than ever before, with significant contributions from Caleb.


Dear people at fivethirtyeight,
Caleb’s statistical analyses have moved data analysis in FIRST robotics a huge leap forward. That’s really saying something, considering FIRST robotics includes many of the smartest engineers and mathematicians in the country. He has inspired many students and mentors alike, myself included, to work with statistics in ways they never would have otherwise. I follow fivethirtyeight, and I follow Caleb’s work, and I think he is very suited for the kind of statistics and reporting done there. I certainly don’t know anyone better suited for the position than him.


I sent them this Facebook message:

Hello! I’m writing this note to recommend that you take a look into the application of Caleb Sykes-- he recently let our community know that he is very interested in a job with you guys here: Help Caleb Get a Job at 538! and based on the statistics and insights he has provided to the FIRST Robotics Competition community, I couldn’t recommend him higher. His ELO scores are the standard for competitive performance in our community, and he provides component scores for each game element for each team each week so every team knows where they stand in the worldwide rankings compared to other teams. People are making visualizations of his data (samples: and Visually viewing Caleb Sykes' Scouting Database: Data is Beautiful) and he is constantly unearthing new insights in FIRST Robotics (sample: Anyway, after he said he was interested in a job, I couldn’t not endorse him after all the good he has done for our community. Not sure if this is the right place to put this, but needless to say he is a very well respected member of our community that has done similar work for us to what I’ve seen 538 do for election coverage (which is always fascinating, by the way).

Hope you get it. You totally deserve it.


@Caleb_Sykes huge fan of you and 538! One of my good friends recently left the team, if you’ve got a CV I’d be happy to shoot it over.

On another note, I’m super impressed by the work that you do and the impact you’ve had on this community. Any business would be lucky to have you.



Love you dude, the work you’ve posted in here inspired me to invest my own time into strategy and numbers. The amount of work you’ve put in over the years is so awesome, and you’ve been so influential for this community. 538 would be lucky to have you.


Caleb’s unique work on slicing the huge amount of data that FRC generates has always been very impressive, even in the huge room of very smart people known as FRC. He continually is finding new ways to organize the data and make it more and more useful.

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Your data making skills seem downright magical and the amount that your match predictor/databases have helped our scouting meetings is incredible and you’ve definitely benefited a multitude of teams in the same way.

You’re also pretty great to get along with and your passion for data is infectious. You would contribute incredibly well to any company or workplace. I’d say good luck, but I think your work speaks for itself - you don’t need it.


I don’t always agree with Caleb’s conclusions, or sometimes even the questions he tries to answer. Frankly, more often than not, I don’t agree with his methods either.

However, one thing he’s really good at is articulating his process and conclusion. Caleb is good at communicating complex topics in ways that most people can understand and, more importantly, creating tools that let people get a feel for the stuff themselves. It’s a rare gift.


I’ve had the pleasure of working alongside Caleb for a few years now, though never meeting him. Caleb’s just plain “got it” when it comes to data mining and predictive modeling. His technical savvy skills for hooking into raw data and pulling it together in a readable format is top notch. Caleb is always there for the FRC/Chief Delphi community to answer questions and help with issues. What’s awesome is that Caleb explains things in a manner that one doesn’t need a master’s degree in stats to understand. Caleb is prompt, polite, thorough, professional, articulate, creative and he thinks outside the box. To have such a great blend of skills in an individual is rare and any employer is going to be extremely lucky to have him on board. I would hire him in a heartbeat.


While I personally cannot speak to the details of the vast technical knowledge Caleb has demonstrated throughout the years because it quite plainly goes over my head, the thing that I can speak to however is that he is highly regarded as one of the most savvy technomancers/data people in this community (Keeping in mind that this is a community largely populated by engineers, software developers, and data analysts). Personally, what I see as one of Caleb’s biggest strengths isn’t just his technical skills dealing with large amounts of data, it’s how he can take that data and make it both understandable and usable to audiences of any skill level. Speaking as a person who has made frequent use of the tools developed by Caleb, his attentiveness to detail, his consistent follow ups and improvements, and his eye for presenting information tailored to the end user are top notch and something not seen often in this day and age.


There are very few things I am obsessed with than FRC and politics. I fuel this addiction with statistics, predictions, and all around data. 538 has been providing me with all of that great statistical information on politics. Meanwhile, Caleb, on his own accord, has been providing me with that same fix for robots. What is particularly impressive, though, is not that Caleb knows how to use Excel. It is that without anyone telling him what to do, he provides the community with statistics which are indescribably helpful. Caleb knows what we want before we even ask for it. 538 does that exact thing - providing us with data we never knew we needed but can now never live without. Bringing Caleb on to your team is a no brainer.

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It’s one thing to know and understand how data analytics work.

But it’s an entirely different skill to be able to communicate the results and the process of such analyses concisely and effectively to an audience that largely has little to no experience in data mining in a way that anyone can understand. Making complex concepts like this as easy to understand as a children’s book is a gift very few have, but Caleb is definitely one of them. His passion for finding the narrative behind the numbers and the story they tell is unparalleled and it’s renewed my love for strategy (as if it wasn’t already there to begin with), and as others have already said, it is extremely infectious, especially to those who have a similar fascination with the stories that can be told with numbers.


Though Caleb is a generation younger than myself, I immediately felt that the two of us were cut from the same cloth. I love his event simulator. It is a tremendous piece of work. I have collaborated with him on it remotely some, so I’m intimately familiar with his code. I am a mathematician by study, and a problem solver for work, formerly for Disney and currently for Warner Bros. Games. I’m a real statistics nerd. I thoroughly enjoyed Nate’s book “The Signal and the Noise”. I love 538’s sports analysis, and Caleb has done the same for FRC and then some. He is a voracious learner, and tremendously good at boiling the statistics down to something a real customer can understand, visualize and utilize. Caleb seems very excited about this opportunity, and I can’t think of a better candidate. -Bob


Hire him.


I’ve known Caleb for around 10 years. His ability to break down a problem into solvable chunks then clearly present the data to support his conclusions is incredible. Although the programming that goes into the tools he creates goes over my head the tools themselves have been extremely valuable and easy to use for my own data analysis. His posts are articulate and filled with great insights.

I’ve had several in depth strategy conversations with him. I always come out with a deeper understanding of the topic at hand than I went in with. He’s persuasive using facts alone which is a rare talent.

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What you have done with data within FRC is beyond incredible and I personally think it speaks for itself. I echo what others in this thread have said but I’ll take a different direction in my recommendation.

I had the pleasure of working with Caleb when he was the Team Captain on Team 2052. I was a freshman on Team 2052 that year and to be honest I didn’t start attending meetings regularly until the start to middle of build season. I was on the programming team that year. I had no clue how to code and that was probably entirely my fault because I was lousy at attending meetings. I wasn’t inspired at all, but that didn’t deter Caleb from sitting down next to me and assisting me in working on code for the competition bot. Not every student in FRC is inspired right away when they join the program. I wasn’t, but the leadership and enthusiasm that Caleb showed certainly inspired me to attend more meetings. His ability to convey technical information, lead, teach, and most importantly show enthusiasm in his craft would be a fantastic fit for the team at 538. Caleb will certainly make an incredible contribution and positively impact those around him at 538 just like he has with people on FRC teams throughout the world.

Lastly, I just wanted to say thanks Caleb. It was you that inspired me during freshman year to attend more meetings, contribute more to the team, and established my love for scouting and strategy. Seeing how well you analyzed data, came to conclusions based upon it, and made strategical decisions that year was an awesome experience during my freshman year.


Caleb played no small role in keeping me motivated to work on FIRST sports analytics with his analytics posts and statistics tools. FIRST Robotics “sports” analytics definitely translates and I have found many parallels with my work as a Data Scientist for the OKC Thunder. I can emphatically say that you won’t be disappointed if you hire Caleb.

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Caleb is awesome! Honestly there’s so much FRC data analysis done by him, it’s insane. Several times, I’ve stumbled upon a cool post about some data thing, and after thinking “Oh Caleb would probably like to see this” I realize he’s the author… sort of proves the point.

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