The Gridiron Geek
Dave Daniels admits to being fascinated by the “numbers game.” A Client Advocate in the financial, insurance, travel and telecommunications (FITT) practice at Environics Analytics, he credits his early fascination with sports—especially football—for introducing him to statistics and fuelling his passion for numbers. “I’ve been in love with sports statistics since I was ten,” he says. “I was tracking statistics out of box scores and running fantasy leagues with my brothers using Excel spreadsheets even before there was an Internet.”
During his formative years in Naperville, Illinois, Dave followed the many professional sports teams playing in the Chicago area. But in the Windy City, he says, one team trumped all others. “Essentially, everyone’s a Bears fan,” he explains. “Some may have varying allegiances in other sports, but ‘da Bears’ is universal. I had Bears gear from birth and went to many games.”
Always, athletic, Dave wasn’t just into pigskin. “I played everything,” he says. When asked to get specific, Dave quickly ticks off the sports: football, basketball, baseball, badminton and tennis—“anything that didn’t require skates,” he laughs.
When Dave was 14, his mother remarried and their family moved to Canada. Despite suddenly being the holder of dual citizenship, Dave says that the transition to a new country was an easy one. “Mom married a Canadian,” he says, “so we packed the car and came up. My family is a Brady Bunch sort of family—I’ve got two step-brothers and two sisters—and my step-dad is from London, Ontario. However, our two families have known each other since I was born and we both had time shares in Fort Myers, Florida, in the same complex.”
Although Dave played football through high school and his years at Wilfrid Laurier University—his positions were safety and wide receiver—he states that his best sport before moving to Canada was tennis. “I was ranked regionally in the U.S. Midwest as a young tennis player, but it was tough to find coaching after we came up here,” he recalls. And while he didn’t continue with competitive tennis, his proficiency at racquet sports did take him to the Ontario finals for high school badminton. “It was a good time, but football was still number one for me,” he says. “I finally had to give it up in university because of my knees, but the extra free time was also appreciated.”
Indeed, Dave devoted the extra time to his undergraduate studies at Wilfrid Laurier, where he earned a degree in economics with a minor in communications. After university, Dave remembers not wanting to go into accounting—a natural career choice. “I enjoyed working with numbers and playing around with spreadsheets,” he says. Instead, he spent the next two years after graduation working as a program coordinator at Showbiz Marketing and a client relations representative for Molson Canada and Labatt Canada.
In 2009, Dave returned to school and the Research Analyst program at Georgian College, which satisfied his need to play with numbers and also gave him the opportunity to enter the world of data analytics. He took a job at Parks Canada, where he worked as a research officer responsible for analyzing customer data and Canadian travel and leisure trends. At Parks Canada, Dave also began working with EA, using ENVISION and analyzing the travel habits of Canadians. When government cutbacks eliminated Dave’s position, FITT practice leader Catherine Pearson saw him as a natural fit on her team, given his experience and knowledge of EA’s products and techniques.
As a Client Advocate today, Dave enjoys applying his knowledge to help EA’s customers solve their business problems, especially what he calls “diving deep into a business problem and getting into the numbers.” He maintains that, while he isn’t a tech geek, he is adept at using innovative business intelligence platforms, and he fondly recalls his first exposure to the Tableau software on a project with Northwest Territories Tourism. He still enjoys working with tools like Tableau and ENVISION, which allow him to manipulate vast quantities of data and find the best marketing solutions to his clients’ challenges—and their need to “market smarter.” Away from work, Dave lives with his girlfriend in a house in Toronto’s Leslieville neighbourhood (classified by PRIZM as Urban Spice—young, multi-ethnic downscales singles), where they enjoy a variety of nearby restaurants and parks. Although his family still lives in the London area, having settled in the lakeside town of Grand Bend, Dave has come to appreciate the diversity and pace of the big city. “The old Chinatown is slowly shifting as up-and-coming couples and young families move in,” he explains. “There are lots of activities to do and we enjoy going out to the different restaurants in our area and around the city.” Together, the couple likes to go out to the theatre or a comedy club. “Second City improv is great and we also like stand-up,” says Dave. “We’ll even take in the odd musical—although I let my girlfriend choose those.”
On his own, Dave is still an unapologetic jock. Keeping active is a big part of his lifestyle, and he enjoys playing centre field three or four nights a week on
Even Halloween has a distinct Chicago flavour around Dave’s house.
three different softball teams, and likes to get in a few rounds of golf on weekends. And while he doesn’t keep a spreadsheet of his homeruns, RBIs or batting average, he confidently asserts his statistics would be “pretty solid”.
“I am truly happy when I am playing with the numbers,” Dave says. “Whether it’s figuring out which players to choose in the fantasy pool or solving a business problem—something I think we do pretty well here—the numbers just tell a better story than you can get anywhere else. It’s a game I love to play.”