How persistent curiosity turned this intercultural comms scholar into Penn Interactive's lead scrum master - Technical.ly Philly

Software Development

Feb. 4, 2021 10:59 am

How persistent curiosity turned this intercultural comms scholar into Penn Interactive’s lead scrum master

Britt Sikora Drake shares the winding professional road that led to her role building the Barstool Sportsbook app.
Britt Sikora Drake.

Britt Sikora Drake.

(Courtesy photo)

If we were defined by our work, Penn Interactive’s scrum master lead, Britt Sikora Drake, would be an enigma.

Early in her career, the ever-evolving Sikora Drake wrote her intercultural communications master’s thesis on drag queen culture before changing lanes to become a business analyst on the data science team at a clinical research organization. She saw an opportunity to introduce data visualization and Agile practices to their work, caught the tech bug and added Jira administrator to her already long list of duties. Sikora Drake continued to test new waters, taking jobs within the insurance industry and then finance, performing scrum duties on the side, until 2019 when she returned from her honeymoon to discover she was laid off.

Timing worked in her favor, as an opportunity at Penn Interactive had just popped up. The state of Pennsylvania legalized online sports betting at the end of 2018. Penn National Gaming (the largest regional casino operator in the U.S.) introduced Penn Interactive as its new digital gaming arm and invested in Barstool Sports for 36% equity stake and branding rights. Penn Interactive hit the ground running to develop the sports betting app, Barstool Sportsbook.

“It’s like if your bookie was an app,” said Sikora Drake. The self-made scrum practitioner was quickly tapped to build out and lead the burgeoning company’s team of scrum masters.

“Going into yet another new industry, I didn’t have the same technical background or expertise as everyone else,” said Sikora. “But I’ve never been made to feel that way here. Everyone is kind, hardworking and dedicated to the same goal. Honestly, this is the best job I’ve ever had. It’s the place I want to be.”

Unlike her earlier, peripheral forays into scrum, she and her team of three at Penn Interactive “live and abide by the scrum framework” in a full-time capacity. Currently, they support 12 different teams through the product life cycle, from aligning with the product team on an initial road map to facilitating estimation to the final sprint demo.

“It’s our job to ensure the devs are supported, unblocked and able to deliver the products and features they are assigned,” she said. “We’re often writing tickets or liaising between people to get a better understanding of a problem — anything we need to do to move the project to its next step.”

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While the work is literally fun and games, it also requires careful attention to government regulations and social responsibility.

“We build in a lot of protections so that people can gamble safely,” said Sikora Drake. “We tag behaviors that are regulated by state, but also include features that help people self-regulate. For instance, if I want to be tapped on the shoulder after an hour of betting or put a cap on how much I’m allowing myself to bet, I can do that.”

The Barstool Sportsbook app may be its most prominent feature, but Penn Interactive has a variety of online gaming products and partnerships with organizations like NASCAR and White Hat Gaming. As more states move to legalize online gaming, Penn Interactive plans to expand its reach across the national market, as well as introduce new betting categories — though no official word on what those might be yet.

Due to the ongoing pandemic, Penn Interactive has embraced a fully remote work style, but Sikora Drake says the positive spirit and purpose she felt at the office has remained intact and leadership is as accessible as ever.

“We have a weekly video call with the CEO,” she said, noting the calls were run with openness and honesty in the face of pandemic-related tensions. “We can ask him any questions we have, even if they’re a little spicy.”

If you’re interested in a potential career at Penn Interactive, or to simply learn more about its work and culture, visit the newest company page to grace our talent pro portfolio.

Visit Penn Interactive's Company Page -30-
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