Connecting fans around the globe to live sports action

Jessica Hallman
July 23, 2018

Editor’s note: This is the sixth in a series of profiles on College of IST students and alumni who are utilizing the skills and knowledge they developed at Penn State to make an impact in a variety of industries.

UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. – Mark Ruzomberka grew up playing sports in Pittsburgh, and like many young kids he dreamed of one day working in sports. Little did he know that he would end up as an employee of one of the world’s leading sports programming networks.

Ruzomberka, who earned a bachelor’s degree from the College of Information Sciences and Technology in 2003, serves as director of business operations and audience development at NBC Sports. In his role, he oversees the daily management operations of the network’s digital contracts and business operations, manages profits and losses for NBC Sports’ Digital portfolio, and manages audience development across all digital platforms. He previously spent three years at Comcast Sports Group.

“I moved over to the NBC Sports side of the business after I got my MBA from Drexel in 2013,” said Ruzomberka. “I now help manage the NBC Sports’ digital business, so I use what I learned from both degrees every day.”

When he earned his undergraduate degree, Ruzomberka was part of the first class to graduate from the newly formed College of IST, which he compares to being part of a startup company. He credits the experience as helping him in his career.

“I personally took advantage of most of the special topics courses IST offered along the way,” he said. “Most students were not working on search engine classes at that time, and I spent two semesters focused there.”

While he greatly benefited from his training in IST, he cited an introductory Spanish language course – and a missed trip abroad – as the most consequential experience during his time on campus.

“It’s the only class I ever dropped at Penn State,” he said of the foreign-language class.

He explained that he wanted to study abroad and that the course was a requirement to do so. However, he was simultaneously enrolled in a graduate level IST course during his junior year. In the course, students learned how to build search engines, work on Neural Networks, and build their own Photo Mosaic software.

“The graduate IST class was so advanced; I was in way over my head,” he said. “I was the worst student in a class that started with 20 people and finished with six.”

Ruzomberka’s final project assignment was to build an automated umpire system that called balls and strikes from baseball pitch video. He was the only student in class who didn’t know how to program in the language C, so he sought help from his classmates to help him participate in the group project.

“It was really that semester that I decided I wanted a career in technology, and I knew I had to start making it a priority,” he said.

He dropped his Spanish class – and the opportunity to study abroad – to focus on advancing his technical skills.

“I still have never been to Spain, and I can’t really speak Spanish, but surrounding myself with people smarter than me was a great lesson to learn early on,” he said.

“Also, whichever faculty member forced us to take discrete math should get an award,” he quipped. “It was universally hated by the students, especially me, but once I started working on databases later in life it all made sense.”

Today, Ruzomberka’s job entails much more than just databases. He’s involved with advancing technology that brings sports to fans around the globe.

“We are always looking for ways to connect fans with our content,” he explained. “Streaming video has really taken off since I’ve joined NBC Sports, and hearing where people were able to watch games on the go without missing live moments is something that’s rewarding.”

He recalled one of his own personal experiences of following his hometown sports team from across the country.

“I remember watching a Penguins’ Stanley Cup playoff game in Union Square Park on a trip to San Francisco a few years back,” he said. “It seems normal now, but it wasn’t possible when I graduated.”

He also gave a sneak peek into the behind-the-scenes effort to maintain Rotoworld.com, the fantasy sports site of NBC Sports.

“It’s a tremendous effort to get through all injury and trade information for all the sports we cover, but it’s always nice to hear when we can help people beat their friends in fantasy football because they’ve been a user of our site.”

Ruzomberka’s lifelong love of sports and passion for technology has led to a fulfilling career where he can help others connect with their favorite sports and athletes. In recognition for his work, he was part of a team that won two Sports Emmys for their coverage of the 2014 Sochi Olympics and the 2016 Rio Olympics.

However, he started his career in another industry entirely.

After graduation from Penn State, he got a job at the Philadelphia-based startup company Traffic.com, which provides real-time updates on traffic flows in cities around the world. In his role there, Ruzomberka maintained the back-end database for the top reporting systems used by the media. After an initial public offering and two mergers, he became a product analyst and a founding member of the data quality department, overseeing traffic flow in 71 cities.

“Each weekday morning when I see the work I did at Traffic.com still being used in traffic reports on TV ten years later, it feels really good and is probably of what I am most proud,” he said.

Last Updated August 31, 2018