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Fuqua team finishes as finalist at Adobe Analytics Challenge

A team of three Duke students from the Fuqua School of Business placed fifth in the Adobe Analytics Challenge in San Jose Monday. 

In the annual, widely-recognized data analytics competition, teams from universities across the country are given case studies from real clients and must use Adobe Analytics software to generate visualizations and provide recommendations to the clients. Jane Zeng, Maya Rotman and Yehudi Baptiste are all students in Fuqua’s Master of Quantitative Management program in business analytics, who plan to graduate from the program in Spring 2020. 

Adobe partnered with Major League Baseball for the 14th year of the competition. Students were given data from MLB’s website and asked to make recommendations on how to improve visitor experience and drive revenue based on customer behavior, according to Zeng.

“We got to see what analytics is like in the workforce, which I think is really valuable as a student looking to go into analytics,” Rotman said.

In the Duke team’s presentation, Zeng, Rotman and Baptiste focused on ways to improve offseason retention for MLB.TV, a paid subscription service. The Duke students looked at ways to incorporate the experience of an actual MLB stadium into the ticket-buying process.

This year, roughly 230 total submissions were made to the contest, Rotman said. The Fuqua team is among six that were selected to fly out to the Adobe headquarters in San Jose, Calif. for the final round. 

At the final round, contestants had the opportunity to meet Adobe executives, representatives from MLB and other professionals in the field of data analytics. After flying to San Jose on Sunday, the students had a meet-and-greet with the competition judges.

Professor of business administration Jack Soll and Rick Larrick, Hanes Corporation Foundation professor of business administration—both from Fuqua—mentored the team. Both professors are users of MLB.com, so the team was able to interview them for customer feedback on their work. 

Soll and Larrick emphasized to the team the importance of telling a story with data and using data to drive, not support, decisions.

Kevin Fu, a senior public relations manager at Adobe, said that one goal of the competition is to expose students to working with data. He noted that Adobe noticed a skills gap in the field of business of employees who know how to work with data. Adobe also benefits from hosting the competition as students are exposed to their software and work. 

“It’s been a really great recruiting tool not just for Adobe, but for our customers as well,” Fu said.

Fu added that many past winners go on to work for Adobe or partner companies. In addition to other benefits, the finalists also got interviews to work at Adobe, according to Zeng.

Fu also referenced the immense popularity of the competition, which he said attracted students from over 100 business schools. 

“The fact that Duke made it [to the final round] is incredibly notable,” Fu said.

The team was also honored to be able to represent their school.

“We were proud of ourselves to have the honor to represent Duke and the MQM program,” Zeng said.

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