Rotman School of Management, University of Toronto

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Q&A with Clay, Datathon 2017 participant

Clay participated in the first Rotman MMA datathon and joined the first MMA class which started in August 2018.

What made you decide to sign up to the Rotman MMA Datathon in 2017?  

It was an opportunity to challenge myself and to gain more experience. I’d never taken part in a datathon or a hackathon before, so I thought I would give it a shot. It would be interesting and hopefully a chance to learn more about data analytics.

I also had the goal of wanting to get into a graduate degree in analytics, so when I found the event online I thought it would be an opportunity to see what Rotman was like, and to meet people connected to the program such as Fiona (Assistant Director, Recruitment and Admissions) and Dmitry (Academic Director).

For me the event for me wasn’t just about solving the data problem, it was about education on the MMA program, that was really helpful. 

Was the event what you expected?

Having not participated in this type of event before my expectations were open, but any expectations I may have had would have been blown out of the water by the event. With the reception and the industry speakers…it was more than just about competing, it was a great experience in learning more about the school and the culture.

The competition itself was a great learning experience.  It was a challenging dataset, but we had great support. Dmitry and others provided quick coaching sessions throughout, telling us we were on the right path, or perhaps not to follow a particular route which was definitely helpful.

The information about the MMA program was good too. I’d researched some other programs, this event gave me the chance to see whether Rotman would be a good option for me.

What were your fellow participants like?

I have a psychology background, and there was a mix of people in the competition, just like there is in the class. There were people from computer science, maths, stats, commerce. You might assume that there would be a certain type of background taking part, but in my experience, it is a huge field with many different directions. Many different disciplines can contribute value in framing the problem and using data. Lots of areas carry out data analysis, including psychology. Some people were students, some were working, people came from very diverse backgrounds.

What was your highlight of the event?

The highlight for me was the challenge of working in a team with vey tight time constraints. At the time, it was a little stressful. However, with hindsight it is something I’ve revisited and was a valuable experience. It’s great to look back on what the team did, what my contribution to the mix was, what we could have done better and with that you take out so many things. 

How much of an impact did it make in your decision to choose the MMA program?

A big part of the datathon was to learn more about Rotman and what the program and school can do. I did apply to a couple of other programs, but after datathon I really poured everything I could into the application for the MMA program.

One thing that sold me on Rotman over some of the other schools I was looking at was the emphasis on soft skills, on the business communication skills and how data science can be used to make strategic business decisions. 

I’m more interested in the business side than some other programs offered. This aligned with my goals more. I’ve worked in banking and I really wanted to be able to study a program that would help me understand how to create value for an organization, not just to do the analysis. This set it apart from other programs.

What advice/tips would you give to someone taking part in our Datathon in 2018?

Some people may have done a lot of these, but it was brand new to me – expect a challenge. Brush up on your tools and data analysis skills, but really it’s all about the team, the cohesion, how you organize and how you execute along the way.

If you already have a team (I knew one of my team members, we were matched with someone else for the event) then perhaps get together before the datathon and run through a similar problem, perhaps an online challenge. See how you work as a team, who might lead, who has what strengths as oppose to everyone trying to do everything.

I would encourage people to just go for it, anticipate a challenge, don’t be afraid of failure and just throw yourself into it - you’ll learn a lot!


The Master of Management Analytics is designed to give students the advanced data management, analytics and communication skills needed to become an analytics professional in 9 months.

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