Ryan participated in the second Rotman MMA on-campus Datathon and joined the MMA class which started in August 2019.
What made you decide to sign up to the Rotman MMA Datathon in 2018?
I had heard of the Master of Management Analytics program at Rotman, but since it was new, did not know what to expect of it. When looking for more information, I came across the MMA Datathon, and thought it would be a great opportunity to learn not only more about the program, but to evaluate my fit. Before participating in the Datathon, I did not have great confidence in my own coding abilities, which led me to believe I could learn more about my strengths and their relationship to the world of analytics.
Beyond the professional and personal benefits, the event provided a space to meet like-minded individuals, as well as connect with staff from the program. To me, the social aspect of an event is always the most important selling point, and to do that in the context that could shape my academic and professional interests was simply a plus.
Was the event what you expected?
As I had not previously participated in datathons, I came in with very few expectations. I wanted to connect with staff and current students, learn more about the MMA program, evaluate my own technical skills, and build relationships with other Datathon participants. In all of these regards the event was all that I had desired, but in many respects it well exceeded my expectations.
From the intriguing nature of the case to the experts from industry that were in attendance, the event proved to be both unbelievably exciting and stressful, given the short period of time in which so much was packed. It sold me on the world of analytics, given the creativity involved in the Datathon case, while also broadening my perspective on the variety of applications for analytics skills.
In addition, Rotman is such a wonderful space in an of itself, both in terms of building, but in the amount of knowledge and hospitality possessed by everyone at the school. The event really brought that Rotman ethos to the fore.
What were your fellow participants like?
The diversity of the event surprised me, as I had expected mainly engineers, statisticians, and computer scientists to be interested in these types of events. Having studied Philosophy, Politics, and Economics as an undergraduate, I had assumed that I would be the rare individual without a technical background to take an interest in analytics problems. In actuality, the event not only had the expected STEM majors, but also a fair number of those with business or social sciences backgrounds that had interacted with data to similar extents I had.
There is a uniqueness to a business school hosting a datathon that I believe contributed to the diversity of the attendees. There was a palpable sense that the case to be solved would not be purely technical or idealized, but also capitalise on presentation skills and the intuitions needed in real world contexts. In my view, this attracted a much higher calibre of more engaged individuals.
What was your highlight of the event?
I consider myself a fairly extroverted person, so the social after the Datathon would be my highlight. I say this not just because Rotman is fairly generous in their catering, but because of the knowledge that was exchanged. There was a relief after working for several hours on a complex case with little guidance on how to approach the issue at hand, but everyone simultaneously was so engaged with what they had just done that it was the major talking point for everyone there. Everyone was sharing ideas with each other and speaking to the industry experts that were in attendance, doing their best to learn from what they had done, and apply it to furthering their skills in the future.
How much of an impact did it make in your decision to choose the MMA program?
The Datathon served as a major factor in my decision to apply for the MMA, and readily accept my offer as soon as I received it. Having worked for a few years since finishing my undergraduate degree, I was debating various options for updating my skills and pushing my career forward, but was unsure what was the best choice for me. I strongly believe that one of the biggest gaps in the market place is people with a combination of technical skills, understanding of emerging technologies, and soft skills, who can serve as intermediaries between executives and engineers. There is so much miscommunication that goes on in organisations attempting to utilise big data analytics or implement cutting edge artificial intelligence algorithms, that they fail to capitalise on all the tech has to offer.
After the Datathon I was sold on the MMA and Rotman more generally. The work was technically rigorous enough to be valuable, as well as practical enough to be adaptable between various industries. It seemed to be crafted to solve the very gap in the marketplace I desired to fill.
What advice/tips would you give to someone taking part in our Datathon in 2019?
If you can get a team together beforehand, that will provide significant value. One of the major components of the event is team cohesion. You can be brilliant on your own, but if you can’t work as part of a team and divide tasks efficiently, you will not finish the case in time. If you don’t have a team already, try to convince some of your friends to join. Even if you can’t, Rotman will assign you a team, but make sure you meet up with them beforehand and get to know them a little bit.
Another big emphasis is communication. Be open to meeting new people, do your best to interact with Rotman staff, and take advantage of meeting the current MMA students and alumni who will all be more than happy to speak to you. A lot of people go into these types of things expecting a purely technical challenge, but approaching it that way will prevent you from capitalising on its full value.
Be open, be excited, and get ready for a healthy challenge!
The Master of Management Analytics is designed to give students the advanced data management, analytics and communication skills needed to become an analytics professional.