Last fall, I had the absolute honor of representing Fuqua and Duke as a finalist in the Adobe Analytics Challenge. Alongside my teammates, Yehudi Baptiste and Maya Rotman, I was flown out to Adobe’s headquarters in San Jose, California, to present our big ideas in front of a panel of judges and a live audience.

The Adobe Analytics Challenge is a technical business case competition where students use the Adobe Analytics platform to analyze real-world data from one of the company’s clients. This year’s client, Major League Baseball (MLB), asked us to take an inside look at its numbers and see how it could improve the fan experience online. We were only given a few weeks to familiarize ourselves with Adobe Analytics, derive insights from MLB’s data, and then submit a presentation of our strategy. Out of 1,500 submissions from 100 schools, our team was one of six teams to make it to the final round.

We were surprised yet impressed with ourselves to make it that far in the competition. After toying around with the software for hours and deliberating ideas amongst ourselves, we developed a true understanding of the MLB fanbase and Adobe Analytics’ capabilities. I believe the secret to our success was how we used the seemingly ambiguous data to weave together a cohesive narrative that would never lose an audience’s attention. We submitted a story we could be proud of, though we would not have expected to present our recommendations straight to MLB and Adobe themselves.

Throughout my time at Adobe’s headquarters, everyone repeatedly stressed to me how valuable an analytics-based mindset is to not just traditional data roles but to almost every function of a company, no matter what industry. This mindset I’ve developed is all thanks to the foundations I built as an MQM student here at Fuqua. I not only have the ability to handle big data, but I also developed an enthusiasm for it. The Adobe Analytics Challenge truly did test my aptitude for data, so reaching the finals only confirmed that my calling is as a data analyst.

The three of us spent hours deliberating over the most optimal strategy, perfecting our presentation, and diving deeper into the data in preparation for the final round. An immense amount of pressure weighed heavily on my chest and did not leave until I uttered out my closing words of the presentation. In the end, we ranked fifth place. Though we didn’t win the grand prize, we were glad just to put Fuqua’s MQM program on the radar of those in attendance.

This competition provided us valuable opportunities to develop our data-mining skills, build our networks, and strengthen our presentation abilities. All three of us came out of the Adobe Analytics Challenge proud and as more data-driven thinkers. I am so thankful to have worked with such bright teammates and look forward to another data challenge like this one in the future.

Here’s a look at the final round at Adobe headquarters: