Engaged Learning

SOM Takes New York at the 2018 Business Analytics Competition

A team of motivated and tireless undergraduate students in the School of Management recently won third place at an annual data competition in New York.

by School of Management

The School of Management has been participating in the Business Analytics Competition at Manhattan College for the past three years. This year, the University of San Francisco team won third place out of the 17 competing teams.

School of Management assistant professor Shivani Shukla, who was deeply involved in the necessary competition prep, explained the logistics of the event. Prior to the competition in New York, teams were given a large data set with an open-ended brief.

“The teams were asked to analyze the data, derive actionable insights from it, and present their work in the form of a poster at the venue,” said Shukla. She explained that during the competition at Manhattan College, “The teams were given additional data and the competition turned into a ‘hackathon.’”

Yet for this part of the challenge, it is a race against the clock. The teams were given 18 hours to put together a presentation. “They work all night to present the next morning in front of a panel of judges and other participating teams,” Shukla said, the goal for them was to visualize and describe the data while presenting it on a poster in a consistent, concise, accurate, and appealing manner.

Shukla explained the variety of roles she had leading up to and during the competition. This involved emphasizing work ethics, keeping students motivated as well as providing constructive criticism, and supporting students through tricky instances of problem-solving. Business Analytics and Information Systems Department Chair Mouwafac Sidaoui expressed his pride in the USF team.

The students did exceptional work and that is due to their prior preparation in their various classes… I am very pleased with our students’ performance and with professor Shukla’s commitment to serve them.

Mouwafac Sidaoui
department chair, Business analytics and Information systems

Shukla explained that through this experience, students learn to persevere and accept criticism positively. “They don’t just learn from us, but from the competing teams as well. Working under pressure and performing to the maximum possible capabilities are qualities they will require at any job in life,” she said. “To take a competitive environment positively, work as a team, and be receptive to instructions and work on them are, we believe, our students’ key takeaways from this competition.”

There are bound to be failures. You do not always find what you anticipate from the data. To be able to accept that and move on, and to be ready to explore a different angle from scratch requires patience and dedication. It is important that our students know that.


Another important factor in the building of the team is diversity and representation. “To represent USF in the best possible manner, professor Sidaoui always makes sure that the team has diversity in terms of ethnicity, gender, and varied backgrounds. It represents our philosophy of inclusiveness and all-round development,” said Shukla.

Recent graduate Kaishvi Parikh BS Business Administration ’18, was one of the students who represented the USF team in New York. Parikh’s role in the competition was to provide assistance toward the team’s overall strategy.

“We all had our hands on various parts of the project. I mainly helped with various visualizations and making the poster cohesive,” she said. “With all of us being business majors, we were all used to working on group projects. This was unique in that we were diverse by age. I a senior alongside a junior and two sophomores, but we were all acquainted through the School of Management Honors Program. The initial obstacle we ran into was figuring out how we would prioritize each of our skill sets, which we overcame by working on everything together during our weekly meetings.” Another challenge, said Parikh, was working with the immense amount of data. However, despite challenges, she said: “Working together frequently with the team and our faculty advisors helped us parse through it and come up with an approach that worked best for us.”

The final poster showed the team’s analysis of spending, contracts, and budget-related financial data in New York City. “We broke everything down into the top three industries by spending in order to understand how the city spends based on how much they had initially budgeted for,” explained Parikh. “We tied this all in by ultimately looking at the industry and agency breakdown by amount spent as a portfolio to optimize how much each agency should ideally spend. This would ultimately help the city prioritize their spending.”

“This experience helped me understand the importance of teamwork,” said Parikh. “It was a great learning experience attending the competition at Manhattan College and to meet other people who are also exploring the data world.” Since graduation, Parikh said, “I know I will take this experience with me and leverage this during future interviews and conversations within the world of data.” She expressed her utmost thanks for the support of USF and the School of Management provided her and her team at the competition. “USF helped me prepare for this competition mainly by connecting me with amazing faculty… Without the constant support and motivation from professors Sidaoui and Shukla, we would not have gotten far in this project and competition.”

By Lonny Wysard