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Q&A With Amy Rowe MMA ’20- The Elevate Tech Jam Experience

The annual Elevate Tech Jam brings together individuals from various disciplines to participate in an inclusive hackathon that focuses on creating solutions for the greater good, providing a sustainable focus to problem solving. Participants collaborate and apply expertise from different industry backgrounds to solve a tough problem. 

20 Rotman MMA students participated at the Elevate Tech Jam event during September 2019. Students used innovative thinking to problem-solve and collaborate with a diverse and talented team, and gain exposure to recruiters and leading industry experts. Over 75 teams participated in the Hackathon, including 4 teams from the MMA program. 

In this post, Amy Rowe (MMA ’20) details her participation in the Elevate Tech Jam Competition as well as her experience as a Rotman Student in the MMA program. This is one of two posts about the event, read Sumiran Manghani's (MMA '20) post to learn more about his experience. 

How did you hear about the Elevate Tech Jam and why did you and your team decide to participate in it?

I initially heard about the event from Julie, one of the program directors, who often sends out a bunch of resources and events we may be interested in. This event struck interest to me and some of my classmates and I decided to get together as a team and participate in the Hackathon. We were interested in applying what we learned in class onto a real problem from a real company. In addition, we applied to build valuable connection and contact, and try to get some first-hand experience. 

What competition did you and your team decide to enroll in and why?

For starters, our team had a mix of people- some with more technical undergrad background, and others with more business backgrounds. The Hackathon had two separate competitions (Finance-sponsored by TD and IoT industries-sponsored by Rogers). Our team decided to try the IoT case.

What was the problem presented to you?

The competition presented a case on Rogers and its focus on internet of things and being connected though smart home monitoring system. In the problem, Rogers wants a way for the customers to become increasingly connected, improving customer service through IoT. Since the case was opened ended, my team decided to take more of a business perspective, we wanted to improve customer service at Rogers. 

Take me through the event: From problem given to idea to brainstorming to pitch.

We started by going over the Rogers website and seeing the products they already have. We were focused on solving a different aspect of the problem, and brainstorming different ideas of where we can fill a gap, thinking of ideas that were feasible. Another part of our brainstorming was going over the data given and from there settling on the idea that could best solve the problem and what we could do in the 2 days given for the competition. During the Hackathon, there were Rogers mentors roaming around who can give advice and talk about products, so our team was able to ask Rogers workers if they liked our idea and had any feedback. There was also different speeches and workshops at Elevate, which was nice if you wanted to take a break during the Hackathon. The final part of the event was to pitch our idea to a panel of judges from Rogers, either through a PowerPoint presentation or a demo. 

What was the idea your team came up with?

Our idea was really simple but we solved a big problem at Rogers, and the judges were really interested on how we went about on solving it and just our take from their perspective. The premise of our idea was that we found online that people were complaining about Rogers WIFI constantly going out, so to support our analysis we scraped Twitter for negative tweets about the company. Although it’s unfortunate to recognize that there is a problem in the business, choosing to improve customer service is important as this is a real issue that customers are experiencing. This way, customers are given a guarantee that they are able to continue what they were doing. 

Anything you learned in the MMA program in class that you were able to apply to the Hackathon.

A lot of the focus in the MMA has been understanding the business problem and that’s the first step before anything. They emphasize this a lot in the program, so that was really important for us when it came to the Hackathon. In our solution, we first had to think about what we need to fix for Rogers and then how are we going to execute it. This is something that we learned here at Rotman and we really honed those skills. 

The program also focuses on how to create strategic solutions to problems, along with data. The next step was how we can take data and translate it into the business situation, as well as simplifying it. Being able to motivate the business problem and demonstrate how our solution exactly fixes it, is something our team heavily focused and worked on during the Hackathon. 

The benefit of this program and being at Rotman is that it’s not like a traditional analytics data scientist program we’re also learning these skills through a business lenses which has been really helpful, because the work that we do behind the scenes, all the technical work and analysis is useless if you can’t tell people why it solves the problem and being able to communicate those results. 

How are you enjoying the MMA program so far?

I’m really loving it, definitely very intense. When they say it’s going to be intense, they aren’t lying, but it’s definitely very rewarding, I feel like I’ve learned so much already and I’m really excited to continue to see what else I learn and how we grow as students. I’ve learned a lot of very valuable skills that I can see myself applying in the workforce and like everyone at Rotman has been so supportive in terms of our professors, program directors, career resources and I’m really happy with my decision to come to Rotman and the MMA program. I like how Rotman focuses on having people understand and know how to work with numbers in the data, but also present results in cohesive way and understand everything from a business lens. It’s all about communicating what you know from the data. It’s really important to be able to do both. Right now, in this field there’s lots of data scientists but not a lot of ‘unicorns’ (people that can do both business and data), and that’s what Rotman really tries to focus on and push for in this program.

Why did you decide to apply to MMA?

I was debating between masters of economics and MMA, and I wanted something that was more hands on. Everything that I’m doing at Rotman I feel I can directly translate into a job which is exactly what I was looking for and what I wanted. From case work to given a data set and predicting the future of a company, these are valuable skills that we’re learning and skills that will translate into the workforce directly. In addition, further developing my technical skills from undergrad was another reason I decided to apply to MMA.

What are your future career plans?

In the program, I really enjoy both the numbers and data, but I also love being client facing and working with people, so I’m hoping to find a role which allows me to do both. I’ve been looking into consulting positions but more on the economic consulting side-more numbers and data than the traditional management consulting. I’ve been going to networking events hosted by Rotman and meeting people in the industry to try to get a feel for where I see myself. Since I just graduated from my undergrad in May, I’m still open to many possibilities and trying to explore diffe

Tell me more about the practicum project.

The practicum project, given in teams, runs from October till April in which your team is matched with an industry host and given a problem the company wants to solve. Through the course of the project, you’re combining all the skills you’ll learn all year in order to help solve the problem. Your team is responsible for everything from data collection, data cleaning, what models you’ll run, all the way to the results and the final presentation. It’s nice since not only you’re in the company setting, it also gives you a taste of a real-world problem. You’re communicating your results with your boss or your supervisor who’s watching you so all in all its been a really great experience so far. We’re there once a week, so not for an extended period of time and its part of a course we take. Every once in a while, we have classes on making sure to keep your business problem desirable, attractable, feasible. I’m able to apply skills learned in class into this practicum project.  And then for people like me who just graduated its great work experience to be in the office and have that experience and make connections in the business. 


What type of thing would you have wanted to hear that you know now and do you have any advice for prospective students interested in the MMA program? 

I was a bit intimidated to apply, I came from small university in Nova Scotia with 4000 students altogether, so deciding to come to Rotman was a complete change for me, but just trust it and if you had the relevant undergrad background, then you should apply because it’s a really great opportunity and I would definitely encourage everyone to do it. It has been one of the best decisions I’ve ever made. This is a really tough program and is considerably harder than undergrad for most people so only come and do this program if you want to do it because you have to be prepared to put in those late nights but it’s all worth it as its only 9 months. It’s going very fast, we’re almost in November.

I was from Toronto originally, and then went to Nova Scotia for my undergrad and then came back here to complete my masters. So, it’s definitely been interesting going from a small city and adjusting to a big city like Toronto. But while the University of Toronto is a massive school, Rotman itself is a little small version of it, a tight knit community, and I still get to experience the small classrooms. I’m also on the Rotman soccer team, so I got to meet some of the MBA students and everyone wants to help you out and see you succeed. It’s nice that the MMA program is a complete mix of recent grads or people who have been working for a few years. Since our class is very diverse with different backgrounds and ages and countries, we end up learning a lot from each other. The other things that Rotman has available – such as all the speaker talks and presentations and workshops have been so helpful. Every week there’s someone coming and giving a presentation so you get to learn from these industry experts and you get to pick and choose the events you want to attend that you’re interested in. There’s also always tons of networking events for me to attend. 

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

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