Adobe Analytics Challenge: Where Are They Now?

by Nate Smith

posted on 10-25-2019

Year after year, the Adobe Analytics Challenge brings together some of our nation’s brightest young minds to compete for $60,000 in prize money, internships and, of course, bragging rights. More importantly, they get to help a brand evolve their customer experience and participate in a real world business situation for some of the most amazing brands in the world.

The program is designed to develop the next generation of data-savvy business leaders, and it is the only competition that gives students an opportunity to use leading-edge analytics technology to discover impactful insights that will help one of Adobe’s clients provide even better customer experiences. In years past, this has included brands such asT- Mobile (2018) and MGM Resorts International (2017) to Sony PlayStation (2016)

The Analytics Challenge aligns with Adobe’s efforts to drive data literacy amongst youth and helps address a critical skills gap in the market. Across every function, future business leaders are required to have a firm grasp of the data and how to leverage insights to drive decision-making. We decided to check in with five former finalists, to see how their experience in the Adobe Analytics Challenge has impacted their careers thus far.

Here is what they had to say:

Ariel Cain (Digital Marketing Program Manager, Learning Forward)

2017 Finalist, The University of Texas at Dallas

Ariel Cain

Ariel Cain and her team (Adobics) made University of Texas history when they became the first team to make it to the final round. Despite nobody on her team having any prior analytics experience, she notes: “People thought that the analytical majors would make it to the finals. We were all creative marketers so despite no analytical background, we didn’t stand down! Our team put in over 10 hours a day, staying up sometimes to as late as 4 in the morning. None of us imagined getting as far as we did.”

In addition to late nights, Ariel attributed much of their team’s success to learning Adobe Analytics quickly. She explains: “It is really easy and user-friendly once you get it, and you can really unpack the data and get in deeper.” Now, as a digital marketing program manager at non-profit organization Learning Forward, Ariel is confident that she can apply both her creative communications background and analytical skills to providing actionable insights for stakeholders.

Ariel notes that the challenge has opened up far more opportunities than she ever imagined, highlighting that she received messages from recruiters who weren’t at the challenge, but read the blog posts or heard about it elsewhere – and said to let them know if she was ever interested in a position. For people who are on the fence about taking on a data project, Ariel strongly encourages students to believe in themselves and take chances. And she reiterates: “Be an innovator, be courageous, be bold and step into it. If we weren’t courageous and bold, we wouldn’t have made it to the finals. We made history for our school. You honestly just have to believe in yourself and take chances.”

April “Yihui” Chen (Analyst, Strategic Planning, Ubisoft)

2018 Finalist, UC Davis Graduate School of Management

April “Yihui” Chen

Just one year out of the Adobe Analytics Challenge, Yihui recalls that the experience helped her to connect business sense with technical skills. Prior to, Yihui mostly worked with financial analytics and the program was an excellent chance for her to better understand customer experience analytics. She notes that her team set up a marketing matrix to help understand behavior online, and that “the challenge helped us to understand the importance of business context and what executives really care about. This is extremely helpful for working as a data analyst in a large organization. You have to know how to present your insights and ideas to the leadership team.”

At Ubisoft, Yihui is current designing and improving promotion strategies for the company’s products. She reflects now that throughout her interview process with other companies, she would frequently talk about the Adobe Analytics Challenge experience. A lot of companies were curious about the impact of the Program and how they provided T-Mobile with great insights on their business.

She notes: “The Adobe Analytics Challenge is a really good experience for participants to experience real-world scenarios and to get hands-on experiences with tools used used in different business settings, like Adobe Analytics, which is used by a lot of organizations.”__

Mrinal Trikha (Senior Consultant, Deloitte)

2016 finalist, USC Marshall School of Business

Mrinal Trikha

Mrinal Trikha was not a stranger to data when his team competed in 2016. He started his own digital company at just 14 years of age, published award-winning papers during his tenure at the Indian Institute of Technology and worked with the Indian Ministry of Defense to develop AI solutions. All in, he had over 9 years of experience helping clients design, operationalize, and adopt analytics. This was right before receiving a full scholarship to the USC Marshall School of Business.

He believes that the Adobe Analytics Challenge propelled his career to the next level. At Deloitte, Mrinal works with the advance technology solutions group, where he helped deliver their smart factory fabric solution over the last year. Following the competition, Mrinal interned at Amazon where he explains, “they were very keen on knowing how my experience was with being a finalist. Even though I had a background in analytics, the competition gave a lot more credibility to my story.”

Mrinal, now a Senior Consultant at Deloitte, recalls collaborating with his team at each phase of the competition, and needing to refine the story for each audience, which is very similar to his work now. He shares: “As a finalist for the Adobe Analytics Challenge, we were able to have first-hand experience dealing with a big-time clients’ data, and then converting it to a story and presenting it to senior leadership at Sony PlayStation, which is essentially my work at Deloitte.”

Naman Gupta (Strategist, eCommerce Retention and Engagement, Adobe)

2016 Finalist, USC Marshall School of Business

Naman Gupta

Heading into business school at USC Marshall, Naman Gupta knew that he wanted to work at a global company with a subscription-based business model. When he heard about the Adobe Analytics Challenge and the employment opportunity it presented for its participants, he decided that competing was a priority. His advice is to take the competition seriously. He states, “I would table other things if I needed to prepare for the competition because I knew that this could get me a job. And it all worked out. All three of my teammates received internships. If you are really excited about working at a company like Adobe, or you want to do something that is data-centric, this is the perfect learning opportunity.”

Naman began his career as a quantitative trader, eventually making the switch to digital marketing at two high-growth tech companies in India. With a computer science degree as well, Naman entered the competition with a solid analytics foundation. Having used similar tools before, he knew that he could help his team with this portion of the competition, while his teammates brought their own unique skills to the table. Naman says: “Despite my analytics background, I learned a lot from my teammates, especially in how we presented the numbers and told a story. With the duration of the competition, you can really get the best qualities out of people, compared to other case competitions that are only a day or two.”

Now at Adobe, Naman applies what he learned in his role as an eCommerce Retention and Engagement Strategist. He notes that recently, he ran a test on where he had to secure buy-in from others on what to do with the resulting data. “You have data and you have to find opportunities. Once you do, you have to present and convince people of your ideas. It’s as simple as that. It’s not just about the data, it’s about telling a story,” says Naman.

Tucker Christiansen (Senior Product Manager, Adobe Advertising Cloud)

2007-2008 winner, Brigham Young University

Tucker Christiansen

Tucker Christiansen’s track record is tough to beat when it comes to the Adobe Analytics Challenge. He is one out of only two participants who have won the competition twice, competing while at Brigham Young University. Starting college, Tucker knew that he wanted a career that was at the intersection of business and technology. He interned at Ernst and Young and was the VP of technology at a small tech company. After learning about the challenge through on-campus buzz, he saw it as a path to working at Adobe.

Despite winning, Tucker did not land the internship that year. But, demonstrating resilience, he won the competition the following year and landed a consulting role at Adobe where he would go on to work for over 9 years. He notes that his time as a consultant was often similar to the competition, saying: “I got a lot of my business analytics foundation from the competition. It was one of my first experiences analyzing real data and comparing marketing channels, which served me quite well as I got into consulting.”

Now as a senior product manager for Adobe Advertising Cloud, Tucker still works very closely with analytics and is a part of the data analytics integration team. Tucker advises the next generation of data leaders to take as many statistics and marketing classes possible. He strongly believes that there will be high demand for talent that understands how data can drive decision-making.

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