The assignment was rigorous and the competition stiff, but that made this year’s winner of the Richard Colombo Marketing Analytics Competition all the more deserving.
Jonathan Zile, an MBA student with a concentration in marketing, took first place in the fourth annual contest, quickly analyzing data sets and providing answers and recommendations to a panel of judges. The winner was announced on Thursday.
The problems given to the 29 students who participated demanded more than just a look at data, said Mohammad Nejad, an assistant professor of marketing for Fordham University’s Schools of Business and the organizer of the competition.
The business challenge focused on a supermarket, and the students “had to come up with the optimal number of products to order,” Nejad said.
The students, he added, are becoming more competitive—a welcome and encouraging development. The judges had to go over the answers several times to make sure they had chosen the right winners “because the quality was relatively high,” Nejad said.
“I found that the assignment was challenging in terms of the range of questions which tested the breadth of our knowledge as well as the limited time in which we had to familiarize ourselves with the dataset,” Zile said. “I needed to utilize skills I learned from my classes, from past experiences and even pick up some new ones on the fly during the competition.”
Participating students received an e-mail that previewed the types of questions they would be asked. On the day of the competition, they got the questions and the data set. They then had two hours to analyze the data and come up with answers.
Contestants who pushed themselves beyond mere crunching of numbers, instead drilling down into the data and providing managerial recommendations, were the once who distinguished themselves.
“Professor Nejad taught me to [go] back to the drawing board often and quickly and that analytics is all about working with the data aggressively until it tells me a story, not forcing your story on it,” Zile said.
Nejad said the competition itself has improved over the years.
“It’s the graduate programs themselves and the quality of the work the different areas are doing … and the other part is the quality of students that are entering,” he said. “And I think in both areas we have really improved.”
The contest is named after Richard Colombo, a Fordham professor who died several years ago. In addition to Zile’s first-place award, judges recognized Hui Wang as the runner-up and gave joint third-place honors to Wangxi Han and Sagar Chaddarwala.