George Brown College takes first place in SAS Global Forum's Student Symposium

George Brown College won the first place in 2018 SAS Global Forum – one of the largest annual analytics conferences in North America. Receiving over 60 submissions, attracting more than 6,000 attendees, involving numerous industries from banking and insurance, to sports and gaming, winning in this competition was definitely an achievement to be proud of.

Analytics for Business Decision Making students, Annissa Rodriguez and Xavier Fu, supervised by Professor Allan Esser, were the only Canadian entrants and the only college program invited to present in Denver, Colorado. Their team, XA-OPP, developed a project “Development of a Text Mining Usage Case to Reduce the Skills Gap in College Program Design” (partnership with SAS Canada). It aims at reducing the gap between the skills taught in postsecondary education and the employment qualifications required in a job by way of ongoing monitoring of job postings and analysis of the most required expertise.

Read a first-hand experience on what it takes to develop a successful project and how it feels to be at the top from Annissa Rodriguez.

The Experience

When we first started our Capstone Project, Xavier and I had no idea the ride we were in for. It started back in November 2017 when our mentor, Professor Allan Esser, introduced us to SAS Global Forum’s Student Symposium competition. It wasn't until February 19th, 2018, that we found out we made it to the top eight finalists. We won the opportunity to present our project in Denver, with a grant of $3,000!

From that day it was on. We stayed up late at nights working on our program, our presentation, and our script. Xavier and I made the best team. Even though we were so different, we were definitely not afraid to share our honest feedback about anything. In my opinion, this made our project better, as we were able to think in a 360 degree view, and come up with the best possible outcomes.

On the day of the flight, starting at 5 a.m. we did nothing other than memorize our presentation lines. As soon as we got to Denver, we dropped our bags, and went to the convention center, where we strategically found the room we were going to present in and started rehearsing. I think we stayed there for two hours just rehearsing and having fun.

The next day Xavier and I signed up for a storytelling class at SAS Global Forum that talked about the importance of sharing your ideas, making your points clear, and speaking to the audience. Walking out of that room, I clearly remember Xavier and I looking at each other saying we have to change our presentation. The presentation we've worked so hard to memorize! We probably stayed up until 11 p.m. reworking our script and our PowerPoint, effectively trying to communicate our point to our audience in the form of telling a story.

On the day of the competition my heart was racing a million miles a minute, and I knew Xavier’s was too - I saw the shake in his hand. This was the first time either of us had to present to an audience this big.

We were the last group to present and this comes with some challenges, but instead of focusing on the challenges, we asked everyone for a round of applause for all of the other teams’ amazing work. We told the audience we were going to conclude the symposium with a bang and a ground-breaking work that affects every person in the room.

At this point we were having fun. We saw heads nodding, we had an engaged audience. We were telling a story. It was a remarkable feeling. At the end of our presentation we had a lineup of people wanting to meet us, shake our hands and congratulate us. Most of them thought we were excellent presenters.

When we were announced as the winners, I thought to myself: “Is this even a real moment? Did that really just happen?” I don't think this had even really hit me yet. It is both an accomplishment and an honour to win this competition.