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Last November, a group of three students made a remarkable achievement - placing 5th at the Adobe Analytics Competition out of over 170 competing schools. In this interview, they tell us just what it took.

January 22, 2018
Writer: Matthew Christensen

The Adobe Analytics competition is more than just a pow-wow for programmers and software engineers. In fact, for BYU-Idaho student Kaden Atwood (engineering major), it was an opportunity to build his resume and expand his skill-set. Under the encouragement and direction of marketing faculty member, Beth Hendricks, a team of three BYU-Idaho students (Jordan Tway, Jessie Fortenberry, and Kaden Atwood) placed 5th in this annual competition with a cash award of $1,500. However, these students, along with Hendricks, will readily agree that it was more than the award that made this experience worthwhile.

"Our power came from two things: from dedication and diversit," Said Jordan Tway. "All of us put in over 300 man hours in the span of the first two weeks, and then we had a communications major (Fortenberry), an engineering major (Atwood), and a data science major (Tway). None of us knew the exact same things as the other."

Atwood agreed. "When Jesse approached me, he said 'I'm not looking for someone who knows data science, I'm looking for someone that I can trust and that can put the hours in, and that might bring a different mindset or a thinking process to the table."

So how does it work? The students, along with Hendricks, explained that each year Adobe works with another major company to analyze their corporate data with the adobe analytics software, which tracks user behavior on websites. This last year, it was MGM Grand Resorts. The participating teams have to analyze the data and report their findings as well as solutions and ideas.

"They were the only undergraduate team to place in the top 6." Hendricks said "They were up against data scientists and graduate students that had much more experience and were farther along in their education." A remarkable feat, given that over 170 schools nationwide participated in the competition this last year alone.

When asked how the value of the experience exceeded that of the prize and placement, the students agreed that it was the acquired skills and professional connections that made it worthwhile.

"I'm now LinkedIn connections with a VP of Adobe," Said Tway. "There was a representative from MGM there who came to us afterwards and asked us about some of our ideas - not because we were in the top 3, but because some of the ideas we presented in the finals were actually worthy of probable business implementation."

As a professor and teacher of the adobe analytics course on campus, Beth Hendricks emphasized the importance of taking opportunity outside of school to find resume building experiences like this.

"I've been trying to get students to participate in this competition for years," Hendricks said. "This team put BYU-Idaho on the map with Adobe and gave the school a name and a presence."

You can listen to the full interview below.