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SFU Beedie hosts interdisciplinary analytics hackathon

Dec 09, 2019

The SFU Beedie Business Analytics Hackathon

Data-savvy students from across Simon Fraser University competed in SFU Beedie School of Business’s fourth annual business analytics hackathon on November 16, 2019. The interdisciplinary competition, sponsored by Vesta Properties, brought together 26 teams of three students to compete in analyzing data and presenting their findings. Of the 78 total students taking part, 32 were business students or business joint majors, while the remaining 46 were from other faculties, studying subjects including statistics, economics, data science and computer science.

The competition is designed to simulate the real-world problems that analytics professionals face: interpreting complex data, developing strategic recommendations based on their analysis and, crucially, effectively explaining their findings to colleagues who may not have the same level of technical expertise.

The competing students were presented with a business case and several datasets, and challenged to use their analytics skills to build predictive models to interpret the data. They then presented their results and business recommendations to a panel of industry judges. The teams were judged on three criteria: their technical competence, based on the accuracy of their predictive machine learning models; how well they interpreted their models’ results and developed business recommendations; and how well they communicated their findings and convinced the industry judges with their presentations.

“The hackathon is a great place for our students to apply their analytics and data storytelling skills developed through their courses at SFU,” says Jason Ho, associate professor, marketing, at SFU Beedie.

“There was the pressure of competition and limited time to wrangle data, build predictive models, and connect all the results to the business context. Yet, this was also a safe space for students to go out of their comfort zone as they received lots of support from the industry judges and alum mentors.  Our goal is to make the hackathon a great learning experience, which is educational, fun and integrative to the analytics community that students will soon become a part of.”

The winning teams demonstrated impressive accuracy, understanding and communication skills. The top three teams were:

  • 1st place: James Barker; Jared Chiu; Liam McDonald

    The winning team with Associate Dean, Undergraduate Programs, Peter Tingling

  • 2nd place: Lokesh Gupta; Alex McKenzy; Cameron Swanson
  • 3rd place: Cameron Inglis; Ryan Tonkin; Carmen Li

The event was organized by SFU Beedie students taking the Certificate in Business Analytics and Decision Making (BADM) program. The organizing committee comprised:

  • Organizing Committee Chair: Winnie Meng
  • Director of Logistics: Aaron Yap
  • Director of Operations: Jennifer Dao
  • Director of Marketing and Design: Kristina Eng
  • Director of Technology Management: Jessica Chung


The judging panel was made up of 25 expert data analytics professionals from leading businesses in Vancouver. They were:

·         Andrew Donaher, Managing Director, Data and Analytics at Save On Foods
·         Brandon Jang, Director, Business Intelligence & learning Partnerships at Chartered Professional Accountants Western School of Business
·         Carlos Leal, Senior Manager, Advisory Services at EY
·         Cody Watson, Director, Strategy & Analytics at Plenty of Fish
·         Dawen Nozdryn-Plotnick, Director of Advanced Analytics at Boeing Vancouver
·         Elton Zhao, Finance Business Partner at Best Buy Canada
·         Hanif Vallani, BI Program Lead at Vancouver International Airport
·         Holly Geant, Manager, Data Analytics & Data Quality at Ritchie Bros. Auctioneers
·         Ilir Zyfi, Senior Manager, DTS Analytics at Electronic Arts
·         Jacob Kuijpers, Director at Omnia AI – Deloitte’s Artifical Intelligence practice
·         Jeff Downton, Manager, Data, Analytics & AI at EY
·         Jorge Vasquez, Practice Lead, Digital Intelligence Analysts at Best Buy Canada
·         Joyce Drohan, Partner & BC Leader at Omnia AI – Deloitte’s Artifical Intelligence practice
·         Louisa Thue, Chief Technology Officer at Clir Renewables
·         Maris Lemba, Senior Manager, Analytics at Rocky Mountaineer
·         Marta Cygan, Financial Reporting Manager at Kit and Ace
·         Matt St.John, Director, Ecommerce & Technology Analytics at Best Buy Canada
·         Michael Li, Director, Decision Support System at Vancouver Coastal Health
·         Michael Lowe, Manager, BI + Analytics at Earls Kitchen and Bar
·         Michaela Klassen, Senior Data Analyst at lululemon
·         Olivier Duval, Senior Manager, Digital Analytics at Aritzia
·         Patrick Haunschmidt, Senior Manager, Insurance Analytics at BCAA
·         Rachel Kito, Director, Business Intelligence & Point of Sales at Earls Kitchen + Bar
·         Tony Hui, Technical Business Analyst at Indeed
·         Will Cashman, Senior Director, Research & Analytics at Rocky Mountaineer


Five SFU alumni who had competed in past hackathons, Ryan Tavakol (Omnia AI, Deloitte), Domenic Fayad (Best Buy Canada), Dani Chu (NHL Seattle), Anya Andronov (Best Buy Canada), Shannon Lo (Best Buy Canada) also participated as mentors this year.