Members of HanesBrands’ analytics group challenged first-year Master of Science in Business Analytics (MSBA) students in a case competition held late in the spring semester. Hanes sponsors the competition, now in its second year.
The competition serves as a test of the knowledge and skills that MSBA students gain in their first year of study.
“It’s important that they practice taking the analytics skills they learn inside the classroom and applying them to a real-world problem with messy data in real time,” said Missie Bowers, director of the MSBA program. “They are required to do an internship over the summer, and this case competition lets them test their ability in a corporate scenario beforehand.”
Hanes representatives created an open-ended problem that mimics what they encounter in their work. They then judged the student teams based on understanding of the project and ability to extract business value while conveying the insights derived from the data.
“What we find most interesting about the competition is the diversity of ideas that the students come up with in their analysis,” said Hemant Ramaswami, senior manager of advanced analytics at Hanes. “We had five teams and each of them took a look at the same data and problem description and tackled it in a different manner, each of which was valuable to us.”
The winning team’s approach to the case was unique in the use of a machine learning algorithm to highlight website traffic drivers.
“The size of the data set was one of the biggest challenges for us as we had never worked with data sets that tested the limits of our laptops,” says Jonathan Adams, an MSBA student and member of the winning team. “The competition was definitely a good time to put our software skills and data mining techniques to the test.”
The winning team from this year’s competition included Adams, Ashley Brooks, Kaitlyn Early, Courtney McCall, Preston Mitchell, Julian Swart and Chase Billingsley. Five teams and a total of 36 students participated. The winners each received a $50 gift card.
Hanes has partnered with the University of Tennessee, Knoxville’s Haslam College of Business on case competitions, capstone projects and research initiatives for several years. The company hopes to give students hands-on analytics experience by sponsoring the competition.
“We regularly face situations in industry where we need to turn out analytic insights on a compressed timeline,” said Ramaswami. “These kinds of competitions give students a challenge and make them more valuable, prepared hires after graduation.”