For EY, a global company that provides services such as assurance, consulting, strategy and tax, relying on data and forecasting to develop predictive hiring trends is essential to fulfilling its mission. EY teamed up with the University of Delaware’s Alfred Lerner College of Business and Economics to offer the inaugural Lerner Business Analytics Case Competition (LBACC), giving UD students the opportunity to gain real-world experience with business analytics by developing potential hiring models for the company.
“Data analytics skills are highly sought after by employers,” said Andrea Everard, professor of management information systems, who is one of the UD organizers of the competition. “Fortunately, these important concepts are taught across seven colleges at UD. A former student of mine was recruiting for EY at UD and I approached him about the opportunity for Lerner to partner with EY to give the students an exciting learning experience through a case competition. The rest is history.”
More than 50 students, representing the UD’s Lerner College, the College of Engineering and the College of Agriculture and Natural Resources, made up the 17 teams which participated in this year’s competition, which was co-organized by Everard and fellow MIS Professor Kathryn Berkow. The case asked participants to explore trends in hiring practices and to make recommendations for how EY can make changes to their strategies by considering the pace of global expansion, remote work, technological advancement and other recent trends. Although EY provided students some data sources, students were encouraged to do research on other relevant sources and models, and use these in order to make their recommendations.
“I want to thank Ernst and Young for sponsoring the Case Competition,” said Jack Baroudi, professor of MIS and senior associate dean of academic programs at the Lerner College, during the LBACC awards ceremony. “It’s through these types of industry partnerships that we’re able to provide our students with real-world learning opportunities and to get feedback from industry on their presentations and analyses. It’s such an incredibly valuable experience.”
The virtual competition, which took place over a four-week period from Jan. 8 through Feb. 5, was unique in allowing both UD undergraduate and graduate students to compete together. Several EY employees and UD graduates — Gregory Doyle, partner in accounting and UD Class of 1996; Becky Pellini, risk assurance managing director and UD Class of 2001; and Michael Moore, managing director and UD Class of 2013 — served as judges for the competition alongside 17 Lerner faculty members.
“It is a great pleasure to have had a chance to review the submissions,” said Doyle. “I learned something new from every one of them, something that I want to share with my colleagues at EY. There were great recommendations and creative uses of the data. What impressed me the most were the rich data sets that students were able to find.”
“Watch the Throne,” a team composed of UD undergraduate students Michael Sposato and Lorenzo “Enzo” Andaya, won the competition. They were the only undergraduate students to make it to the final round of the competition. Sposato from Port Chester, New York, and Andaya from Dover, Delaware, are both members of the UD Class of 2022 majoring in MIS and minoring in business analytics.
Sposato and Andaya are close friends and were both taking winter session courses when they received an email about the LBACC from Lerner’s Accounting and MIS Department. Andaya said that during this time of virtual learning, they had extra free time and were looking for opportunities to gain more practical experience in their field.
“I learned the basics of cleaning data and how to visualize it in my prior classes, which allowed me to be able to do that for the competition,” Sposato said. “EY gave us a really good outline of what question we were supposed to answer, but we had to go on our own to find all the data to do our analysis. I don’t think we realized how difficult it would be to find relevant data that we could really work with but we kept looking and figured out how to really use what was available.”
Said Andaya, “I would definitely say that when we first started out, we were kind of like, ‘Hey, we’re going to see where this goes.’ Once we made it past the first round, we decided that we were going to take all of these recommendations [from the faculty judges] to heart and we were going to go 100%. When they announced that we were first, I wouldn’t say we were necessarily surprised, because we had put in a lot of good work, but hearing them say it was definitely surreal.”
The second place team, called the “Survivors”, was made up of UD MBA students Thi Quynh Pham and MBA business analytics majors Shirish Ghimire and Marylyn Chioma Atuegbu. The third place team was the “Success Assessor” made up of graduate students Melissa Bundy, a joint MBA/MS BAIM student, Dipti Dighe, an MBA student majoring in business analytics, and Jennifer Palladino, an MBA candidate. The first, second and third place teams of the LBACC were recognized by EY with plaques, as well as prizes, including Apple watches for the first-place team.
“Case competitions are a great investment of a student’s time and energy…the opportunity to use what they have learned in the classroom is second to none,” Everard said. “The experience also provides more context for their future classes. Case competitions are also a great way to practice presentation skills. The more presentations you do, the better you become at them.”