So I spent last Saturday morning over at Duke University, serving as a mentor at the annual Datafest competition. This event is really terrific – teams of undergraduate and graduate students from the three biggest universities in the Triangle area (UNC, Duke and NC State) compete, hackathon-style, over the weekend to analyze a huge mystery dataset that is released on Friday.* (Shout out to the good folks at Gridpoint who sponsored the competition this year, providing a cool dataset of building energy usage!) There was a ton of talent on display, as these teams moved between a variety of data analysis tools – SAS, R, SPSS, Cognos, Tableau, Excel, and more – to understand the data and build the stories they wanted to present at the finals.
I mostly spent my morning huddling in team rooms with four or five students each, working through the challenges they were facing. Again and again, I was struck by how similar the conversations I was having were to those we often face with clients. I’ll explain after the jump.