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Making Decisions and Seeing Results

An MScA alumnus applies his passion for analytics to the Enova Data Smackdown competition.

Written by Philip Baker
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Learn about Master of Science in Analytics alumnus Sachin Agrawal’s background in the field, his passion for analytics, and his group’s third place win in the Enova Data Smackdown competition.

When Sachin Agrawal heard about the Enova Data Smackdown coming to the University of Chicago’s statistics and data science community, he did not have to think twice about whether he was going to enter or not. With an undergraduate degree in mechanical engineering and several years of analytic work already under his belt, it struck him as a great way to challenge himself and put the analytics knowledge he had already acquired to the test. And so he brought three friends together from the Master of Science in Analytics (MScA) program to take part in the competition.

“They gave us a classic business problem,” Sachin says. “With the data they provided, we had to formulate an optimal solution for a publishing company about what books to publish and how they should market them. We divided up the work between us—the data cleaning, the model cleaning—and worked for four very intense hours on the problem. In the end, we took third place. It was a very satisfying experience. They even gave us the opportunity to share with the other twenty teams present how our approach worked.”


“I was fascinated by the fact that things happened as a result of decisions being made. I wanted to know about the strategy underpinning the decision and the reasoning behind it.”

Sachin Agrawal, MScA'17

Drawn to Computers and Mathematics

In fact, Sachin has always been interested in how things work. From a very early age, he says, he felt drawn to computers and mathematics and really just anything touching on the broader area of puzzle solving. He was eager to solve whatever problem people could throw his way. And yet, in a way—and Sachin corroborates this—it was always something more than just the act of solving a puzzle that drew his attention.

“Really,” he says, “it was decisions that fascinated me. I was fascinated by the fact that things happened as a result of decisions being made. I wanted to know about the strategy underpinning the decision and the reasoning behind it. That’s where my passion for analytics work comes from.”

Always Looking for a Challenge

He calls analytics unique for being so deeply rooted in both the technical and business side of things. This combination drew Sachin to the MScA program—a characteristic of the program he calls its balance. Conceding that the prestige of the University of Chicago was a factor as well, he nevertheless insists that when a fellow analyst at the company where he worked in Bangalore, India told him about the program, it was the breadth of the classes offered combined with the strength of the faculty that had him relocate all the way to Chicago.

“I am always looking to be challenged,” Sachin says. “In my first job after doing my undergraduate degree, I worked on a project having to do with customer segmentation. I was the lead for the project, and I worked extremely hard on it. The scale of the challenge was actually a new experience for me. And so when the client came back excited about the work I’d done, it gave me a great feeling. Coming to the MScA program seemed the best way to ensure I’d find myself as often as possible in similar situations throughout my life.”

“When I was working in analytics before,” Sachin says, “it was a matter of just going and trying to solve the problem. We would really just dive into it. Even after just a quarter in the program, I can feel the formal side to my analytics education growing. My approach to problems now is much more structured and efficient. I am very excited to see how my approach continues to evolve as I continue in the program.”

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