Analytics Challenge…

Picture of Belen on the upper level of Victoria Street, with the road and row of coloured shop fronts below… by Belen / from Ecuador / MSc Operational Research with Data Science / PG

The Analytics Challenge, sponsored by Edinburgh Airport, was a unique experience; not only for the academic merit, but also the team building, cultural exchange and- most importantly- all the fun!

With a very warm welcome, the staff from Edinburgh Airport, University of Edinburgh Business School and School of Mathematics made us feel very excited about the programme for the upcoming four weeks. After a very dynamic and fun presentation of the future agenda, the optimization “mini” challenge was introduced and we were assigned our inter-disciplinary groups. Personally, I didn’t find the challenge “mini” at all. It was not easy since no one in my group knew each other and communication barriers existed. However, we quickly discovered the potential of every member of the group. By the end of the first day, we recognized our individual strengths and opportunities to learn from one another.

The guidance we received from Edinburgh Airport analysts at the drop-in sessions was vital to the success of the project. The high skilled analysts, who understand the business environment and its processes very well, provided us with very good input. They helped us understand the data and its underlying assumptions, what could be improved and what the different problems we needed to solve were.

After understanding the problem’s context and agreeing on what my team wanted to do, it was time to apply modelling skills. As for my own contribution to the project, the Operational Research MSc. programme gave me the techniques I needed to face this challenge. Using the optimization, modelling and programming knowledge from my courses, I was able to contribute with the formulation and programming of two models that would optimize the operations of the parking services at Edinburgh Airport. My group was really open to learning how the mathematical modelling worked. Thus, every member of the group was able to understand and communicate our results and findings.

Nevertheless, what are optimal mathematical results without a good presentation? The team put onto the table all their skills and tools for designing inspiring presentations. With all of us coming from different backgrounds and with the help of the pitching skills tips given in the workshops, we created a clear and funny presentation of our findings. We could feel that our audience was engaged with our proposed solution.

What makes the experience even more fruitful are the little things. We all wanted to contribute with the knowledge and the skills we were most proud of, but this was not as simple as it sounds. Compromise was needed in small details, like getting on time to meetings, doing individual work, sharing ideas, listening carefully, discussing without imposing, and a lot of practice.

It is difficult to decide which extracurricular activities to keep in our busy MSc. lives. I am still grateful to my student learning advisor who encouraged me to complete this analytics challenge. It was a space to collaborate with people that think differently from me and also gave me an opportunity to meet more people, even some within my programme.

One of the most important things I learned with this experience was that our differences made us stronger; that great things come with continuous effort, compromise and patience. It not only gave us a very nice prize, but also new friends!