Zicklin Graduate Students Take Top Spot in Pitney Bowes Data Challenge
May 13, 2020
Nearly five dozen students from Baruch College’s Zicklin School of Business got to show off their data-crunching skills recently when they participated in the Baruch College–Pitney Bowes Data Challenge, held on May 1.
The winning team of Zicklin graduate students — Drace (Yilei) Zhan (MS Statistics, ’20), Nishtha Ram (MS, Quantitative Methods & Modeling, ’21), Huimin Chen (MS, Information Systems, ’21), Kang Li (MS, QMM, ’20), and Rosario Campoverde (MBA, ’20) — outperformed 50 other undergraduate and graduate students to take first place.
The competition was the culmination of a year-long collaboration among Pitney Bowes and the Paul H. Chook Department of Information Systems and Statistics, the Graduate Career Management Center, and the Starr Career Development Center. The partnership included seminars held throughout the year on machine learning, design thinking, marketing analytics, and other topics, presented by Pitney Bowes data scientists, and a free bootcamp on Python and AWS led by Zicklin professors. It was funded by a $10,000 grant from the NYC/CUNY Workforce Development Initiative.
David Messineo, who headed up the Pitney Bowes team of data scientists, said that the top teams’ performances “were on par with what I expect of my own team of data scientists,” adding, “I enjoy working with students at Baruch because they ask insightful questions and participate in discussions and exercises. I love the balance the Zicklin staff encourages between business and technical skills.”
The challenge was originally designed as an in-person competition, but after CUNY and Baruch switched to distance learning on March 19, the organizers scrambled to adjust it to a virtual format. Messineo, who worked with Zicklin associate professor Nanda Kumar and Justyn Makarewycz from Zicklin’s Graduate Career Management Center to accomplish this, noted that they augmented the learning environment by extending the challenge over several days, and incorporated asynchronous sessions up front to describe a business problem in the logistics domain that the students needed to solve.
Students worked on translating this business problem into a data science problem, with Pitney Bowes data scientists on hand to answer questions. Messineo provided supplemental readings on data science, logistics and supply chain management, and other relevant topics.
“David and his team made sure we truly understood the business problem and provided advice on how to tackle it,” said winning team member Rosario Campoverde.
Campoverde’s colleague Drace Zhan added that the team’s biggest challenge was coordinating meetings beforehand: “It’s often more fun to hack together in person than in silence online,” he noted. “However, given that everything was on the Pitney Bowes cloud, all the computation didn’t require us to set up a local environment as everything was already in one place.”
“This project was encouraged by our CEO, Marc Lautenbach, and the Business Roundtable,” added Messineo. “Pitney Bowes has a 100-year history of supporting STEM education and our customers’ communities. It’s just part of our culture I enjoy sharing with schools like Baruch.”
# # #