NUS BBA 19 January 2018

A love for business analytics leads to big win at Tableau’s Data Visualisation challenge

BBA Year 3 Fauzi Bin Bajuri talks about his love for analytics, and how that has translated into a big win at the recent NIC IMDA-Tableau Data Visualisation competition. He also takes time to share his Student Exchange Programme experience in Canada.

Fauzi (right) and fellow Singapore exchange students at the Niagara Falls

My interest in Business Analytics (BA) grew mainly out of curiosity. What was common among my previous work experiences was my curiosity where I started to ask questions to improve business processes.

While serving my National Service (NS), I did some research and stumbled across the BA field. Intrigued, I enrolled into various analytics courses online through Massive Open Online Courses (MOOC) to learn more about BA.

I soon realised that the idea of gaining valuable insights from analysing data and using that information to formulate business solutions. That really appealed to me. It was then I decided to further explore and consider the BA field as a potential career path for me.

Last August, i started a personal side project, and coincidentally the NIC IMDA-Tableau Data Visualisation competition was announced during the same period. I then decided to challenge myself and submitted my visualisation to compete.

The Tableau software was first introduced to me during one of the training sessions organised by the NUS Business Analytics Society (BAS) Project Team and this inspired me to sharpen my data visualisation skills. So, I wanted to challenge myself to analyse various publicly available data sets using Tableau. BAS organises specialised workshops in three main areas: R, Tableau and VBA. The BAS’ Project Team also features more experienced and senior members who are working with professors and companies on real life analytics consulting projects.

At that time, I was also serving as a Business Analytics Intern with the Housing & Development Board (HDB). I was inspired by how the organisation leveraged BA to help make data-driven policies for public housing in Singapore.

After doing my research, I came across the concept of friendly buildings in Singapore and how I could potentially uncover insights that may be useful from a government policy standpoint. This then motivated me to source for data sets to anchor my visualisation for the competition.

Adopting a ‘whole-of-government’ approach that I learned as an intern at HDB, I decided to leverage data from various public agencies. This includes combining data sets managed by the Building and Construction Authority (BCA), Urban Redevelopment Authority (URA) and the Singapore Department of Statistics (DOS).

Part of Fauzi’s presentation at the finals

On a more technical side, in addition to using Tableau, I used tools such as qGIS to help merge geospatial data. Further, I utilised R and Microsoft Excel for data cleaning and data preparation for use in the Tableau software.

During the final presentation of the competition, I was in Schulich School of Business – York University in Toronto, Canada for my Student Exchange Programme. I was worried I would not be able to perform well for the finals as I was the only one not physically present for the competition. Further, it dawned on me that I would be essentially representing NUS at the finals too! Nevertheless, I endeavoured to still do my very best to compete virtually.

Fauzi’s booth at Tableau’s finals where a judge listens to Fauzi’s pre-recorded presentation

With the support of my friends and family, even the ones I made during the exchange programme took time to share their feedback to improve my visualisations for the finals. It is a truly humbling and surreal experience to have emerged as the champion for the IMDA-Tableau NIC Face-off 2017 IHL category. Here is the final product: http://tabsoft.co/2rhQmj2. More on the event can be found here: http://tabsoft.co/2EXz4tt 

Further, Tableau executives like Mr Kenny Lee (Product Consultant) and Ms Melanie Tan (Marketing Specialist) were very supportive in making time to share their feedback with me through teleconferencing.

The recorded presentation was done as back up in case I was not able to be present virtually through teleconferencing. It was challenging as this was the first time I had to deliver a presentation virtually. Admittedly, it felt weird in the beginning to be dressed in business attire and speaking to the webcam to record the presentation and to deliver my presentation live. Nevertheless, it was a really interesting experience for me!

I’ve continued the journey on BA even during my SEP where I took on modules like Operations Research, Strategic Management, Information System, Project Management and Supply Chain Management. I chose these modules out of interest to learn more about the subject. One module which I feel especially happy and blessed to be enrolled in is “Models and Applications in Operational Research” taught by Assistant Professor Adam Diamant.

I chose this module because it would help equip me with a new set of skills useful in the Business Analytics field. The module presented an opportunity for me to learn about practical business applications of various types of optimisation and simulation models. The course also includes the use of Python as the analytical tool and a real life consulting project as part of the final deliverable.

Of course, I also did some fun stuff with fellow exchange students from Singapore, the Canadians and other exchange students from around the world!

For example, I went on various road trips with the other exchange students from Singapore (NUS, NTU, SMU) to discover the various waterfalls and scenic areas including the Niagara Falls.

I also went on a three Days, 2 Nights trip up north to Algonquin National Park with the other exchange students from the UK, China and Thailand where we went camping, hiking and canoeing in the great outdoors.

Fauzi and friends at Algonquin National Park

Further, I enrolled myself in the “Elements of Blockchain Application Development in Ethereum” non-modular course offered by the York University blockchain.lab. It was an intensive 4-days course spread across four Saturdays in November 2017 where I learned about blockchain development. It was a really challenging but fascinating course. My team presented our use-case prototype to industry professionals during the industry mixer and we emerged as the winning team.

Fauzi and his Operations Research Team Optimise

Personally, I feel BA is especially important in this uncertain, complex and data-driven world. To remain competitive, leading companies are effectively analysing their data to formulate business strategies to ultimately value add to consumers. While I am neither a futurist nor an expert in the BA field, I believe that moving forward into the future, BA will continue to play a more prominent role in the business world as business leaders gradually appreciate the importance of making data-driven and evidence-based decisions.

NUS Business School has really helped prepare me for my SEP, specifically, through class participation. I had developed the ability to be more confident in sharing my views in a thoughtful and succinct manner. This was useful as the class environment in Schulich School of Business emphasises the importance of class participation as part of the learning process. As such, I was able to articulate my views confidently in class and share my perspective as a Singaporean thereby value adding to the class discussion.

Returning from SEP has widen my perspective to appreciate how different the culture is in Canada compared to Singapore. I become more aware that cultural differences do exist and it is important to seek to understand these differences when doing business with people from other countries. On a more personal note, I’ve become a more independent person having been away from my family and having to do my own cooking etc. which to me is a personal accomplishment in and of itself.

I look forward to coming back to Singapore to my family and friends, and my favourite Singapore food and drinks such as Nasi Lemak, Chicken Rice, Bandung, Kopi Peng etc. Heading straight to the kopitiam to order them (not all at once but in moderation of course!) once I’m home!

For more information about the NUS BBA programme, please visit: http://bba.nus.edu/