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Innovation Showdown Ignites Careers

Senior Dawson Bertuzzi and sophomore Christina Dong stepped into the Salesforce Chatbot IDEAthon Challenge like athletes gunning for a national title. And an intense 10-minute presentation later, the students in the David Eccles School of Business emerged victorious. Classrooms served as their practice gyms—and this competition to solve a real-life business problem with a chatbot gave them the chance to showcase their prowess in a more exciting arena. 

This year’s contenders in the annual challenge faced a formidable test: design a chatbot tailored for University Connected Learning, one that would serve as a digital navigator, guiding students through a labyrinth of web resources and program materials. “It was tough, and there was so much to consider. We learned mostly through trial and error,” says Dong. “We just tried to keep the student experience in mind and what would be most useful for them.” 

Given just eight days to prepare, students had to come ready with a short pitch for a panel of judges, who would assess them on documentation, a process map, how well they addressed the problem at hand, and the structure and functionality of their bot. “I love competing and learned a lot,” says Bertuzzi. “I thrive when I’m under pressure, and I especially enjoyed giving the presentation.”

This is just one of many challenges hosted by the Eccles School, notes Henner Mohr, an associate professor in the Department of Operations and Information Systems. Other competition areas include social impact, hackathons, and business consulting, to name a few. “These competitions are a good way for students to be exposed to challenges they might face after graduation, network with other students and judges, and even land job offers,” he remarks. 

Bertuzzi plans to go into consulting and says the exposure these competitions bring is invaluable. And while Dong isn’t sure what she wants to do post-graduation, she notes, “This competition confirmed it—data science is the field for me.”


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