An Inside Look at the Finalists and Winners from Data VizArt Student Challenge 2018


The Data VizArt Student Challenge is an egg-citing and unique competition for students to explore the world of data storytelling. Created in partnership with CIBC, Deloitte and Tableau, the challenge allows students to use Tableau software to address a pressing modern issue. Students examine the presented dataset and create a data visualization with their findings. If their work is selected in the first round, they complete a similar task again and then present their visualization to the panel of judges made up of representatives from CIBC, Deloitte, and Tableau Canada. This experience is a great way to network with top executives from these leading Canadian companies, meet peers from other universities, and explore possible career paths. Intrigued? We’re excited to give you an inside look into the finalists from last year’s DVA Student Challenge – read on to find out all about their experiences.

Pranay Bhatt
Pranay Bhatt
Schulich School of Business

The most interesting part of Pranay Bhatt’s story is perhaps the fact that he had no prior exposure to data visualization. That did not stop him from applying, participating, and becoming a finalist of the Data VizArt Student Challenge in 2018 though.

Pranay learned about the competition through his Career Advisor at the Schulich School of Business. In fact, the school heavily promoted the competition, so Pranay faced a lot of competition. With just one partner he was able to make his presentation stand out by creating a story that flows logically and elaborates progressively. Pranay and his team member also paid extra attention to the quality of their visuals. “We often used graphic design elements and custom visuals to differentiate them from standard out-of-the-box Tableau plots,” says Pranay.

Pranay was very strategic about choosing his partner. He knew that he needed someone knowledgeable about the data visualization, but he also understood that their skill sets have to complement each other.

The Challenge

The competition consisted of two rounds – qualifying and the finalist round, followed by the final presentation. For Pranay and his partner, the qualifying round presented the following problem statement: “As an international education hub, how is Canada faring at attracting and integrating a diverse student population?” Pranay and his partner broke down the problem into three key themes – Attraction, Integration & Diversity. To give them an edge on the competition, they added interactive elements into their visualization which allowed the judges to explore the visuals further in an engaging way.


The Finalist Round had a similar question and objective, but the team had to present their visualization to the panel of judges in-person. At this point, Pranay and his partner felt more prepared and followed a similar pattern: “We made sure that our story touched upon all the important aspects and flowed smoothly while building up to a logical conclusion.”


The Aftermath

Pranay mentions that his biggest discovery during the competition was how different other teams’ visualizations were, even though the data and the assigned task were the same. He is most grateful for the ability to network with professionals from CIBC, Deloitte and Tableau, and the constructive feedback he received. Pranay believes that working in a partnership with another student helped him develop soft skills, constantly brainstorm and overcome differences of opinion, all of which in turn opened up many doors for his career.

Pranay concludes with some advice for those who are considering participating:

“1. When it comes to visuals, focus on quality over quantity
2. Put yourself in the judge’s shoes and present your story in a way that would interest them
3. Most importantly, be creative and have fun with the whole thing.”

Ruibo Zhang
University of Toronto, iSchool

In contrast to Pranay, Ruibo had previous experience with data storytelling and wanted to dive deeper into it. He found the Data VizArt competition on LinkedIn, asked two friends with diverse educational backgrounds to join him and registered.

Creative Approach

Ruibo and his team knew how fierce the competition was and realized that they had to stand out. After examining the data and their topic (“Is Canada a Global Business Hub?”), they decided to start from the conclusion and work backwards. They presented the judges with the facts and their clearly developed opinion at the very beginning and then explained their rationale and chain of thoughts in arriving at their conclusions.

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In addition, Ruibo’s team ensured that their presentation was as concise as possible. Understanding the busy executives’ preferred style of processing the information got the point across effectively and was the key to Rubio’s success.

Not Just About Data

Ruibo commented that this competition helped him realize how powerful and technically sophisticated Tableau software is. Given the timeline constraints, Ruibo and his team had to absorb the information under pressure within a tight deadline with important stakes for the outcome, which added to the challenge but turned out to be a great team-building opportunity at the same time.

This experience was not only about the software for Ruibo. Just like Pranay, Ruibo had many networking opportunities with CIBC, Deloitte and Tableau professionals.

Ruibo’s most important advice in creating a compelling narrative in data visualization is to put yourself in the audience’s shoes. This really helps to change your perspective, avoid confusion and false assumptions to deliver the information more closely to the way the user likes to consume it, aiding your successful communication and the audience’s understanding of the data and conclusions.

While Ruibo definitely achieved his goal of learning more about data visualization, he also started thinking of alternative career paths like business intelligence and change management thanks to visiting CIBC’s office and meeting other participants.

The Data VizArt Student Challenge is an extraordinary learning and networking opportunity that is centred around one of the hottest topics – data. If you’re ready to explore the world of data visualization, meet the most talented peers from universities across Canada and jump-start your career, register for the Data VizArt Student Challenge today! Deadline to submit is January 25th at 8 p.m. (EST). Good luck!