Student Spotlight Series

Rahul Agrawal, Winner of Wayfair’s “Using Data to Bring Customers Home” Competition

This week, we had an inspiring conversation with Rahul Agrawal, the winner of the Using Data to Bring Customers Home competition. The competition was created by and sponsored by Wayfair, the company that’s reinventing the way the world shops for home.

This competition challenged applicants to build a data model to predict Wayfair’s customer behavior.

For Rahul’s $3,000 winning submission, he created a data model in Python that was able to accurately predict customer behavior.

Watch Rahul’s Response Video to Winning the Competition:

Thank you so much for doing this with us! What is your “backstory”?

Hi Tuan, I am Rahul Agrawal, I am from India. I came to the U.S. last year for pursuing my Master’s in Business Analytics at University of Cincinnati. I will be graduating in August’19. During my undergrad, I was exploring my career options and I found Data Analytics to be best fit with my interests. So, I joined Mu Sigma, which being the largest pure – play data analytics firm providing data science solutions, provided me a great career start to understand the operations of the field while working with Fortune 500 clients. Thereafter, I joined a growing tech unicorn, OLA Cabs, working as Product Analyst & further improving my analytics skills and Business Acumen.

What feeling(s) did you have when you found out you were the winner of Wayfair’s Competition?

I felt ecstatic and grateful to Wayfair for liking my solution. I was going through a hard time finding good job opportunities, and this win helped me get rid of any self-doubt I had in my abilities. It further provided me the confidence and drive to compete in more open Data Science challenges in the future.

What inspired you for your submission?

The project was very interesting and had various challenging elements to itself which I wanted to learn at that point of time. Additionally, directly applying through the portal didn’t bring me a lot of success. I had known about Wayfair from before and I really liked the company plan and data driven approach. Through this project I thought that I have a great opportunity to show my problem-solving skills and knowledge and earn a call from Wayfair.

What do you think makes your submission stand out? Can you share what went through your mind as you worked on the submission?

My approach was to build a structured and exhaustive solution. I performed a lot of experiments for each sub part to find the optimal solution. Personally, I liked the additional features I created from the data by generating hypothesis and testing, it helped in increasing the predictive power of the model as well as showcased my creativity and Business Acumen. Probably, the exhaustive exploration of each part and the features created helped to get an edge over other submissions.

What did you learn throughout the submission process — about yourself, your inspiration, the community or the industry?

While working on this project, I realized that I enjoy working in Customer Analytics and Marketing domain and is now one of the options I am considering towards which I can shape my career. The data science community is growing exponentially, and its tools and technologies are evolving more often now than in the past. I am working towards building a habit of reading research papers, popular blogs and following industry leaders to keep pace and grow in this industry.

What did you learn about Wayfair?

While the competition was on, I was happy to see that Wayfair entered the list of Fortune 500 companies. They are Boston Headquartered E-commerce company with operations throughout North America and Europe, with the largest selection of home furnishings and décor across all styles and price points. Wayfair is reinventing the way people shop for their homes – from product discovery to final delivery.

The competition was organized by Wayfair’s campus recruiting team to ask applicants to build a customized customer marketing plan by leveraging customers past data and machine learning. I understood the main motive of this competition as to leverage an alternative path of recruiting to gain deeper understanding of candidate’s skills and knowledge in an effective way by going through their practical project work.

Why do you think it is important to have an alternative approach to hiring and scholarships?

It is very important to have an alternative approach to hiring and scholarships. It is much more effective way for candidates to show their abilities, talent and the results they can produce while working on real problems than just writing essays and trying to persuade the person giving out scholarships. This process is also valuable for companies to find out if the candidate is a good fit for the position and can produce great results on the work allotted to them in the company. Overall, I feel this process removes the subjectivity involved with traditional scholarships and hiring process and therefore increases the efficiency of these processes.

With your hard work, talents and skills how are you looking to create a better future?

Digital eruption, science and technology advancement have changed the lifestyle of people and has made our lives easier. I would like to continue working towards technology advancement and innovation with a company or individually and through it provide my contribution in making lifestyle efficient and entertaining.

What are two pieces of advice you have for future students who are looking to participate in ScholarJet competitions?

I would like to encourage all graduates to participate in these competitions. It has 3 main benefits. Firstly, applying your knowledge learned during classes to real world problems, which can also be displayed on your resume and develop your profile. Secondly, for getting interview call from the company without any hassle to apply on portals and seeing rejections. Thirdly, getting a helping hand with your expensive education. My advice for people participating is to pick projects and company that interest you the most and focus on learning and improving your profile through these projects.

If you could have lunch with any person in this world, who would it be and why?

I would like to meet Jeff Bezos, firstly, to understand his approach in leadership and life in general, secondly, to understand what he does with so much money.


Learn more about ScholarJet’s skill-based competitions here. Ready to find a competition to join? View all current competitions here.