UVU students take second in national Adobe competition

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Tiffany Frandsen | News Editor | @tiffany_mf
Photo credit: UVU Marketing


Three Utah Valley University students won second place in the national Adobe Digital Analytics Competition on Nov. 21 2014. Blake McClary, Scott Twichel and Tyler Larrabee, all seniors, competed against teams of mostly MBA students from Brigham Young University, University of Utah, Stanford, MIT, and more than 50 others. A team from Kellogg School of Management from Northwestern University (in Evanston, Ill.) took first place.

The competition required teams to analyze the website of one of Adobe’s clients, Lenovo, and make suggestions and recommendations. Most teams took a broad approach; the UVU students gave specific recommendations, which Larrabee said was a riskier move.

“We thought the other teams were going to make comprehensive recommendations. We thought this is a bold move for us to make such a specific recommendation, but we thought if we could do it right it would pay off. That was a hard decision to make,” said Larabee.  They focused on one specific area and made three recommendations.

Twichel and Larrabee are information systems majors. McClary is a marketing major, which he says gave their team an edge because they could not only point to the website’s weaknesses, but suggestions on how to grow the business.

“Academically, as undergrads, we definitely had a disadvantage there. However, we had an advantage because most of the people who did the competition seemed as though they weren’t as well-versed in analytics as we were,” said McClary. “We had some working knowledge of the tool and of analytics. That was, I think, beneficial.”

The competition officially began at the end of September and the final round ended mid-November; all of the work for the competition was concentrated in a time period of just over a month. The three estimated that they put in about 300-400 hours of work between the three of them.

Adobe threw in an extra twist to this year’s competition – instead of analyzing a U.S. website, students analyzed a website from Mexico. McClary speaks Spanish, but Larrabee said they relied a lot on Google Translate. He said although it was more of annoyance than an obstacle, it got frustrating at times.

The team created a slide deck with their analytics and recommendations as part of their presentation to Adobe. Before submitting their final presentation to Adobe, the students sent it to several UVU professors (Steven Huff, Paige Gardiner, Dan McDonald) and the dean of the College of Technology and Computing, Michael Savoie, for advice.

“When we put our presentation together and before we submitted it, we tried to get as many people to look at it and to shoot holes through it as possible, because we knew there would be weaknesses that we could see or the judges would ask questions that we wouldn’t anticipate,” said Larrabee.

This is the first time that a team from UVU made it this far in the Adobe competition.

“Our team loves UVU. We’re proud to be from UVU and I think this really shows the caliber of the students and the program,” said Larrabee.

All three from the team are graduating this year and left advice for UVU students that are interested in competing next year.

“Steven Hough, in the marketing department, has an analytics course. I would definitely take that. It’s super helpful because they teach you Google Analytics and the final exam is a certification test. You can walk out of the classroom having some sort of certificate that’s really impactful,” said McClary. “I would definitely recommend that class.”