Reflections on ASUG2013 Developer Wars to Benefit City Year

The Challenge: ASUG2013 Developer Wars

D.VAsAt this time, one week ago, we were nearing the end of the development cycle of the ASUG2013 Dashboard Developer Wars;  a 24 hour challenge (which turned out to be 27 hours of development time followed by 24 hours of getting ready for the presentation).  Four teams were given a set of data and asked to develop a visualization to help a nonprofit by the name of City Year.  Sleep was optional and not recommended if you wanted to finish the task and have a chance at winning.

Our team was registered as the Dashboard Divas (D.VAs = Data Visualization Artists).  We were 5 in total.  Myself, Runali Ghosh, and Bree Ana Mustad from InfoSol, Tracy Wagner from Meritage Homes and Lori Wagner from BOSCH.

We worked hard and in the end we got to strut our stuff on stage while we shared our solution.

There’s a really good blog post from SAP entitled SBOUC2013 Developer Wars Better Than Reality TV summarizing the event including snapshots of the 4 teams and their solutions, a highlight reel, links to interviews from before and after the event and more…

When it was all over

What was clear at the end of the presentations is that there are as many possibilities to visualize data as there are people doing the visualizing.  There was no shortage of inspiration, sweat, and heart invested to come up with the solutions.

In the end, we all agreed that despite The Bollywood Spartans winning the competition, that the real winner is City Year.

Lady-DivaAha moments?

This morning, I reached out to my team mates to see if they would contribute and share an Aha moment that would help me put my thoughts together for this post.

When asked about the experience, here’s what Tracy Wagner aka Lady Diva had to say:

“A take away for me would be to remember not to get so bogged down in daily details (or jumbled data) that you miss the good stuff.  Sometimes in life you’re not given a great foundation to work with, and you can get lost in the stress of every day.  But you can still look beyond it, like molding the data to fit into the beautiful picture you want to show in the end.  And of course, it always helps to have really smart people around you!”

But wait, there’s more…


In hindsight I learned that some of us, in the spirit of giving, got an unexpected gift in return.

I’m going to share here, a snippet from Runali (the purple haired D.VA) because I learned something about Runali that I did not know before.

After listing her technical Aha moments related to dashboard design, here is what she said:

“There was one more aha moment for me (as cheesy as it may sounds but true)- I wanted to be a D as in Doctors so that I could constantly provide service to the society and not work just for myself. But for some good reasons I am a D as in Dashboard developer and often working with a computer all-day I tend to question my service towards the society that allowed education for me and thus a successful career. Opportunity like this help resolve that pain – we can help the society even with a dashboard – there is power in every tool if we know how to use it.”

This is truly the power of BI.  Analytics can not only shed light on what has already happened, but they can also inform us about what actions to take to achieve future desired results.

In the course of day to day business, we are usually developing analytics to show how a business can perform better, become more profitable, or even run more efficiently.  But sometimes, we are gifted in that we are asked to measure something else.

And, if we are lucky, we have the luxury like we did during this competition to ask a deeper question.  To ponder why a business is in business and to truly count something that is worth counting.

My Take

We can all make a difference.  To learn more about City Year and how you can contribute, visit 


Photo Credits: Jamie Oswald explaining the challenge to benefit City Year, Bree Anna holding the D.VA sign, Runali in purple and Lori in Pink wigs,  and Lady Diva (Tracy) – Copyright Timo Elliott – Flickr

About Yolande Grill

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