On Friday, April 1, in partnership with Blue Prism and the University of Toronto, Wrk co-hosted the UAutomate Challenge. This challenge—the first of its kind—was created to help UofT students accelerate their careers in Robotic Process Automation (RPA) through mentorship, workshops, and hands-on experience.

Throughout the course of several weeks, students were tasked with a business problem and were given the use of real technologies and real-life applications in order to solve it. This challenge was not limited to students within the engineering and technical space, much like our own mission to make automation insanely simple for everybody, no technical expertise required. 

Mathieu Rebeiro, our VP of Automation Solutions at Wrk, co-founded this event to give students exposure to RPA before graduating to help them get started in their careers, as RPA is becoming a widely sought-after skill set across many industries. During the event, many professionals in the space mentioned that their exposure to RPA didn’t surface until they entered the workforce themselves, making the experience students garnered during the course of this challenge invaluable.  

Hands-on knowledge of RPA 

For the UAutomate Challenge, 4 groups of students were given the same problem to solve. In this unique scenario, a fictional employee had the task of improving the efficiency of a “purchase order process.” The process involves a customer sending a standardized order template via email that was created in Google Sheet file or MS Excel, and has several order details including the business name, employee name, date of order, order quantity of units, cost per unit, total cost, order number, and a digital signature. This is currently a very manual process by which the fictional employee has to open their email software, open each message, open the attached files, manually copy and paste the data from the standardized template into a master order form, and eventually upload it into a custom software application.

The students were given access to Blue Prism to map out a workflow of this process from end-to-end to automate it and make it more efficient. Throughout the challenge, students were also able to speak to mentors and experts in the RPA and technology space while building their solutions.

The students then presented their unique solutions to a panel of judges consisting of Mathieu Rebeiro, Chris Yip, Dean of the Faculty of Applied Science and Engineering at the University of Toronto, Rebecca Waker, Founder of GrowthPerform.co, Bassem Khalifa, Senior Management of Business Transformation at RBC, and Shery Wassef, Senior Manager of Automation at RBC. 

Speaking from experience 

During the event, there were also several fireside chats with professionals in the automation and technology space.

First up, Mathieu hosted a fireside chat with Shahmeer Amjad, Senior Consultant at Sun Life. The conversation centered around the role of creativity in the automation process and how data and automation go hand in hand when it comes to deciding what process should or shouldn’t be automated. Shahmeer noted:

“When you’re coming up with a use case for why a process should be automated, you need to back it up with data. You can create the most perfect automation, but you need to track it with data in order to show a dashboard for how the automation is performing. You can’t have one without the other.”

Lisa Marie Chen, Design Program Director at IBM, also shared some insights with the UAutomate Challenge participants about design thinking. Mathieu spoke to Lisa about achieving the right balance between empowering users with automation without overwhelming them with a slew of processes that could be automated. Lisa shared that this is why it’s important to have design in the room when we talk about automation so that we can truly understand when and how people are looking to automate tasks to provide flexibility. 

“We want to make sure the user is always in the driver’s seat and that they have the ability and flexibility to delegate the tasks and manage the exceptions—automating in ways that free them up from the tedious, boring things so they can focus on the things that us humans are really exceptional at, like strategy, spending time with clients, and working on new and exciting projects,” she said.

Finally, Kelsea Gust, our Director of Marketing, hosted a fireside chat with sisters Anesha Santhanam, CEO and Founder and Annika Santhanam, CTO and Co-Founder of Likeable STEM. Likeable STEM is an educational company that provides online/on-site technology training to empower students of all ages, genders, races, and income levels. The company aims to foster and address inclusivity in STEM. Annika shared some helpful advice for students entering the workforce:

“When entering the workforce, there's going to be times where you may feel intimidated or not as comfortable in a situation because you feel you’re too new to a business or company, but you never need to compare your knowledge to anyone else’s in the room. You got to this point out of your hard work and your efforts and individual skills that make you fit for the roles that you enter into.”

Setting future graduates up for success the UAutomate Challenge 

It was clear from the presentations that the students took a lot from the UAutomate Challenge. They articulated their solutions to the problem clearly and effectively, and also demonstrated how their unique workflows completed the process from start to finish. Team Superfilters came in third place, followed by HATS in second, and RPAces coming in first place. 

By sponsoring and participating in this unique event, we’ve helped to better equip students to be prepared for real jobs and challenges following graduation. This experience gave students a firsthand look at RPA and how it can be used to empower employees and streamline everyday business processes. 

Want to learn more about how automation can help organizations get work done faster and more efficiently? Check out our blog!