Confessions of a serial case competition team player

It was the crux of my semester. Group assignments, midterms and consulting projects, all piling into one week of craziness. And the one thing that contributed more crazy than all the others was my involvement in a case competition.

Throughout your MBA experience, there are constant opportunities to get involved with one competition or another, especially among the ranks of top programs. Case competitions provide excellent strategic thinking and presentation experiences, exposure to a real problem and top leaders from the sponsor company, great school visibility, and, if you bring home the prize, a great resume line accompanied by a good chunk of change.

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This was my fourth case competition in my first year at Olin. At TCU and Mizzou we got the cases on site and had maybe six hours to scramble for a finished product. At Northwestern, and now Wake Forest, we received the case a week ahead and had all the time we could manage to prepare. With all the other things I was juggling at this point, I much preferred the former format. But my awesome team made the work fun.  The case tasked us with developing a strategy and implementation plan for attracting millennials to work at CVS corporate. In the end, my team powered through a few late-night meetings and submitted our presentation right before flying out to Wake Forest University for the competition and accompanying Marketing Analytics Summit. But then…

Do you remember that week this spring when Delta cancelled hundreds of flights over the course of a week because freak bad weather in their Atlanta hub knocked them for a loop? Yeah, that was our week. Yeah, we were flying Delta. To cut a story of 5 A.M. stress short, we ended up driving 12 hours from St. Louis to Winston-Salem. Although we missed all of the summit activities, it was actually a fun trip with plenty of time for team bonding and the chance to interview people at CVS stores across the eastern half of the country. At least we arrived in time for the competition.

Team Olin on the road to Wake Forest: Samantha Feng, MBA’17, Ryan Kirk, Karthik Chaturvedi, Cole Donelson and Raisaa Tashnova all MBA’18.

By the time we are ready to present our case, I always feel like the hard work is over. However, right before our time slot comes up and the team is doing a final run through, I’m always wishing we had a few more minutes to rehearse. Like it or not, the Wake Forest student coordinator knocks on the door to our assigned study room, and we are guided to the presentation room. It’s a gorgeous room where we are arranged to present facing a wall of windows looking out into the quad as well as at least a dozen judges from CVS and other prestigious marketing positions. Our PowerPoint is already loaded and showing on the screen. It’s show time.

After a quick 20-minute presentation and 10-minute Q&A, it was all over. I felt proud of our recommendations and confident in our delivery, but it only matters what the judges think and it’s hard to anticipate their perceptions. It was an accomplishment just to beat out dozens of other MBA teams who applied for the competition (with our masterpiece application video). Plus, with other teams from Yale, University of Chicago, Notre Dame, USC, Duke, etc., the competition was stiff. The last presentations wrapped up, and we were shuttled away to the awards dinner at a fancy country club nearby. The dinner was great, the chance to meet other students was fun, but at the end of the night everyone was waiting for one thing. The competition director held up the first big check and at the same time he flipped it around to show the name, he said, “Third place goes to Washington University in St. Louis.”

We were very hopeful, but also very surprised to hear our name called. In a rush of excitement we went up to accept the check, shake hands, and take a few photos. More than the $3,000 third place prize, it was the validation of our hard work and the value of our output that was most rewarding.

I’d be lying if I said we didn’t think we had put up a first place effort. But we were happy to congratulate the team from Hong Kong and the home team and reigning champion from Wake Forest on their respective second and first places.

After all, it’s all about the learning experience, right?

Wake Forest Marketing Analytics Summit

Eight graduate and six undergraduate teams from around the globe competed in the 27th annual Marketing Analytics Summit case competition for total prizes of $56,000. The event was held at the Wake Forest University School of Business April 7-8, 2017.

Participating schools at the graduate level included Hong Kong University of Science & Technology Business School, University of Chicago Booth School of Business, University of Southern California Marshall School of Business, University of Texas at Austin, Wake Forest University School of Business, Washington University in St. Louis Olin Business School, and Yale University. Undergraduate teams hailed from Brigham Young University Marriott School of Management, University of Maryland Robert H. Smith School of Business, University of Notre Dame Mendoza College of Business, University of Pennsylvania Wharton School, Utah State Jon M. Huntsman School of Business, and Wake Forest University School of Business.

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