Breaking into Consulting

Case Competition Provides Valuable Learning Experience

Placing second out of 22 teams at my first consulting competition … “happy” doesn’t even begin to describe my feelings! My fellow MMSers and I were lucky to be given the opportunity to participate in a recent Accenture Case Challenge. (Learn more about the case method on the MMS website.)

I give the judges a copy of my team's presentation.

Now don’t get me wrong, this girl likes to win. In the wise words of Ricky Bobby: “If you ain’t first, you’re last” (from Talladega Nights: The Ballad of Ricky Bobby). But for someone such as myself, who has an undergraduate degree in Fashion and Textile Management and absolutely no consulting experience whatsoever, placing second when competing against some of the best and brightest students in the world is pretty surreal. I took on this challenge, no pun intended, because I saw the competition as the perfect medium through which to gain some real-time experience in consulting.

Our challenge was to develop a product-launch strategy for a local nonprofit, ChangeEducate (CE). CE developed a curriculum to educate students on the current state of world poverty, hoping to encourage social entrepreneurship and change. In fact, CE was actually founded by Duke alumni. So the competition was about making a real difference for a company that’s not only a part of the Duke family, but one that’s making a difference in the world — something very special to me and my team.

Each member of my team presented to the judges. James made us proud when he spoke.

A Winning Team

The case competition was a team challenge, and my teammates were fellow classmates Pallavi and James (James is also a blogger, so be sure to check him out). We started on the quest to deliver a feasible strategy for CE by spending many nights hidden away in one of the team rooms at Fuqua. If you were to walk into our room, you would find us scribbling notes all over the whiteboards, eating some not-so-healthy snacks (note: garlic pizza is a stench that lingers overnight … remember that), and getting into debates over which ideas we should present and which we should just forget.

After many, many hours of diligent work, we finally submitted our preliminary presentation for Accenture’s review. Accenture was tasked with reviewing 22 proposals from my class, and then choosing 5 that would move on to the final presentation round. Two days later, after I had my soul stolen by my Financial Accounting Final Exam, I checked my phone and saw several congratulatory messages from my classmates. We made it to the finals!

group of students

In addition to the judges, we also presented in front of many of our classmates.

Being chosen as one of 5 final teams was an honor in and of itself. We were ecstatic to have made it that far. But our eyes were on the first place prize: a first round interview with Accenture. So with the help of our phenomenal Accenture mentor Andrew, we did everything in our power to develop the best possible strategy for CE.

The Final Result

On our final presentation day, my team called it quits in the wee morning hours and headed home. The plan was to meet up at school for one last practice session before the competition started at 9:00 am.

Well, imagine my surprise when I received a phone call from Pallavi at 9:00 on the dot. I overslept! That’s what happens when you neglect your body’s needs. Fortunately, my team was scheduled to present last — so my bear-like hibernation did not sabotage my team’s chances of success.

Pallavi in the "spotlight."

Just before noon, we presented our strategy to the judges. My team decided that CE should abandon its original plan of distributing its curriculum through teachers, and instead elect to lobby and have CE’s curriculum formally adopted as a part of high schools’ World History class. We provided CE with a strategy, an implementation timeline, and some important considerations to keep in mind.

After receiving some helpful feedback from the judges, the final results were announced and we learned that we came in second. I can’t tell you how proud I was of my team! We may not have won, but we definitely gained some invaluable experience. I could share everything that I learned — but that would take away from the fun of participating in a competition like this. So if you’re curious, you should consider doing a case competition when you come to Fuqua. (Current MMS students will have the opportunity to participate in another case competition with comScore in October).

Amazing Opportunity

One of the best takeaways from the case competition was that I got closer — way closer — to some of my classmates and met some amazing Accenture employees. So a big thanks to James, Pallavi, Andrew, and Accenture for making this an unforgettable learning experience. I am beyond grateful to have had this opportunity through the MMS program.

This competition helped prepare me for the consulting world in ways that I previously didn’t even know were possible, and gave me a new experience that I can highlight during my job interview process. In the end, I am happy to say that I was lucky enough to earn an interview with Accenture, on my own, even after coming in second place in the case competition! I am very thankful for the opportunity and am excited to see what will happen next.

Lily Shabani

More posts from Lily Shabani

MMS, Class of 2013. Find out more about me...

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2 Responses to Breaking into Consulting

  1. Pingback: Seeing MMS From The Other Side | The Duke MMS Student Blog

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