As you begin your application process to business school, you start to assess where you are, where you would like to go, and the skill set that you need to bridge that gap. For me, I came back to school to enter the consulting world. Realizing that my background includes no consulting experience, I felt that the quickest way to get my hands dirty was by participating in case competitions.

Photo of Nisha with team mates at the finals for the Humana competition.
With my teammates at the finals for the Humana competition.

My First Competition

It was the first week of September, and I enthusiastically signed up for my very first case competition — the Humana Healthcare Case Competition. The national competition is geared toward graduate students who have a passion for business innovation as well as the evolving healthcare industry — it was right up my alley. This year, the case focused on an emerging trend in the healthcare field — how to optimally combine technology and care delivery transformation to maximize the quality of care and well-being of healthcare consumers.

Photo of both Duke teams at Humana headquarters.
Both Duke teams at Humana headquarters.

I signed up for the competition without knowing the members of my team — a blessing in disguise. My team comprised of three second years, Monica Vanbuskirk, Nadeem Bade, and Johnny Li. Since it was the first time that I had done anything like this, it was great to be able to learn from my more experienced team members. Together, we worked through revisions of decks (I didn’t really know what decks were before), storyboarding, and creating presentations. We spent an intense weekend working on the case, crafting dynamic presentation decks, and trying not to stress because it was a week before fall term finals!

We submitted our presentation to Humana on September 17, and waited anxiously for the results. A few days later, we were thrilled when we received an invitation to the final round of the competition! Nationally, only 8 teams were chosen from 50 to move on to the final round, and actually, two of the final teams were from Duke! On October 11, we all met in Louisville, Kentucky, which is home to Humana’s headquarters (and the Louisville Sluggers) to present our recommendations to Humana’s executive leadership team.

Photo of the second place team with a check for $5,000
Natalie Leung is so excited that her team placed second, and were awarded with $5,000!

Having the opportunity to present our ideas in front of senior executives, respected people with a lot of industry knowledge is empowering. During the 2-day event, I couldn’t help but think about how fortunate I was to have had the opportunity to work closely with second years, learning core concepts and tips and tricks from them. From Monica, I learned how to improve my presentation skills. From Johnny, I learned how to create basic PowerPoint slides and how to really emphasize certain aspects to make them outstanding. From Nadeem, I learned how to take my specialized healthcare knowledge and apply it to a different business scenario. Having the opportunity to compete at finals with another Fuqua team comprised of Natalie Leung, Joakim Vinberg, Kathleen Cox, and Hemant Singh, reinforced the idea of Team Fuqua. Although we were competing with each other, I knew that I had a support system in the hotel room right next to me.

Although my team only placed as a runner up, we were all excited for the other Fuqua team, who came in second. We represented Fuqua and Duke well. Kathleen, a member of the second place team told me, “The case competition was a great opportunity to learn about a company, explore specific tactical solutions and make memories in the process. Between winning second place, bonding with both Fuqua teams, meeting students from other schools and sampling the local cuisine (and bourbon), I’d say it was a huge success. Go Team Fuqua!”

Nisha with her second team for the Deloitte case competition
With my team for the Deloitte case competition.

Two in a Row

After all the work and effort that went into the Humana competition, I decided to take a break from case competitions … until I saw an email regarding a Deloitte competition. I couldn’t help myself, I entered it in the hopes of recreating my Humana experience and furthering my presentation skills. My team and I only had 6 hours to create a 20-minute presentation. During the initial internal round of presentations, we competed with 40 Fuqua teams. We pushed hard and it was a great learning experience. My team didn’t get past the initial round, but my second case competition proved to be an intense and grueling experience … just like the first! I think I’ve officially now become a case competition junkie!

Third Time’s the Charm?

My next case competition is in progress! Sponsored by the Healthcare Club, the first round is an internal round to determine who will move on to the national competition which will take place at Harvard Business School. This case competition really hits home with me because it tasks us to come up with an idea to address an unmet health need within an underserved community. Whether my team and I win this case competition or not, I am excited to face the challenge head on and continue growing my casing skills.