When I applied to Fuqua, I didn’t know what consulting was. It’s been my good fortune that the Consulting Club has expended considerable effort in bringing people like me up to speed. I attended a consulting conference last summer, as well — a step which I highly recommend to nontraditional business students like me, who think they might be interested in whatever this consulting thing is. Even with what feels like constant preparation, I will admit that as of a couple months ago, I still didn’t have a good sense of what a case competition might entail. It sounded vaguely lawyer-y, like mock trial or Model UN.

Jen with her case competition team mates.
With my fantastic case competition teammates.

Taking on the Challenge

Along came the Accenture Innovation Challenge, a case competition for first-year students. The competition had a social impact focus, so I thought it was as good an entry point as any. I surrounded myself with brilliant minds — Talya Wyzanski and Jennifer Fluder, two students with strong backgrounds in domestic and international nonprofits, and Jenni Miles the Engineer — and we registered as a team. The competition was set to take up an entire Sunday, so aside from some pre-reading about the nonprofit we’d be advising, we just waited.

The day arrived, and keeping in accordance with most events at Fuqua, it quickly became clear that all 7 participating teams were packed with ringers and experts. We crossed our fingers as the Accenture staff sent us away to our team rooms where we spent the next 5 hours clawing at the problem we were presented with.

We were challenged to advise a certain nonprofit about how to expand their reach without affecting their budget. Working with limited resources may have been the most transferrable of the lessons I took from my time with the Peace Corps — the least transferrable being the Georgian language (ბოდიშს გიხდით, ქართველებო) — and I did a happy dance when I realized that I too would be able to contribute to the case. Naturally, the other three ladies backed their ideas up with some impressive credentials, and we set to work scribbling diagrams on every square surface of our team room wall. Accenture sent us a coach named Jeanette to offer some pointers, and she even fetched our lunches as we were too swept away by our own brainstorming to remember to walk down the stairs and get them ourselves.

Five hours seems like a long time until it’s been 4 hours and 45 minutes, and you’re panicking because the PowerPoint presentation you’ve created is not the masterpiece you need it to be. This feeling intensified when we returned to the auditorium and watched every other team deliver their presentations. Each and every slide that another team presented made me doubt myself. “Shoulda thought of that,” I sighed repeatedly.

We too had our chance to present to the panel of judges, including a professor and representatives from Accenture and Fuqua’s Career Management Center. I’d love to give you the details of what we said and how we said it, but it’s probably meant to be confidential. In any case — spoiler alert — we won! Technically, there were two winning teams, but that takes nothing away from the fact that we were one of them!

As it turned out later, our dreams of national domination were not to be, as we were eliminated in the semi-final round. Nevertheless, I like to think we got extra points as the only team to include purple and orange stuffed monkeys in their submission video. And at least now I know what a case competition is.