Duke MMS Student Blog
Business Case Competition Provides Consulting Experience
Now that most of the MMS: FOB class has gone through the first rush of recruiting season, it seems that one of the popular routes is consulting. I had only vaguely heard of what consulting was before coming to Fuqua, but when given the chance to try it for myself, I signed up for the MMS Accenture Case Competition during the last term. The mock competition provided a chance to tackle a case like a consulting team would for Accenture, with a timeframe of only 48 hours. It was a stressful couple of days, but I think my classmates can agree that we learned a lot. Now we’re looking ahead to some group projects, including one in Strategy class that makes me glad I had the case competition experience. Here’s the play-by-play of how the competition went:
11:17 am: I sit at the table with my teammates Anastasia, Fareed, and Chase in the Kirby Reading Room as other teams find places to sit together. I rushed out of class to learn a bit more about our task ahead. We had enlisted as a group in the MMS Accenture Case Competition.
We listen to Jaclyn, an MMS 2012 alumna, and Ellen, a grad from Duke’s Pratt School of Engineering with a Master’s in Engineering Management. They introduce the Accenture culture, and give us a crash course in decision worksheets and issue trees.
12:47 pm: We receive the case, written by Jaclyn and Ellen in an email. The superintendent of Durham Public Schools (DPS) is considering introducing a supplementary online program for science courses. After an initial reading of the case, we start some internet research, finding anything that seems relevant. Anastasia and I collect data from the DPS website on test scores for analysis. Chase and Fareed look for examples of online schools, supplementary study sites, and public schools that went online.
5:45 pm: We met at NOSH, a nearby restaurant, for a quick bite and start discussing our strategy.
6:25 pm: Arriving at Fuqua, we find people milling about outside to catch some fresh air. My friends already look exhausted. I’m glad we took a break. We settle into an empty classroom since all the team rooms seem like they’ve been lived in for hours.
9:30pm: I have about 10 Excel and browser windows up all over my computer, and I decide there are enough statistics for the initial round of the competition. We each take an area of the case to focus on: technology, budget, strategy, and test scores. Thank goodness for Google Drive — we can all see and make adjustments to the information at the same time.
We start to examine what we have. It’s pretty late and we still haven’t committed to whether or not the science program is a good idea. We set the timer for 45 minutes to regroup.
1:29 am: We are still pouring over the decision worksheet, issue tree, and our presentation slides. There’s class in a few hours and some homework due! It’s important that everything is clear, but I’m not sure how much sense I’m making right now …
2:55 am: Chase drives me home. As we leave, we notice that some of our friends competing on other teams are still in the team rooms, packed with snacks and caffeinated drinks of all sorts.
7:45 am: I wake up to find that Anastasia and Farheed are already going over the work that Chase and I completed. There are plenty of typos, but keen eyes catch them.
11:35 am: At a table in the Fox Center, we scan over our report one more time to make sure we’re submitting the right copy. So many have been passed around! And then … send. I take a deep breath. It’s done. Now all there’s left to do for a while is wait for the results. The judges will be announcing who passes the first round later this afternoon.
5:15 pm: I’m getting dressed after a nice nap at home to head to Fuqua Friday. My phone starts buzzing. Both Anastasia and Chase sent me messages. “Wake up! We’re on to the next round!” I choose comfy clothes, knowing there’s another long night ahead of me.
6:46 pm: We regroup, settle back into our room, and start on the details of our presentation. In the final round, we have to expand on our initial analysis that we already did and give recommendations that we can back up with facts. We start by returning to some of our previous information and we each take up the parts that are most familiar.
9:00 pm: Where did all that time go?! We review what we have left to do. We set an alarm and regroup in 30 minutes. We decide to be done in an hour.
9:42 pm: Deadlines are made to be passed, so they say. We’re nowhere close to where we want to be. We discuss how to set up the presentation. I suggest we tell a story with our recommendation at the end and after a short discussion, we all agree. We get back to work, figuring out what goes in and what’s left out.
11:11 pm: We decide to start wrapping it up. We’re all exhausted.
12:27 am: It took a while, but now we’re finally leaving. That’s it.
I’m a bit nervous because we haven’t practiced our presentation at all. We plan on practice in the morning. So it’s time to lay out my clothes and get to sleep ASAP.
7:10 am: Anastasia picks me up. I’m thankful she’s driving. I don’t wear high heels often, but I feel like my shoes are not the real reason that I feel shaky.
8:33 am: We are in the room next to where we’ll be presenting. Glad we’re going first, but I wish we had a bit more time to prepare. We’ve talked out our presentation a few times, made some last minute tweaks, and are as ready as we’re going to be. I take some deep breaths and together we shake and laugh out our stress like we learned in Business Communications class. We’re ready to go.
9:20 am: We did it! We’re done! Thinking back, I definitely could have been stronger in my section of the presentation, but we were saturated in the information and kicked it up in the question and answer section. Now we are back to waiting again, but decided ahead of time to do it outside the presentation room. There’s plenty of homework to catch up on in the meantime.
10:47 am: We are called back into the presentation room. All four of the groups have presented. One of the judges thanks us for our hard work and talks about each of the teams. We receive second place! They liked our information and unique recommendation, but wanted the recommendation earlier in our presentation. So that’s that. I feel bad for suggesting the “story-telling” method, but the point of the competition was to learn some new things quickly and present it as polished as possible. Without a doubt, that is what we did.
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This case competition was a pivotal moment for me. I had delved into the project with my teammates and we presented our findings to the best of our ability. The deadline was stressful and we all wanted to win, but we put in our best work and I saw things in myself I hadn’t expected. I realized that I have an interest in strategy and saw what I could add to a group under tight circumstances. I feel like the case competition enabled me to show some of my strengths. Walking away, I’m happy with the work we did and happier for what I learned in the meantime.