In the next few months, Fuqua will welcome the new batch of Master of Management Studies (MMS) students. If you are one of the lucky few, you might be thinking about what type of activities Fuqua can offer to you. In an earlier post, I examined the annual Accenture Case Competition at Fuqua. The event offers a consulting experience for students who are interested in problem solving and working in a team. I reexamine the competition here by looking at a different team of participants—the ones who won the competition!

Aparna Rao is a bright young woman who served as the Blue Section Representative for MMS students. She previously interned at MGM Resorts International, JM Financial, and UBS Wealth Management. Together with teammates Lucia Garcia, Julio Stuart and Nate Svensson, Aparna participated in the 2014 case competition.

Duke Fuqua MMS student Aparna Rao
Aparna Rao

Why did you participate in the Accenture Case Competition?

I personally have an interest in consulting, but I didn’t have the experience yet. I also have an interest in Accenture as a company, and I wanted to learn more about the working environment. I thought the case competition would be a good opportunity for me to gain consulting experience and learn more about Accenture.

No prior consulting experience, but what about internships?

I previously interned at MGM with the finance and HR departments. I’ve always been interested in learning more about different business functions. Thus, I’m also interested in consulting that focuses on different business industries and functions.

Can you walk me through the case?

The case was about a local attraction (we’re not able to publicly share the name) that targets community members with a specific interest in its entertainment and amusement category. It hosts visitors and information sessions related to their category and sells items that can be utilized at home.

The client had some challenges regarding their membership, revenue and data collection. They found it hard to attract new members and to offer new incentives to current members. Our client was experiencing stagnant revenue growth. They were also having a hard time tracking costs and collecting membership data. For example, a customer may come and sign up as a member and the staff would process the new membership manually, which took time and was inefficient.

Our objective was to solve these problems.

Professor Pranab Majumder asks a question after a presentation by Duke MMS Students in the Accenture Case Competition
Professor Pranab Majumder asks a question after a presentation

In the first round of the competition (starting on a Thursday), our team was given the case study. It was very detailed. There were 20 attached documents of various data: revenue growth, membership growth, brochures, etc. We then had to break the data down and sort out what was important for our analysis.

During the following days we sorted out the most relevant analysis and on Monday, we organized our presentation into five slides. Yes, the submission for the first round only allowed five slides! Most our slides focused on the current analysis, but we also included a slide about the areas of additional analysis we would like to explore in the second round if we advanced.

On Tuesday night, Accenture sent us an email notifying us that we had made it to the second round. We quickly started on Wednesday and worked until Friday when we had to give our final presention. During the second round, we focused more on the recommendations since we had already covered the analysis. We created different incentives for the garden regarding promotions, pricing, processes and partnerships.

That sounds great! How about the team? Did you have any ‘Team Fuqua’ moments?

Absolutely! I loved my team and they were so incredible! We worked toward the same goal in a short time frame.

The case competition lasted for only about a week, so we bonded quickly. It was interesting because my team was very diverse. Lucia, for example, is very good with numbers. Julio, on the other hand, is a talented presenter. Nate and I are good with both, but I tend to be a stronger speaker. We worked very well as a team because we had good balance in skills!

Tell me, what’s the funniest thing you did as a team?

Duke MMS Students gain consulting experience in the Accenture Case Competition
Aparna’s team presents their situation overview of the case

We had a lot of fun! We named our team ‘Awesome.’ We always made food our incentive. For example, after a solid three or four hours of work we would go out for a milkshake or dinner or a cook out. It was so fun!

My team also teased me! For the week of the competition, I carried multiple bags of shoes, books and my laptop around Fuqua. My teammates called me ‘Multiple Bag Aparna!’ We also took photos at our client site and ate dinner as a team. It really was a great bonding experience!

In the process, we realized that each individual team member’s success is ultimately the overall success of the team. We would practice presenting for four hours and provide feedback to one another. I truly felt the Team Fuqua spirit during the case competition.

Finally, do you have comments you want to provide for future students?

Yes! I think as an MMS student, the Accenture Case Competition is a great learning opportunity. You’ll be in an environment where you gain consulting experience, you’ll work with a team in a very short, therefore pressured, period of time, and you’ll analyze real-life data from a real company. The good thing is that no prior consulting experience is needed. You just have to be able to solve problems, think intuitively, and contribute inputs. In fact the more diverse your team is, the better it will be. I think the best team is one with members that have different skill sets.

Well thank you Aparna. It sounds that you really enjoyed the competition.

I really, really did enjoy everything. I’m so glad I participated.