The real question was—how much more could we fit into our schedule?

When we were informed about an Accenture-sponsored case competition for our Weekend Executive MBA class, a lot of excitement was generated around the idea. We had just finished one of the toughest terms and were midway through our program. When I first heard about it, I was almost certain it wasn’t something I could fit in my schedule without negatively impacting my regular coursework. However, the topic was so hot I couldn’t keep myself from going to the introductory session.

There I learned how the Career Management Center (CMC) had modified the format to suit our extremely busy executive MBA schedule. That information and an invite from a colleague to join her team made me change my mind. Little did I know that I was in for one of the best experiences I’ve had in the program!

The Teams

The process of self-selecting teams was great, but in a class of so many talented people it was hard to pick only four. Once we got our team registered, there was no looking back. Each team was also assigned a coach who was a Fuqua alumnus with experience is management consulting. About a third of our class ended up joining the case competition.

The Format

It was simple—each team was given the same real life client case. We had to come up with an analysis and present our solution in a 10-minute presentation to the judges after six weeks.

Then it hit us. The package provided to us from the client was more than a thousand pages of data and reference material. Our first step was to get everyone on the same page with the problem and establish a weekly cadence to meet and review our progress. I must admit that I was a bit lost in the beginning with all the information, and credit goes to my incredibly talented teammates who continued to push through and kept me motivated. We spent about two or three hours each week leading up to the final week, and then slogged it out to make sure we had a presentation ready to submit.

While it was hectic, we definitely had our share of fun as we had to steal time over breaks, lunch and even happy hours to work on this case. It was a real life case and therefore a great opportunity to experience the life of a management consultant.

the team hold up their Case Competition trophies
Showing off the hard-earned prizes

Round 1 Presentations

Then came the final weekend where we had to present the case. We found out that the judges included experienced Fuqua alumni, a decorated Fuqua professor and other experts from the industry. There were a total of 10 teams, out of which four would advance to the second round scheduled the next day. Unlike some other teams, no one from ours had been a management consultant before. Therefore on one hand, it was exciting to experience a day in life of a consultant. On the other, we were extremely uncertain about what the judges—representing the clients in this case—priorities were.

Teams were to be evaluated on seven different dimensions relating to how well they understood the clients’ challenge, their approach to defining and solving the problem, how innovative and feasible their recommendations were and finally, how well they communicated and interacted with the client (judges).

Would our content match the level of analysis expected, and what parts of our analysis should be stressed during a 10-minute showdown? Regardless, we suited up like consultants and waited our turn.

An hour after we presented, we received the results of the first round. To our amazement, we had qualified!

Several thoughts rushed through my mind immediately: this means we need to prepare for tomorrow…oops, we can’t study for tomorrow’s classes tonight…we need to incorporate the judges’ feedback and adjust our presentation…we may not be able to relax and have drinks on the hotel patio like we often do.

We spent that night on the phone with our coach and made several important adjustment to our presentation, tightened our logic, and most importantly, prepared for questions that judges might ask. Proceeding to the next round meant that we were at least on the right track.

Round 2 Presentations

This round was open to public, so our classmates and others could see the top four teams present the case. As opposed to our first round presentation where we were a little nervy, this presentation went much better. Our 20 minutes of stage time seemed effective as the judges asked some very insightful questions. Being the second team to present, we got the opportunity to see the next two presentations. That is when I realized the competition we were up against. Both those presentations had great depth of analysis, a great solution, and fabulous presentation.

In the end, our team was privileged to win the case competition. But we knew it must have been by a whisker, given the quality of the others teams’ solutions.

The Takeways

Being able to participate in a competition like this was a privilege, but to have won it was the most amazing feeling—one of my best MBA experiences. We got instant recognition in the Fuqua community as well as a great bullet to add to our resumes at an important time in our careers. I personally believe the reasons behind our success were:

  • The diversity of our team which helped us cover all aspects of the case
  • The simplicity of the ideas that were presented
  • Our enthusiasm when delivering the presentation
  • Our adaptation to the feedback we received in round one

It was a very well organized event by the CMC, who deserve credit for pulling it off despite the hectic school, work and life schedules of our executive MBA class.