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Bring on the Case Competition

Case competitions are an important part of the MBA experience. They teach a valuable lesson in collaborating in teams and working under pressure to find a solution in an ambiguous setting. At the same time, successfully tackling a challenge was very rewarding and many find themselves looking for the next one. Our first case competition began just after two days of classes and was our first opportunity to form our own diverse teams in the program.

My team met early the day that case details were to be released and spent the first hour brainstorming for viable responses before heading to class. 90 minutes later, we reconvened and, since we each had different schedules for the remainder of the day, quickly settled on a concept. The shared document slowly took shape throughout the day until our next major interruption: the first company presentation of the quarter. 2 hours later, we ventured off campus to find a study room and fueled with coffee and a late dinner, we worked on the case until 1am and submitted it.

Three days passed quickly and we had plenty of distractions between classes, company presentations, and student club kickoffs. All hope of making it to the semi-finals was almost lost until I received the congratulatory email while at a mixer with prospective MBA students. My team immediately planned a meeting to develop the presentation and I had to find my way back (through L.A. traffic no less) to campus to join them.

By this time, we worked like a well-oiled machine, building off of each other’s ideas, and kept the conversation lighthearted with our sense of humor. The next morning, all semi-finalist teams gathered in the auditorium and were introduced to the panel of judges, all alumni who currently worked at the company sponsoring the competition. However, we were soon ushered out and instructed to wait our turn to present. To ensure fairness, no team was allowed to view another’s presentation and we were to face the panel in an unknown random order. This made for a very nerve-wrecking waiting game and we were all eager to be summoned sooner rather than later.

My team was the second to last to be called into the auditorium and by that time had endured two hours of anticipation. The presentation lasted ten minutes and the panel of judges challenged us for the next five minutes with insightful questions. Once we were excused, it was another waiting game. While we did not make it to the final round, we attended the finalists’ presentations and were given the opportunity to pose our own questions. I enjoyed hearing the finalists’ ideas and was impressed by the amount of thought and work they had put into them. To conclude the event, we had the chance to network with the judges and each other.

As I ready myself for my next case competition tomorrow with a different team, the deadlines that I thought were tight in the first one now seem like a luxury. With three fewer hours to analyze the case and 14 fewer hours to prepare the final presentation, I realize that we will need to step up our game to meet this challenge. Bring. It. On.

Jiamei Lim
Forté Fellow and MBA Candidate 2016
University of California – Los Angeles  (Anderson School of Management)

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