By Myrophora Koureas, current student of the University of Sydney Business School MBA program
I wanted to get an insight into management consulting as a possible career path, when I first entered my first case competition, last year. I also saw it as the perfect opportunity to get to know some of the other students in the program. It was great to be able to work on a project without the added pressure of assessment requirements because team-work is a large component of the assessments in the MBA and an important part of most roles.
Working on the PwC Case for Change Challenge with Matthew Ting, Liana Porihis, Pete Lead, and Lee Murray, was a rewarding experience which exceeded my expectations. It was really exciting to see our idea evolve into something that met the client’s needs and brief. The process of solving a real business problem by harnessing our idea, within a tight deadline was invaluable.
We wanted more and decided to keep working together when opportunities presented themselves.
We jumped at the chance to participate in the Asia-Pacific Challenge in last December 2016. This was the inaugural APC MBA Case Competition coordinated by the AGSM at the University of NSW. For two days Matthew Ting, Liana Porihis, Thommy Arena, our coach, and I were working on the MBA case competition. The time pressure was intense. Understanding the business problem, finding a solution and presenting the pitch in as little as two hours is an effective pressure test. It was competitive with teams from the Asia-Pacific region.
We quickly began to understand the power in applying frameworks to find, and pitch, solutions to clients and judges. Frameworks such as: a business impact analysis (BIA); building a hypothesis that is mutually exclusive and collectively exhaustive (MECE); or comparing the current and future state of a business using the business model canvas (BMC). In some instances there was no one framework to apply to the case and this is where we could develop our own measures and criteria. It wasn’t enough to just have a good idea, although that helps, especially when the client likes it. The judging panels wanted to see the rigor applied to developing our solutions accompanied by the risk analysis and the implementation plan. It was easy to forget the client’s needs under intense time pressures but it was imperative to deliver client centric solutions. Frameworks kept us focused.
Managing question time was as critical as formulating the pitch. Judges were quick to identify gaps in a pitch and responding with a ‘less is more’ approach was a good way to avoid magnifying any limitations in the presentation. It was also good to remember to respond rather than react to the questions being asked. An important thing to remember for any presentation.
As we discovered, case competitions often have a rich social program with drinks! This is the ideal time for networking and to meet students from other Business Schools. It was insightful to speak to other MBA students and to understand their backgrounds. The diversity of the student cohort is by-far what differentiates our MBA program from others.
Although I remain undecided about a career in management consulting I’m still on the case. I think the skills utilised during case competitions are transferable to many roles, personal and professional, and help deliver effective solutions and outcomes.
Don’t let the next case competition go by. The experience is about more than management consulting and winning. It is a platform for accelerated learning.