Skip to main content

The Rush of My First Business School Case Competition

As I walked away from the printer, my teammate John told me to give him the deck. He was willing to run. Moments later, Nikias and Glen sprinted by me on the fourth floor of Evans Hall, each holding their own stapled, 15-page packet. It was 10:28 p.m. and myself, along with a third of my first-year SOM classmates, had less than two minutes to deliver our first case competition submissions to the judges’ panel.

The case competition, focusing on human capital and social impact, was a unique SOM first-year only event co-sponsored by Deloitte and Net Impact on October 30. We had just spent four hours in small teams generating recommendations on strategic growth, financing, and human capital for a nonprofit, and our presentations had to be submitted to the judges promptly at 10:30. Our pride was on the line along with the chance to present our ideas to a group of Deloitte consultants the next day (oh – and there were those tempting finalist round cash prizes too!

John and I walked back to the breakout room to join Katy and Shayna where we all exhaled, laughed, and started cleaning up. The last four hours had been a whirlwind of brainstorming and focus as we tried to make conscientious decisions in a structured way about a complex situation our “client” faced. While the judges deliberated, we joined the 28 other teams downstairs for drinks and food. I mingled and heard about other people’s evenings while a throwback list of late-90s hits played in the background. Everyone had different opinions about the quality of their submission, but we all agreed that the evening had been a lot more fun than we anticipated.

When I heard BizKids Cowboys name blasted through the speakers an hour later, I felt a rush of surprise and adrenaline. We’re semi-finalists! Now the real work began. The first-round judges gave us feedback on what they liked and where we needed to improve. Back in the breakout room, Shayna, John, Katy, and I split up the work and got started cleaning up our presentation.

The next morning, now donning business suits, we faced our “rivals”— two groups of our friends whom we had spent the evening in adjacent rooms to hurriedly refining our PowerPoints. After meeting the panel of Deloitte judges, each team gave a 20-minute presentation and answered probing follow-up questions. The judges then spent 45 minutes giving us specific, thoughtful feedback on what they liked in each presentation and where we faltered. They asked us each how we felt the experience went and likened it to their actual client work.

When John sprinted off just a few hours ago to submit our first-draft, I hadn’t fully appreciated what we were running towards. The opportunity to refine our presentation, get substantive feedback on our work, and see how different teams’ approaches compared was one of the most concentrated learning experiences I have had at SOM. I signed up to join the competition somewhat on a whim. It was my first case competition; honestly, I didn’t even know what it entailed before it began.

My time at business school has been all about trying things for the first time in a safe environment—playing ice hockey, pitching a startup idea, doing a case competition. Although BizKids Cowboys didn’t end up as the winning finalist, the competition exceeded my expectations in every way. It reminded me that many of the greatest things I can learn at SOM come in unexpected places. This is why students here are always so busy: we run around seeking moments to learn something new by exposing ourselves to everything that’s offered, because the payoff we get is a lot more than just a semi-finalist $100 cash prize.