The MHRM Case Competition: I remember learning about it during my visit at Fisher and Day 1 of Orientation we were given the date (November 6th and 7th, 2015). As a graduation requirement, this is has been one of my favorite experiences thus far at Fisher!
The MHRM Case Competition at Fisher College of Business is a unique opportunity most other programs and schools cannot offer. Due to the fact Fisher houses the MHRM program in the business school, we are afforded unique opportunities and partnerships with companies like PepsiCo. PepsiCo sponsors our event and in exchange, our program is broken up into teams to work in a “hackathon”-like scenario to provide our best recommendations to the company’s latest HR issues they have not been able to find a resolution for. Professor Ankerman spearheads the competition with training, aid, food, and inspiration!
Step 1: Pick your team. This is a key step that doesn’t involve picking your friends (although the best players might be your friends like in my situation). Professor Ankerman taught us training day 1, if you want to win, you need to strategize by picking a team with a variety of strengths. GroupThink can be one of the biggest downfalls in any team, so it’s important to pick a team with diverse perspectives. It’s also equally important to pick a team you’re comfortable with. During the case competition you present to your teammates what you think are your best ideas, and you have to be okay with telling someone their idea may suck, while also receiving feedback that your idea may suck. Get cozy because you’re with your team for nearly a straight 24-hour period!
Step 2: Attend all opportunities presented by Professor Ankerman. Not only did he hold two info sessions for the MHRM students participating in the case comp, but we also took a “field trip” to the PepsiCo plant in Wooster, Ohio. This was a unique learning opportunity to take our best guesses at what the case could be about (you don’t get the case until Friday morning at 7:30am and teams present starting Saturday at 8:30am). We got to tour the Frito Lay plant, ask plant managers questions, taste Lays and Fritos right off the belt, and explore with eyes and ears open. I think having two of my four team members (myself included) go to the plant was a key factor in us winning in the case comp!
Step 3: Caffeinate, eat, laugh, and work hard. Friday and Saturday morning of the case comp weekend I was a regular at Starbucks. Although Panera is catered for breakfast with donuts, bagels, fruit, and coffee, I’m a firm believer that a cappuccino is my own secret weapon to get me on my A game. I’m fortunate my team consisted of my friends, so the entire experience could not have been more fun and rewarding for me. The first 45 minutes we individually put together a plan, so that we could avoid conforming to GroupThink. Then we put together what we felt like was our best plan (a hybrid of the best aspects from our individual plans), refined, practiced, refined some more, practiced some more, and presented Saturday morning as one of the first teams in room 305.
What I found as our key to winning: By the time dinner came around (7pm-ish Friday) we were growing weary. Our brains had been going endlessly on 110% all day. We took some time to play with a furry friend, practiced some more, felt extra defeated after seeing all the areas for improvement, and jammed to Hey ya Ignition remix, Sweet Caroline, and Its Gonna Be Me, and practiced one final time. We were determined to put together a top-notch presentation for PepsiCo and Fisher College of Business MHRM program, so we didn’t leave Gerlach Hall until 11:40pm Friday night. Truly, I believe what set us apart from other presentations, though, was our thought process. We went with a plan that was risky, different, and slightly unheard of. But I think that’s what PepsiCo needed and was open to hearing about. The case comp was an opportunity to have free reign with whatever ideas we had! The judges interrupted, criticized, but ultimately complimented by naming Team D (our team) the winners of room 305.