There are certain things in life you know you should do, know you might enjoy if you do them, but are really challenging to embrace. That was my initial attitude about the MLHR internal case competition. Voluntarily give up an entire Friday and most of Saturday to work on a case, in Gerlach Hall?! Gack! Not really what I had in mind for a good time.
But, with a little prodding, and a genuine interest in the process, I was soon signed up and teamed up with two fellow second-year students, Rachel Brokaw and Priya Jhangiani and one first-year student, Qin He. With the exception of working with Rachel, I had never worked with the other two students and, honestly, had never spent anytime in class with them either. To soothe the pre-competition transition, we met the week before at the local Panera and mapped out a tentative strategy. One of the rules of our strategy: If you disagree with an idea, speak up. If you have an idea that is out-of-the box, let’s really look at it.
And so the competition began at 7:30 am Friday, January 20 and wrapped up around 3 pm on Saturday. We were fortunate to have a “live” case presented to us by local giant, Cardinal Health. Everyone appreciated the opportunity to get feedback from professionals in the field and work on a case with real-world significance.
But in between plotting strategy, creating slides, practicing the presentation, sharing ideas and poring over research articles, there were moments of levity. One team drew caricatures of themselves on the white board. Another took a break in late afternoon to go exercise. We looked forward to every meal break (we were well fed!), spent time getting to know each other, talk about classes, and laugh about the stupid things that suddenly seem very funny after spending 12 hours together in a conference room. And thanks to an icy Friday night that made driving home dangerous, I enjoyed an impromptu sleepover with one of my team mates. Thank goodness I had packed my suit, just in case!
When Saturday morning arrived, we were tired, relieved, and ready to present our case. Unfortunately, we were slotted to present last, which meant a nearly unbearable wait. As other teams were happily returning from their presentations (were they doing cartwheels down the hall?), we were still nervously waiting. Finally, around noon, our turn arrived. We were calm, rehearsed, and ready to give it our best. I was so proud of my team mates who were as professional as real-world consultants. Given the judges’ feedback, I think all teams must have been professional with forward-thinking ideas.
In total, 28 MLHR students (7 teams) competed in the internal case competition. Like me, I’m sure others stretched and pushed themselves in new ways. While everyone came away having learned valuable skills, three students won individual presentation awards, and Team 5, a group of four women with various backgrounds who had never worked together before, but met over a meal at Panera to discuss a strategy that welcomed ideas and collaborative sharing came away with first place. But even before our names were announced, I already understood the value of the case competition and the unique opportunity it presented. In that way, we all came away winners.