UCLA Anderson MBA students compete in case competitions locally, nationally and internationally, often bringing home first prize and always returning with valuable experience facing real-world business challenges in a competitive environment. Today, the UCLA Anderson blog presents the fourth in a series of guest posts by case competition participants. This is the prevailing Anderson team’s story of getting to the final phase of the Deloitte National Case Competition in Texas, January 5–8.
By Bradley McGough (FEMBA ’18)
We received the case prompt for the Deloitte National Case Competition at 7:00 p.m. on a Thursday night. This marked the start of a UCLA Anderson-only competition that would get our team — Melissa Tran (FEMBA ’18), Sophia Moreno (FEMBA ’18), Ella Foux (FEMBA ’18) and I — to the Deloitte NCC finals.
The challenge Deloitte posed to us was how to leverage technology to address business challenges faced by a major sports network. We had just over 24 hours to dig into the data and put together a presentation on our proposed solution.
Our plan was for each of us to read through the case on Thursday evening and come up with a few ideas that we’d explore further in the morning, following a decent night’s rest, ensuring that our time together as a group would be spent as efficiently as possible. Although well-equipped rooms in Rosenfeld Library were at our disposal, we made the decision to meet at Ella’s house instead, so as to eliminate any distraction from the other 23 formidable Anderson teams.
The deadline to submit our polished proposal and deck was 11:00 p.m. the next night.
It’s Friday at 7:00 a.m. and our team is sitting around a white board writing down all of the ideas that we had each come up with over the previous 12 hours. It took a few hours of brainstorming before we narrowed the list down and came up with our proposal. Noticing how much time had already passed, we dove head first into our research, each of us focusing on a different area. We set up regular regrouping times when we’d share what we found, challenge each other’s assumptions, and help each other think of additional ways to research certain subjects.
After hours of research, we found ourselves in possession of a lot of unstructured data. We had received some advice to start preparing our deck early, which proved to be critical, as this took much longer than anticipated. Building the deck did help us to structure our data and easily identify any holes in our proposal.
Our original target was to have the deck completed by 8:00 p.m. on Friday and use the remaining three hours before our submission deadline to clean up the deck and prepare our presentation. As anybody who has competed in a case competition knows, things don’t necessarily go as planned. Eight o’clock came and went, nine o’clock came and went … Before we knew it, it was 10:30 p.m. and we were still putting the finishing touches on our deck. As time ticked down, we rapidly reviewed each slide to ensure our story had a logical flow. At 10:57 p.m., with three minutes to spare, we emailed our deck in and crossed that milestone off the list.
With the deck submitted, the final preparatory task was practicing our presentation. We had to decide who would cover each section and how we would hand off to each other during the presentation. We rehearsed this for a little over an hour and planned to meet on campus first thing in the morning for additional run-throughs.
Saturday was full of excitement. We dove into our first-round presentation to a room full of Deloitte professionals. Our solution leveraged technologies with relatively low investment costs and immediate payback to help the company increase its revenue quickly, which we felt was one of the distinguishing aspects of our proposal.
Not knowing the outcome of the first round, we decided to do a little more preparation so that we’d be ready in the event that we made the final round. We focused on polishing the presentation by integrating answers to questions we received in the first round. When the final four teams were announced we were excited to find out we were among them. With an hour or so until our final presentation, we secured a study room to do a few more practice runs.
We took the stage in Korn Hall and presented for the second time that day, remembering that the competition hinged on how well our proposal addressed both the current problem and supplemental solutions.
As the post-competition reception got underway, we learned that we had won the UCLA Anderson round. We were (and still are) extremely excited and honored to represent UCLA Anderson in the national round at the Deloitte University Leadership Center in Westlake, Texas, January 5–8. The competition entails a $50,000 national prize pool and the opportunity to build personal and professional relationships with Deloitte Consulting partners.
Looking back on the competition, I’d say there are a couple of things that stand out that may be helpful to others participating in case competitions. First, having a diverse team is essential. We had both males and females, a variety of cultural backgrounds and diverse professional experiences that brought together very different ways of thinking. Sophia, Ella and I all have strong tech backgrounds, and Melissa has been in finance for a number of years. My intense passion for major sports was counterbalanced by Sophia, Ella and Melissa’s lack of interest in sports like football and basketball, which really helped in generating ideas for our proposal.
Second, consistently reviewing your data and proposal to ensure that it directly addresses the issue presented in the case is extremely important. More than once, we started to veer off course and, by looking back at the case prompt, we were able to adjust and get back on track. It’s vital to remember that your team isn’t creating a business development proposal, but rather a strategy proposal; thus, it’s imperative to solve the problem at hand.
The experience of participating in the Deloitte NCC was exceptional. It was a very intense 24 hours; but the cohesiveness of our team and the excitement around our proposal, combined with the professionalism of Deloitte, created a fantastic overall experience. There were times of stress and periodic confusion around what data we actually needed to find, but the ability to apply the knowledge that we’ve learned at Anderson to a real-world (albeit fictionalized) problem greatly expands traditional classroom learning.
Bradley McGough is the UCLA Anderson Entrepreneur Association’s vice president for FEMBA.