Most MBA programs have a Thursday night happy hour event that celebrates the conclusion of classes for the week – at Texas, ours is called ‘Think n’ Drink’ and is hosted at different bars in the downtown area each week. This is a great time to reconnect with classmates, outside of school, and really unwind from the busy week. However, I decided to spend my Thursday evening last week in a different way.
I participated in the Tech/Ops Case Challenge last Thursday and Friday. There are many different case challenges available to students during the Fall semester, so I chose to participate in this one due to my interest in operations and prior experience in technology. Also, this challenge has one of the largest cash prizes, so a little monetary motivation never hurts. The way in which a case challenge works is that you select a team of 4 people and the Thursday evening of the challenge you receive a business case, wherein you have 12 hours (yes, overnight) to come up with a solution for the case. At 8am the next morning, you have to be in a suit, ready to present your solution to a panel of judges from sponsoring companies. You compete against the other teams in the challenge for a cash prize, which is awarded to the team with the best solution to the case.
One of the biggest mottos I live by is ‘early to bed, early to rise’ – thus I’m not so much of a fan of staying up all night. However, doing a case challenge is something that I knew I wanted to try at least once when coming to business school. So I volunteered to participate in the challenge and was lucky to be on a team with 3 of my friends – at least I would spend the overnight hours with people I enjoyed! In preparation, I took a quick nap earlier in the day Thursday and stocked up on snacks and Diet Coke. I was then back on campus by 6PM for the opening banquet where my team (Team Wilson Phillips!) and I enjoyed a nice dinner and motivating comments from some of the event sponsors before we were given our case. Once we received our case, the clock began ticking and we drove to one of our team member’s apartments to spend the rest of the evening.
Our team was extremely organized and worked very well together. We came to a solution that we all agreed upon very early in the night, so we had a good deal of time to hammer out the details. The snacks and caffeine supply were in abundance in order to keep our energy level up. Nonetheless, as the night went on, our productivity began to slow down and time run out. We scheduled one of McCombs amazing communication coaches to visit us at two separate times during the night – he helped us frame our solution and prepare us for the presentation in the morning. I could not believe the coaches stayed up as long as we did!
Finally 7am arrived and my teammates and I were changing into our suits. We had roughly gone through our presentation once, but definitely needed more practice before we were in front of the judges. We joined our other sleep-deprived challenge competitors on campus and randomly selected our order for presentation…of course, we were selected to go first! We maybe got in 2 more practice rounds of our presentation before being put in front a panel of 5 judges. The pressure was definitely high as we all felt a little unprepared and a little tired. However, we were able to pull it together and put on a great, and amazingly coherent, presentation of our case solution!
While our team did not end up placing in the challenge, it really did end up being a great learning experience. Not only do I feel that I am a lot closer to my 3 friends for having shared that experience with them, but we also learned more about working within a team, with unfamiliar information and with some pressure. Still completely delirious, my team and I shared a beer after the competition to congratulate ourselves on completing the feat – and then we slept…for a long time. This will definitely be one of the more memorable learning experiences I feel I will have during my 2 years here!