Case competitions are a hallmark of many MBA experiences. As a first year student at UW-Madison, I was invited to participate in the Wisconsin School of Business’ annual MBA case competition. I thought I was aware of what I willingly signed myself up for, but now that I have gone through a full case competition, I can say with certainty that the competition was full of many surprises.
First, when people tell you it is a 24-hour case competition, they truly mean a 24-hour case competition. We were given the case in a kickoff meeting at 3:00 p.m. on Thursday. Each team had until 8:00 a.m. Friday to complete their analysis and prepare a final recommendation in the form of a presentation for the judges. The judges were representatives from top companies such as Kraft and Target. From the moment the kickoff meeting ended, teams dispersed to breakout rooms and began what became an all-night event. Though I can only speak for my team, I would assume all teams went through the many phases that we experienced. The phases ranged from determination and motivation, to panic and tossing a dodgeball around for inspiration (well, maybe the dodgeball was just my team). No matter how the teams got there, we were all prepared to present Friday morning.
It was amazing to see how much my team and I learned in just one semester of our MBA at Wisconsin. As we discussed the case and our potential recommendations, we synchronized lessons from our core classes, but also from our own personal experience. At times, we even quoted lines from professors and implemented key insights into our proposal. It was incredibly reassuring to hear our judges tell us how our recommendation and analysis were well-thought-out and would be feasible in their own companies.
One of the best parts of the case competition was the chance to hear other teams’ presentations. Despite having a personal preference for your own recommendation, it's a great learning opportunity to hear what other teams come up with and how they approach the problem. Teams considered different elements and had varying knowledge levels on different aspects of the problem, just as they would while working in a real company. Not only did I receive experience in solving a real company issue in the competition, but I expanded my knowledge base, as well.
Overall, participating in the case competition has been one of the best events of my first-year MBA experience. It is overwhelming to hear that you are volunteering to stay up all night on something that isn’t assigned or required, but the returns are invaluable. Plus, I can now proudly say that I am still able to pull an all-nighter.