Competing for W&M in Nashville, TN

Shweta Kulshrestha, Allison Abraka, Stephanie Appiah, Stefanie Cituk and Billy Ekofo together at the National MBA Human Capital Case Competition.

I competed in The National MBA Human Capital Case Competition for 2012 that took place in Nashville, TN. I am interested in human capital consulting and thought it would be a great way to supplement my education. Since we do not have a human capital focus at William & Mary, I needed to look outside of the school to find other ways to enrich my MBA experience. I put together a team of 4 other Mason students, both first- and second-year MBAs. Working with my team was a great experience in itself because I was able to work with people that I would never normally have the opportunity to work with. I learned just as much from my team as I did from tackling the problems in the case. Not only did I gain knowledge in this particular area of business, but I’m happy to say that I now have 3 great new friends who I respect and admire.

The week leading up to the competition was pretty intense. We received the case materials and questions exactly 1 week before the competition. As a team, we decided that each member should read and recommend a strategy for the case problems individually. Then we would come together with our ideas and flesh out the best answer. In theory, this plan would work out perfectly. In reality, it did not. When we first met as a team, we did not really know where to start. After about 6 hours and a lot of conversation, we finally had a pretty good base.  Yet, our presentation was not even near to being finished and the competition was drawing close. We decided that the next day would be spent really solidifying our ideas and putting them into presentation format. This took another 8 hours of us working together, and did not include all the extra time we spent on it when we went home. All in all, it took a lot of hard work and long hours in a short period of time. But, the hard work proved to be well worth it.

Cut to Thursday afternoon — we were all waiting at the airport to fly out to Nashville. We were all nervous about the competition that would take place the next day. We were trying to perfect what we would say for our part of the presentation while in the airport.  Our flight ended up being delayed by about 2 hours. This was both good and bad. It was good because we then were bumped up to first-class on our connecting flight. But it was bad because we got into Nashville very late and lost valuable preparation time. We checked-in at our hotel and then headed right to a pre-competition networking event. This was a nice introduction to the event and included both good food and good people, at one of Nashville’s trendy restaurants. By 9pm, we were totally exhausted and had to head back to the hotel to put some final touches on our presentation and then try to sneak in a few hours of sleep.

Friday morning we awoke with anticipation of what the day would hold. We were not certain what to expect but wanted to ace our presentation and then just relax because the hard part would be over. We were told we would have 3 hours to prep before our presentation. But what we were not aware of is that fact that we would receive new information for the case that would change our proposals. So here we were, 3 hours before our presentation, with new information and we had to come up with a cogent solution, refine our presentation, and finalize everything. It was a daunting task, and we were able to accomplish this, albeit with only a few minutes to spare.

We then presented our plan to a panel of 2 official judges and other GE and Deloitte staff. After 30 minutes of presentation and 15 minutes of Q&A, we could relax, undo our ties, unbutton our blazers and breathe a sigh of relief. It was over! Now for the fun to start.

That night we went out in downtown Nashville at The Wildhorse Saloon. We had the whole 3rd floor to ourselves, complete with food, full bar, and pool tables. On the first floor there was line-dancing and a lot of our group, yours truly included, learned how to line-dance.  Competition participants and GE and Deloitte staff showed up donning cowboy hats and boots. It was a grand time and a good way to spend the night after the long stressful day.

The next morning, the top three teams were announced. Only the top three teams would compete in the final round of the competition. Cash prizes were available in the amount of $10,000, $2,000, and $1,000 for first, second, and third place, respectively. After the final presentations, we had a luncheon and awards ceremony and then the day was complete.

Although our team from Mason did not place in the top three, this was an unbelievable experience and I would do it again in a heartbeat. The case competition was a great way to learn more about human capital challenges that face businesses undergoing change. The event was also a great opportunity to network with fellow MBAs from top schools across the nation and working professionals from both GE and Deloitte. Lastly, checking out Nashville during the Thursday and Friday night events was a blast and I can’t wait to visit again! I encourage future Mason students to consider applying to this competition. I promise you will enjoy yourself. Not only will you benefit in your own personal development but it is also a great way to build the name of our school for future classes.

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Stefanie Cituk

Stefanie is a 2nd year MBA student. She received her undergraduate degree at The College of William & Mary in 2005 and worked for about 6 years in recruiting. Most recently before returning to school she lived in Philadelphia and was a corporate recruiter for a public accounting and consulting firm. Stefanie worked this past summer as an intern for Tamerlane Global Services, focusing on their marketing communications strategy for logistics services centered on Africa and The Middle East. Stefanie plans to pursue full-time opportunities in Human Resources and Operations upon graduation.

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