Imagine this: it's Friday evening, and you’ve been presented with a complex problem outside your area of expertise. You and your teammates have a lot of questions but limited information and time. You have the weekend to develop a solution and a polished slide deck to present to a panel of experts.
Sound like fun?
It does for students across the Rotman School of Management who face such an experience every case competition. In recent months, students from the Morning and Evening MBA programs have quickly established themselves as tough competitors. Among their accomplishments, student teams from these programs have finished in first and second place in the 2020 Sustainable Energy Challenge, claimed the top prize in the 2020 A.T. Kearney Rotman Prize Case Competition, and placed first in the Venture Capital Investment Competition (VCIC) at the Rotman School round and at the Canadian regionals.
For many students, competing in cases competitions has becomes an essential part of their business school experience. Though these competitions have moved online because of the global pandemic, students haven’t slowed down. These intense challenges give participants the opportunity to apply their knowledge and try out different careers — and in a few cases, it has led to meaningful career advancements and transitions.
Test driving new careers
For Dylan Young (Evening MBA ’22), whether his team wins or not isn’t as important as the experience.
Dylan Young (Evening MBA ’22)
“Case competitions allow you to test drive new careers and see how they fit,” he explains. “It’s difficult to gauge whether a particular career path might be right for you just from classes and coffee chats, but in one weekend you can acquire a lot of firsthand experience working in a new industry. That gives you a sense of whether going after a new industry or position is the right move.”
Young, who is a project manager at Enbridge Gas, has tried out a number of new roles this academic year.
He’s dabbled in the startup space with the Design Your Own Startup Case Competition, where his team earned second place. He’s also crafted a compelling investment proposition for seasoned investors with the VCIC (his team earned first place at the Rotman and regional levels, and will be advancing to the global competition).
Though he hadn’t considered a career transition before enrolling in business school, his experiences working on the A. T. Kearney Rotman Prize Case Competition inspired him to pursue management consulting opportunities afterwards. This summer he’ll be completing an internship with McKinsey and Company.
“Management consulting wasn’t really on my radar at the start of this program, and I have to credit these competitions for inspiring me to chase a set of interesting opportunities.”
“Case competitions allow you to test drive new careers and see how they fit.”
—Dylan Young, Evening MBA ’22
Contributing to the student community and developing a flexible mindset
Julie Browne (Evening MBA ’22) started participating in case competitions because it seemed like a good way to connect with and learn from her fellow classmates, who she believes are key to the program’s winning streak.
Julie Browne (Evening MBA ’22)
“I think our cohort has an edge because there are such diverse experiences and strengths represented,” she says.
Browne, who is an analyst with Haywood Securities, brings substantial experience in investment banking and a talent for fielding questions to the teams she works with. She often partners with teammates who have complementary strengths, and whose contributions have shaped and refined how she tackles her work now.
“I think I am better able to identify different issues as they arise, and that has come from collaborating with such diverse team members and seeing how they approach problems,” she says.
There’s also a broader, community-building element to their work. When her team (which included Young) won the VCIC regionals round, they donated their winnings to the Morning and Evening MBA Black Students Advancement Scholarship fund.
She also sees a lot of value in working on these hypothetical cases.
“You aren’t constrained by normal restrictions, and you have the freedom to make certain assumptions. While it’s not representative of a real-life situation, it gives you the chance to develop a flexible and creative mindset, which is valuable in any business environment.”
Getting the most out of his business school experience
When the global pandemic struck and flights were grounded, Daniel Reddi (Evening MBA ’22), a pilot with Jazz Aviation, suddenly had additional time on his hands. He used that time to double down on case competitions, for the sake of getting the most out of his business school experience.
Daniel Reddi (Evening MBA ’22)
“Working on these cases is a natural extension of what you’re learning in the classroom,” says Reddi, who was drawn to Rotman because of its robust curriculum and strong teaching faculty. “Case competitions give you this opportunity to take everything you’ve learned and apply it to a challenge. It’s the best test of your knowledge.”
He’s also learned so much from his teammates, who are highly skilled at calculations and data analytics, and putting together effective presentations. (For his part, Reddi has a good handle on precision and fact-checking and developing change management strategies.)
With one first-place win under his belt — he and Young were on the same winning team for the A. T. Kearney challenge — he’s looking forward to participating in more competitions next year.
“You really can’t lose,” he says. “The best way to learn is to dive in, especially into arenas where you aren’t the most comfortable. Case competitions offer that experience.”
Written by Rebecca Cheung | More Student Stories »