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Blog post

Accepting the Case Competition challenge

John Molson MBA Q&A series
November 13, 2019
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By Catherine Pepe & Rachel Simmons, MBA candidates

John Molson MBA Q&A is a series of interview-style blogposts discussing the John Molson School of Business graduate programs experience from the perspective of current students, faculty and alumni.

The John Molson MBA prides itself on the many experiential learning opportunities open to students and being involved with case competitions is one of the best examples. This week, the MBA Case Competition Committee gives us the inside scoop on case competitions and why it is so beneficial to take the challenge.

The 2019-2020 John Molson MBA Case Competition Committee The 2019-2020 John Molson MBA Case Competition Committee

Let's start at the beginning - what is case cracking?

In short, case cracking is being given a scenario, understanding and analyzing the key issues, and presenting a possible solution. The key to case cracking is having a strong understanding of a company's strategic vision, core competencies and external environment, including what the industry and the competition are doing. This can be difficult, especially when access to outside information and research may be restricted.

Here at the John Molson School of Business (JMSB), case cracking usually takes one of two forms: cases given in class for an assignment or presentation, or case competitions. The JMSB MBA Case Competition Committee (CCC) helps students prepare for and participate in the latter. The committee is comprised of MBA students and is supervised by JMSB faculty. For students who are new to case cracking, the CCC hosts ‘bootcamp’ workshops every semester on case cracking and case presentation.

Many business schools host case competitions, at both the undergraduate and graduate level, JMSB included (stay tuned for an upcoming post about the John Molson MBA International Case Competition, the oldest and largest case competition of its kind)!

Tell me more about case presentations - what is the competition format?

During a case competition, teams of four compete against other schools to crack a series of cases. Teams are all given the same case and asked to present their analysis and recommendations to a judging panel - often composed of a mix of professors and business leaders who work in the industry. You may even find yourself presenting to a representative of the business featured in the case.

Competitions take many different forms: some release the case in advance and expect teams to do outside research on the topic; others restrict internet access during the preparation time, which can range from 3 hours (most common at JMSB) to 10 or 24 hours. The number of cases and even the teams may vary from competition to competition, but they are always an amazing learning experience and a lot of fun too! 

Okay, this does sound great - what are the different ways to participate?

There are many different ways MBA students can get involved that vary in level of commitment and skill. The CCC always recommends starting with its bootcamp workshops. Throughout the year, there are also various opportunities to participate in case competitions at JMSB or abroad, which range in difficulty level from open-registration to invitation-only. The competitions are tiered in this way to ensure participants are adequately prepared to compete and that John Molson is well represented on the global stage.

HEC February 2019 CSR Challenge 1st Place Winners HEC February 2019 CSR Challenge 1st Place Winners: Jonathan Faerman, Udhay Kapoor, Winnie Hu and Amanda Rushton

There are also two courses offered in the Fall and Summer semesters (MBA659 Strategies in Action: Case Competition and MBA695 Live Case Experience) where selected students master the art of case competitions for course credit. Tryouts for these classes happen every spring. All these opportunities are managed by the CCC.

Besides being a highlight on my CV, how useful are case competitions to my future?

There are some highly transferable skills that you will develop as a case cracker, which are constructive for your future career: honing your presentation skills, learning to solve complex challenges under pressure and mastering the delicate balance of team dynamics. Many competitors also receive personalized coaching to identify and improve specific weaknesses.

However, the real edge that case crackers have over other students is in their business acumen, decision making dexterity, and ability to think and react on their feet. Through applied learning, case competitions bridge the gap between academia and real world obstacles that companies face. This forces students to play an executive role, assess challenges from a holistic point of view, think critically about solutions and become a respected decision maker. Strengthening your case cracking skills lends to leadership development and recruiters definitely notice these abilities.

Participating in competitions is also an excellent networking opportunity. Most competitions host networking dinners and events where the judges and company representatives often attend to meet participating students. Regardless of a competition’s outcome, you can always be noticed for a stand-out performance.

This sounds exciting, but stressful! Is it really worth it to do case competitions?

HEC February 2019 CSR Challenge 2nd Place Winners HEC February 2019 CSR Challenge 2nd Place Winners: Philippe Toren, Rachel Simmons, Paola Sunyé and Stéphan Larin

Case competitions offer a healthy balance of adrenaline and preparation, as well as a fun and challenging environment to practice skills like public speaking, working with a team, leadership and problem-solving. Students who participate are very passionate about the competition. The intensity of the competition lends itself to pressure, yes, but also a thrilling sense of accomplishment, no matter the results. Once you’ve cracked a case under pressure, your confidence in your abilities grows and you find yourself pushing beyond your perceived limits.

There is a reason many of our alumni consider case competitions the most rewarding experience of their MBA; besides the professional and personal development, they offer an opportunity to forge lasting friendships.

*News update*

DeGroote Nov.2019 Case Competition 1st Place Team DeGroote Nov.2019 Case Competition 1st Place Team: Félix Saint-Denis, Pankajakshan, Alex Tsanev and Kavan Someshwar

 

This past weekend, the John Molson School of Business team took home first place at the DeGroote School of Business Case Competition at McMaster University!

KGP-PMI Nov. 2019 Case competition 3rd place team KGP-PMI Nov. 2019 Case competition 3rd place team: Varthini Bhaskaran, Krishna Chaitanya, Veda Roy and Hirak Chakraborty

 

Also over the weekend, JMSB made the podium at KGP-PMI case competition! Hot on the heels of last week's ICOP victory, Veda Roy, Krishna Chaitanya, Hirak Chakraborty and Varthini Bhaskaran placed 3rd.

 

If you are an incoming MBA candidate interested in improving your analytic and problem-solving abilities and ready to meet a new challenge, then case competitions might very well be for you! The CCC also recruits new students to fill executive positions in March.

For more on all things CCC, including competition information, visit out our websiteLinkedInFacebook and Instagram pages, or come find us at orientation to begin your journey with the CCC!

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