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  • Talking Case Competition with Alex Garcia

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    One of the phenomenal options that students can utilize to enrich their Illinois MBA experience lies in case competitions. These contests provide students with complex real world problems to solve and present before a panel of judges, who select a winner. Case competitions also frequently offer opportunities for extraordinary networking and a chance to showcase ones ability in front of prominent employers!

    Alex Garcia, a second year MBA involved in IBC as a project manager, recently participated in Wal-Mart’s Annual Business Case Challenge. The Student Life Blog was able to catch up with this former collegiate swimmer to hear about his experience.

    Tell us a little bit about the competition in which you competed: 

    I recently completed a corporate finance internship at Wal-Mart Stores Inc. in Bentonville, Arkansas. One of Wal-Mart’s rules for success is: “Listen to everyone in your company and figure out ways to get them to talking.”

    With this in mind, the New Professional Advisory Council (NPAC) hosted the first annual Business Case Challenge on July 6th. The floor was opened to every associate in the company as long as you could build a team. There were 27 teams, and you had seven days after receiving the case to send a proposal. Out of the 27 total teams, six were selected to present their recommended solutions to a panel of executives, and I was part of one the final six teams. My team consisted of five MBA interns. I had the honor of working with: Vipul Chawla, University of Connecticut School of Business; Kevin Estes, University of Notre Dame; Kirstin Gunderson, GWSB; and Chris Cochran, Paul H. Nitze School of Advanced International Studies, Johns Hopkins University.

    How was the case competition experience?

    This case competition was intense. We had to figure out and touch on several areas: marketing (who the customer is), finance (show that the solution is profitable), law (what regulations can prevent you from taking action), operations (how would you supply your store), and technology.  Trying to put this together took a lot of work apart from having a regular job during the day. The Globetrotters (the name we chose for the team) met after work for a few hours, and Saturdays & Sundays were solely dedicated to put together a good plan.

    In the end, working smart and hard had its payoff, and our team got to present to the executive panel, finishing in second place out of 27 teams and 170 participants.

    That is impressive! What key takeaways did you get from participating?

    You can be an expert in one area, but you cannot be afraid of expanding your knowledge. Each person in our team had to step out of their individual comfort zones in order to complete the project. What pleased me most was the fact that this competition reinforced my belief that the University of Illinois MBA program properly prepares you to solve real life problems, and solve them well!

    Would you recommend that others get involved in case competitions? If so, why?

    I absolutely encourage people to participate in case competitions, and some of the benefits of participating in them are:

       -Learn about, and use your expertise in new areas

       -Interact with future leaders

       -Career development

       -Networking opportunities

       -Enhance your presentation skills

       -Real world problem solving   

    The Illinois MBA is surely proud of Alex for his achievements and continual contribution to the program! Stay tuned for more posts! Until next time…