Winning a Case Competition – an interview

The Challenger Case Competition was an online event organized by CIVITTA during spring 2021, aimed at students and recent graduates from Central & Eastern Europe. Under the larger umbrella theme of "Unlocking new growth in post-COVID CEE", the participants got assignments and received mentorship and feedback from CIVITTA's senior leadership in order to deliver and present innovative solutions.

Out of 4 teams that made it to the final, the winning team was the best in terms of fact-based approach, together with creativity and presentation storyline. Meet Simona Demova, Patrick Weyer, and Oleksandr Afanasiev, and find out how they perceived this experience and what brought them the first place:

 

 

How would you describe your experience in the Challenger case competition?

Simona: It was a very valuable experience for me, even though I have been working in consulting for some time. I definitely recommend other students or recent graduates to participate in whatever team project, especially if they are interested in consulting. You will get a hands-on experience of how you work on the projects — that you need to do research, defend your opinions but also be able to admit that maybe your ideas weren’t the best. Last but not least, you have to know how to present your results based on the audience you have. Another huge benefit of such competitions is having sessions with mentors — which is a great way of learning something new. 

Can you tell us a bit about your individual backgrounds and how those things came together within the team?

Simona: We have quite different backgrounds, but I have to say we complemented each other perfectly. Patrick has a background in IT, a bachelor's degree in Engineering, and currently is studying Innovation and Technology Management — I would say it is a “golden package” of programming and managing teams. Furthermore, Patrick has a very good general overview of economics that comes in very handy when solving economic or financial problems. The same I can say about Oleksander, who is a lawyer, so he complimented our opinions with political aspects. Moreover, he has great visualization skills and was able to quickly put our insights into a visual form, which is a very demanding skill in consulting. My contribution was mainly to ensure collaboration, regular syncs, set a methodology for how we should perform the analysis, and create a structure for the presentation. And of course, in every team you have to communicate, listen to others and work on the same goal — in our case, to learn something new and have fun.

What do you think made the difference and qualified your team as the winning one?

Patrick: I believe it is not only one but many factors that helped us perform so well. For example, our different backgrounds helped us look into the topic from various perspectives, where each of us could contribute to different topics. Another factor was that we did not try to find a solution and work our way around proving it but rather looked at each step with an open mindset. And then, most importantly, assessed how it would suit our possible client. I believe many teams came up with great solutions but forgot about the last step, which meant matching the client’s capabilities with their result. 

What would you recommend other students or recent graduates to read or learn before participating in a similar case competition?

Patrick: There are a few skills that rather need to be “acquired” than learned. Knowledge is useless if not applied correctly. When working on a case competition, you might find yourself in a totally new area where you don’t have any pre-existing knowledge. So, the first important step is to dive into the topic with an open mind and conduct data-driven research. In the next step, the data must be analyzed and understood — for example, have you considered what your recommendations mean? If you found that electric cars are the future, do you want to suggest your client buy Tesla or might it not be smarter to invest in a battery manufacturer? 

One thing that you can learn is how to create slides and present them. It is not important to flood the listener with graphs and numbers but to get your point across. Ask yourself: What do you suggest and why? If you can explain this in less than 3 sentences, your listener will be much more likely to understand and follow your reasoning.

What is one new thing that you found out about having a career in consulting?

Patrick: That you get insight on a more strategic level, compared to if you just manage a single product or project of a company. 

Simona: That it is okay when don’t know something — the more important is your attitude and willingness to learn.

Oleksandr: That if you have a well-educated and skilled team, you can manage any business task and find the best solution for it.

 

Congratulations to Simona, Patrick and Oleksandr!

 

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