Case competitions are like inter-school sports for business schools and offer a great opportunity for a student in any graduate program at Carey.
Earlier this month, our team of four Global MBA students traveled to Raleigh, North Carolina to compete against 11 other teams of business students from across the United States, as well as Prague and Singapore, in the third annual NC State Grand Business Challenge, sponsored by Merck. Our team won the 1st place prize of $16,000, judged by representatives from Merck, the National Security Agency (NSA), and cybersecurity consultants.
Most case competitions have a business challenge at their core, and this competition was no different. The cybersecurity team at Merck asked students to imagine themselves as the CEO of a large pharmaceutical company, working with a team of senior leaders to set the cybersecurity strategy for the firm following a cyber attack. Teams were challenged to understand the landscape of emerging cybersecurity threats, decide what percentage of the overall budget to devote to cybersecurity, identify how to allocate the cybersecurity budget to specific IT activities, and suggest innovative partnerships to keep costs under control.
At this point it’s worth noting that our team—Priya Arunachalam, Abhinav Chintakunta, Benjamin Schneider, and Paul Simpkins—had no prior experience in cybersecurity. A key focus for this case competition was educating future business leaders about cybersecurity with an emphasis on how to make a business case for cybersecurity. It was important not only to talk about emerging cybersecurity threats, but to align cybersecurity with the overall business strategy.
Based on our experience, we’ve listed four pieces of advice for Carey students interested in case competitions:
- Diversity in teams is good: One of the core ideas that helped our team stand out from others came from the auto insurance industry, where Paul had previous experience. At first glance, that might seem like an odd background to have for a pharmaceutical cybersecurity competition, but it gave us a great idea for an industry partnership to keep costs low and make cyber insurance premiums more accurate.
- Practice makes perfect: For three of us, this was our second time at the Grand Business Challenge. In the first year, we did not make it to finals and this year, we won. None of us did well our first competition, but it was a good learning experience to see what top teams from other business schools look like when they make a business case.
- Entertain out of the box ideas: Echoing the diversity point above, you need to stand out from other teams to win. One question in the case was who we would select to join the team that would craft the strategy. We considered a number of options and were tempted to pick the head of R+D, but we challenged ourselves to come up with other ideas and settled on the Chief Procurement Officer. The extra effort paid off when the Chief Information Security Officer of Merck complimented our explanation and said that it had made him think about new ideas for whom to engage in his own process.
- Don’t wait: You have to start going to case competitions in order to get better and win. Case competitions are a great way to exercise your business school skills, get great feedback from judges with significant industry experience, and strengthen the reputation of Carey.
Editor’s Note: Participating in a business-related case competition is one of the best ways to develop critical business and presentation skills, gain practical real-work industry experience, and network with experts and potential employers. The Carey Student Ventures Office can help you build an interdisciplinary team, match your team with faculty content or presentation coaches, and provide financial support for travel or lodging. To find out more about upcoming case competitions, email Student Ventures at email@example.com or visit the Case Competitions B-involved page here.