Shaping tomorrow’s business leaders
We live in a big world. However, globalisation has made it seem smaller and students are increasingly exposed to opportunities to develop leadership skills that will prepare them to face new challenges that emerge from today’s business world.
Commerce students from the University of Melbourne’s Faculty of Business and Economics took their degree to new heights as a team of four journeyed to Montreal, Canada to compete in the McGill Management International Case Competition this year. The team’s hard work and four-month intense training paid off, as they placed first ahead of 11 universities around the world such as the University of Belgrade and McGill University.
Founded in 2001 and known as the “world’s friendliest case competition”, the McGill Management International Case Competition is a global undergraduate competition with a focus on globalisation, innovation and multi-disciplinary thinking. Having hosted universities from over 20 countries to date, the competition is a great platform for building networks with students from other schools.
In the annual competition twelve teams consisting of four students each compete, and students are given a case where they are challenged with a business problem. Each team is then given 24 hours to come up with a strategy and present its findings to a panel of judges from various businesses and fields of expertise in Montreal, such as banking, insurance, retailing and accounting.
“It was a stressful 24 hours,” says participant Nicholas McKinnon. “We started at 9am and at midnight found our strategy to be not sound, but we worked together to reshape it. We were also worried about getting behind the timeline as we needed to research and understand the product first.”
The competition also takes participants out of their comfort zones, placing them in front of a large, open-to-the-public audience.
“We’ve competed on the world stage and we’ve beaten them,” said Professor Simon Bell, who advised the students throughout what was an extremely competitive and tough competition. Professor Bell highlighted that exposing students to such challenges allows them to apply what they have learned in the classroom to a simulated real-world setting.
“You’ve got a genuine problem, you’re presenting your ideas and giving advice, and that is as close to the real world as you can possibly get,” he says.
Participants Saranee De Silva and Nicholas MacKinnon said that working on real cases allowed them to gain a broader business perspective, as the team’s challenge during the competition was to develop a costing and pricing model for Christie Digital Systems, a global visual technologies company.
“You gain a more philosophic understand of how businesses function, and as we needed to spend a lot of time understanding the products, we were able to learn about a new industry,” Ms De Silva says.
“It all comes back to looking at the practical side of what we’re taught. I can get an inkling of what I am learning in the subject of finance, for example, and apply it to the real world,” Mr MacKinnon added.
Mr MacKinnon first heard about the opportunity while he was enrolled in the Global Consulting Project subject, which was his first real exposure to consulting.
“As the business world becomes more globalised and sensitive to global trends, changes and influences,” says Professor Bell. “It desensitises students to those realities. Here, you’ve got Australian students analysing the problem of a Canadian tech firm, which is a great confluence of those international issues and factors that create a great learning experience.”
For Ms De Silva, however, this is not her first taste of the consulting world.
“I had my first exposure to consulting when I was involved with Students in Free Enterprise (SIFE), where I was Project Manager of Switched on Enterprises,” she says.
“We’re a younger generation and we come with fresh ideas. When people are looking for new ideas you don’t necessarily need experience to provide them.”