Winning More Than Just Cases
Keith Olsen was looking for real-world experience when he arrived at BYU. This semester, Olsen found what he wanted by leading a team of five students in a case competition hosted by the Strategy Club. The team worked together for almost three hours a day to prepare a corporate strategy for LucidChart, a local software company.
Olsen and his team put all their preparation to the test as they presented their strategy before the CEO and VP of LucidChart. Competing against several other teams who were more experienced proved intimidating, but Olsen’s team left the stage with first place and a $1,000 check.
“Too often we just focus on our GPAs, but life isn’t found on a one-to-four scale, it’s found in experience,” Olsen says. “Being able to do a case—getting my hands dirty—that’s how I find experience and that’s where I find value in my life.”
Students like Olsen who participate in case competitions encounter actual problems that businesses have today and at the same time develop skills and networks that open doors to future careers.
But if students want to participate in these competitions, they better be ready for some intense collaboration. After forming teams of five students, club members spend more than twenty hours a week to develop a solution. Each team has two weeks until they stand before the company’s top executives to present their plan.
“It’s intense because you’re competing with students from all over the Marriott School who are ambitious and proactive,” says Cooper Brown, current Strategy Club president.
What drives their ambition to compete? Winners of the case competition can earn prize money and a trip to the company’s headquarters to present their proposal to executives. What’s more, because the cases are actual consulting projects for companies with tangible problems, students gain valuable experience to put on their résumés.
Rachel Durtschi is one of those ambitious strategy students taking advantage of the competitions. In her time at BYU she has already completed ten cases. Over the course of a two-week case, Durtschi spends much of her free time perfecting the final presentation to company executives.
Through it all, Durtschi has networked with people such as a vice president of Walmart, leading to an internship with the company last summer. She has also earned prize money and learned skills such as leadership and interviewing.
“I do case competitions because of how much I grow through them, the networking opportunities, a love for the work, and pure competitiveness,” Durtschi says. “When I do a case competition, my analysis and work actually goes towards making a change in the world.”