An Introduction to Case Competitions: Part One

Business
Technology

Case Competitions 

by Verdi Diroy

16/06/2021

If you’ve been around university for even a short period of time, you’ll have most likely stumbled across a case competition. Whether it be from a post on social media or just hearing someone talking about it, case competitions are everywhere! It’s easy to get overwhelmed or intimidated by the thought of it, but remember that case competitions can take many forms and cater to an array of different students. This article will explore the various types of competitions hosted by companies and societies. We’ll look at what a case competition actually is and provide insight into how they operate, how to get involved, and the benefits they provide. For this article the focus will be on hackathons, investment banking, and management consulting case competitions. 


Hackathons

For those of you who are interested in coding, programming, UI/UX design and anything related to the world of tech, a hackathon might be the perfect competition for you! It’s easy to get intimidated by the terminology of “hacking”, but the main element of a hackathon, like all case competitions, is problem-solving. As an example, a hackathon might be focused on devising a particular solution to address a range of issues – health technology, pedestrian safety, security or even consumer retail. Just like the problem at hand, the solutions to the issue presented in a hackathon are broad. Your team may want to devise an app solution or a specific code that analyses a set of data – the avenues teams can take to construct a solution are limitless. Remember that you don’t need to be a master programmer or genius software engineer to get involved. Teams of 3-4 are often constructed with a range of skill sets that allows for many students to add value to a team.


If you’re looking to get involved in a hackathon for your first time and need some advice from someone experienced, UNSW Student Clarissa Onie has you covered!


How did your involvement with hackathons begin? 

I was pretty lucky in how I was exposed to hackathons. In 1st year, I planned and ran the CSESoc Hackathon alongside my President, and was amazed at what people could build in such a short period of time. It seemed like an incredible way to develop genuinely applicable skills (and the short time commitment was also pretty appealing). In 2020, I placed in the WIT x Google Hackathon, the CSESoc Annual Hackathon, and the Deloitte Hackathon. 


What advice would you give to someone looking to get involved?

As cliché as it sounds, my biggest piece of advice would be to grab some mates (or join solo and meet people!), join the hackathon, and keep a mind open and flexible to learning. The first hackathon is always the most intimidating, but if you stick to it, it’s insane how much you can push yourselves to learn new skills and pull something together. A huge advantage of hacks is that regardless of how you perform, you’ll always come out of it with some upskilling, a project, and some quality 4am crisis bonding with your team.”

Investment Banking Competition

Investment banking competitions present students with a real or hypothetical company. Teams will be required to present a strategy to management of this company detailing a plan that addresses what is stated in the problem statement. For example, Company XYZ requires advisory on what they should do to create value for their shareholders. Your team has the option of advising the company to undertake a particular corporate action ranging from a strategic acquisition, joint venture, dividend recapitalisation or any other avenue you deem appropriate. Investment banking competitions are a fantastic way for students to get hands-on experience on an investment banking project. This is especially the case for first years or even second years as investment banking roles demand a strong degree of professional experience and elaborate university knowledge. 


Looking through previous investment banking case competitions is a great way to get started. Previous case briefs run in association with some of the big-name investment banks provide great insight into exactly what students are tasked with. Not only will this expand your knowledge of what an investment banking case competition entails, but it can also be used in interview scenarios to show your interest in the investment banking field or a particular investment bank! 


Examples you can have a look at include: 


Management Consulting Competition

Management consulting case competitions will put you and your team in the shoes of a management consultant. Companies look to management consultants in order to obtain strategic advice to improve operational and financial aspects of the company. A key skill of any management consultant is to work within thinly defined project scopes with masses of information and to translate that chaos into a structured way to approach a problem. It is important to note that there’s an emphasis on creating innovative solutions which are grounded in thorough research and strategic thinking. 


Varun Amin, our very own Vice President of Operations, has got you covered with his insightful experience with management consulting. 


Are there any particular skills that students can work on to ensure success in this type of competition? 

  • Presentation Skills: Public speaking and pitching is a key part of any case competition
  • Analytical Skills: You must break down the case problem and identify the key pain points your team needs to focus on
  • Research Skills: Part of creating a compelling argument is backing it up with the right research
  • Creativity: This can be applied to almost anything from strategy to slide design 


What are some general tips and advice you would give students for management consulting?

UNSW has a vibrant case culture, with many societies such as UNSW Microfinance Consulting Group (UMCG), 180 Degrees Consulting (180DC), UNSW Consulting Club (UCC) and BusinessOne Consulting (B1) providing workshops and programs to develop yourself. Make the most of these opportunities by learning from experienced mentors and developing yourself. The most valuable resource is time and practice, with a range of case competitions hosted by UNSW student societies and Industry firms, you’re almost always bound to find a competition by searching on Facebook.

Don’t worry about failure, lean into the learning process and take it in your stride. Learn what your strengths and weaknesses are and take opportunities to build on your skills. Ask for feedback from judges, mentors, anyone you’ve presented to. Remember to have fun at the end of the day, some of my most memorable experiences at university have been doing case competitions and making memories with my teammates. 


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