Guest post by Matthew Grady T’13
Thursday, March 8, 2012. Having endured the manual replacement of an essential cabin-pressure valve on my Delta jet (and the accompanying 90-minute flight delay), I now find myself hurtling rapidly toward Mexico City some 35,000 feet above the Rio Grande. Waiting for me when I arrive will be a representative of IPADE Business School, who will transport me to my hotel in Polanco – the upscale Mexico City neighborhood whose streets are named after famous authors – where I will rest up before the weekend’s festivities begin tomorrow.
What a fantastic opportunity I have to take part in the IPADE Global Case Competition this weekend. As one of two representatives from Tuck, I will be placed on a case team with four other event participants representing business schools from around the world. Together, we will analyze and present our solutions to a real-world, global business problem to a panel of consulting-firm partners. This is a unique chance to refine not only my problem-solving skills, but also my ability to work cross culturally as part of a high-powered, international team. I wonder whether I’ll be matched with someone from Argentina’s IAE Business School, or maybe a representative from CEIBS in Shanghai, Telfer in Canada, Darden in the U.S., or IPADE – our host institution – in Mexico.
With technology rendering our world more compact and interconnected every day, and with globalization expected to impact our careers dramatically, the IPADE Global Case Competition provides a glimpse of our professional futures pulled forward into the present. Tuckies graduating in a global age will encounter the type of situation I’ll experience this weekend routinely in their careers – working in a non-US city on a non-US-centric problem in the context of an international team of top talent from all parts of the world. Gone are the days of being both parochial and successful in business. Cultivating a global mindset through global experiences is truly essential in today’s world. And this weekend will be great preparation for that.
Sunday, March 11, 2012. And what a great experience it was! Frankly, I am not sure where to begin in terms of recapping my experience: the campus was beautiful, the participants were smart and motivated, and the case provided was broad enough to be taken in a number of different directions. Our diverse team quickly realized that the case left significant room for creativity while simultaneously requiring our thoughtful and disciplined prioritization of recommendations based on rigorous analysis of the data provided.
My team was comprised of five members – three Mexicans, one Norwegian, and one American (me) (pictured above). My Mexican teammates represented both of IPADE’s campuses in Monterrey and Mexico City, and my Norwegian teammate hailed from UVA’s Darden School of Business. The team was also professionally diverse, with backgrounds ranging from banking and IT operations to consulting and business development.
The case problem required us to identify short- and long-term solutions for improving a struggling online retailer’s operating model. After comprehensively evaluating the drivers of both time- and cost-efficiency across the multiple stages of the company’s supply chain, we developed 7 key initiatives to help turn the company around. Though described relatively simply after the fact, the company’s problems were complex and we, like most of the other teams in the competition, did not complete our slide presentation for the judges until 3am on the morning it was due.
After leading off as the first formal presentation at 8:30am the next morning, we waited through the morning and early afternoon until the 2pm awards ceremony, where we would learn our fate. But our fate was good, as we were named the second place finishers out of nine teams competing! We were very proud, and I was even prouder of my Tuck colleague Megh Umekar, whose team claimed the first prize! All in all, a great case competition experience and an excellent one-two finish for Tuck!
After celebrating the conclusion of the event with champagne in one of IPADE’s several attractive reception areas (which was then followed by a lengthy nap to help recuperate from the late night of case prep the night before), many of the competition participants embarked on a cultural tour of Mexico City led by one of IPADE’s second-year students. We visited the Museum of Fine Arts and “El Zocalo” (the main square in the center of Mexico’s historic district), and had the opportunity to sample some excellent Mexican cuisine! Finally, after a mixer with IPADE students at a popular city bar, our new IPADE friends took us out for a great night of dancing at one of Mexico’s top clubs.
In sum, the IPADE Global Case Competition was a terrific experience for me both professionally and culturally! I would recommend it to any Tuckie looking to sharpen consulting skills and to build global credentials.