Dublin High School Alum and Georgetown Senior Ina Deljkic on the Copenhagen Business School Case Competition
Two years ago Dublin High School Class of 2012 graduate and Georgetown University senior Ina Deljkic shared her experiences at the midpoint of her college journey (read more…). With her senior year almost finished, and a full-time job already lined up after graduation, we spoke with Ina about the unique opportunity she had recently to compete with business school students from around the world at the annual Copenhagen Business School Case Competition held in Denmark.
OneDublin.org: Before we talk about the Copenhagen Business School Case Competition, for those who haven’t experienced business school what is a case study?
Ina Deljkic: “A case study involves giving students background information and documents about a real company that is facing a problem, for example in their current market or a new market they want to enter, and then challenging the students to find a solution to that problem. Case studies usually involve students dissecting the material they’ve been given, building a financial model, developing recommendations and then presenting back to the case company. What I just described is exactly what we did at the Copenhagen Business School Case Competition.”
OneDublin.org: How are case teams constructed and organized?
Deljkic: “For the Copenhagen competition we applied individually and then we were put together into a team. I believe we were purposefully chosen to be pretty diverse, covering almost all of the majors covered at Georgetown. When we received our case, which was about a customer satisfaction issue at a Danish telecommunications provider, we were able to look at it from a financial as well as from a marketing perspective.
“Two members of our team were more qualitative, and were focused on mapping the customer journey, whereas myself and my partner were more quantitative, and focused on building models to represent the actions we were recommending. When we were looking at the current market we were able to give substantive quantitative information to the company which I believe helped us support our analysis of the case. I believe that combination of skills on our team made our response to the case stronger.”
OneDublin.org: How much time do you have to work on the case and how do you make the best use of the limited time you are given?
Deljkic: “We received the case on a Wednesday morning and then had 36 hours to complete the case. We had completed a ‘Monday’ case earlier in the week, which involved two members of each team being randomly paired with two other students from another school, and then working on a case. For that part of the event we worked with a pair of students from Rotterdam Business School in The Netherlands and were only given four hours to analyze the case. The ‘Monday’ case results seeded us in the groups and for the main case we were with our Georgetown team again.
“For the main case we worked non-stop, rotating sleeping, so someone was always working on the case. That was an experience! People brought in sleeping bags and pillows, taking quick naps when they needed to. You know in this competition that you are competing against top universities and you don’t want to end up not doing your best because of poor time management.
“Our team had worked together throughout the year so we knew how each of us worked, which of us could last longer into the evening and who needed extra sleep. We were very flexible with pairing off and ensuring no one was working alone.
“The practice cases we worked on throughout the year helped ensure that we didn’t run out of time. Some of the cases we worked on were actual cases from earlier years of the Copenhagen competition, and we analyzed those cases with the same time constraints so we knew how long each step should take: how long it would take to dissect and analyze the problem, how long to develop recommendations and build supporting materials, and how long to create a well-organized and aesthetically pleasing PowerPoint presentation.
“We also came into the competition with templates, for example we had a financial model for a marketing case and a model for a merger; we had materials to help ensure we wouldn’t be starting from scratch. We also had templates for different PowerPoint presentations to save us time. Because Scandinavia only has so many companies that would be likely candidates for CBS, and large enough to be well-known, we tried to be prepared for possible case scenarios. And while we predicted the company incorrectly, preparing the templates in advance really helped.
“The case we received ended up being five times longer and more complex than any of the cases from earlier years, which was a challenge we had to overcome. We benefited from having a member on our team who was very good at keeping us on time – she was an effective leader in part because she does case competitions all the time.”
OneDublin.org: What did you learn about high stakes presentations from this competition, where you only have one shot to get it right?
Deljkic: “For the presentation there are seven executives from consulting firms, primarily from Bain and Deloitte, as well as representatives from the company profiled in the case. We knew we’d be in front of executives that know the company and the case intimately. We were presented with a few friendly faces, and faces that were much more serious, and while we were confident in our presentation skills because of how much we’d practiced, it is incredibly important that you have a solid story. You can’t just present in disconnected blocks: ‘here is an analysis of the industry’ and now ‘here is an analysis of your company’. You need to tell a story, and explain why you are sharing data or analysis, and how that connects to the change you are recommending to the company.
“When we practiced the presentation we were one minute over the 15 minute time limit, but in the high pressure of the actual presentation we ended 30 seconds early. The Q&A is the most challenging part. The panel doesn’t ask questions about the case itself, they already know way more about the case that we do, but rather they ask questions about the broader context of the case. You may have a recommendation that is not practical, for example, because it could cannibalize sales of another product. You not only need to understand the case but as much about the company as possible.
“When we received feedback on our presentation just before the decisions came out, one of the judges told us he was going to send us a bottle of wine for our idea because he was going to pitch it to the CEO! Hearing that was remarkable despite our team not winning the overall competition.”
OneDublin.org: Did you get a chance to watch presentations from other schools?
Deljkic: “The initial round is one-on-one. Each team has a faculty advisor who trains you throughout the year. Our advisor saw our presentation, and the presentations from other schools, but there are rules – she couldn’t talk to us from the beginning of the case competition until the winner was announced. We did get to watch the finals -the audience includes competitors from an open case competition in Scandinavia, more representatives from the case company and students from the other schools in the case competition. The top three teams present in front of the judges and a packed auditorium, and the judges collectively choose a winner from this final round. The university that won our group was from Singapore and they ended up winning the overall competition.”
OneDublin.org: “What was it like being with business students from around the world in Copenhagen?”
Deljkic: “That was the most exciting part of being there outside of competing on the case, getting to meet people from everywhere. We are all the same age, wanting to do similar things – tied to solving business problems – yet we all come from completely different places. It’s nice to be able to expand your network with people who are at the same point in their career as you are. And then there are small world encounters – I met a student from the Berkeley team who is from the Tri-Valley (Monte Vista High School).
“You also get to meet the people who organize the case competition, which is completely student-run and impressive given the scope of the event. Even the case is written by students from Copenhagen Business School. Writing a good case means really understanding the case company and coming up with a problem that is both challenging but ultimately solvable. A good case should be difficult – not impossible – and have just the right number of clues.
“There are dinners where you get to meet other students and professional. I sat next to someone in healthcare investment banking which is the field I’ll being working in after graduating this spring. Getting to talk to someone in the same field but focused on the Danish market was very interesting.
It was an amazing experience overall and having studied abroad in Denmark earlier in my college experience, it was great to be back in Copenhagen!”