Student Blogs

Zoelle Mallenbaum, Two-year MBA ’18

Jan 02 2017

Leadership Lessons Helped Us Win Deloitte’s National Case Competition

Zoelle Mallenbaum, Two-year MBA ’18

Since arriving at Johnson in August 2016, we’ve been learning a lot about teamwork. Applying these lessons helped us take first place out of 107 MBA teams nationwide in the Deloitte Technology & Innovation Case Competition.

When we entered the competition as team iJohnson, Daryl Lwin, Kartheek Kondapalli, Mark DesMeules, and I had never met before. We’d minimally observed each other in class, enough to become aware of various skillsets.

When we met for the first time, we aligned on one single goal: to win. We went over time commitments and pre-existing obligations (I flew to the west coast for a wedding during the competition), and created a timeline, which included every detail big and small—from a three-hour brainstorm session to recording the final voice-over. We assigned tasks for each member to complete prior to every meeting. For example, before the brainstorming meeting, one person read relevant 10-Ks and another researched technology trends.

We faced an additional obstacle with an unfamiliar case topic: How to help a major healthcare provider incorporate technology into sustainability initiatives. With little experience in healthcare, we felt a disadvantage. However, we internalized this obstacle through incorporating “becoming familiar with all things healthcare” into our project timeline – after all, if our goal was to win, we couldn’t let an unknown topic throw us off!

Ultimately, after two weeks of hard work—in the midst of midterm exams—we proudly submitted our video (check it out here)! After three rounds of judging, including a Q&A presentation, we were selected as the first place winners among 107 submissions from 346 participants across 14 MBA programs, nationwide.

We are proud of our work and have drinks at the Statler on the calendar in January to celebrate. However, we’re most proud that we took home a victory for Johnson. We feel that Johnson empowered us to work as an effective team and that this victory culminates Johnson’s leadership lessons.

As part of Johnson’s curriculum, every MBA joins a core team, which is a diverse group of MBAs. Teams range in diverse backgrounds, religions, skillsets, political views, work styles, and more. Back in August, our first core team assignment was to align on a “contract,” or a set of goals and rules. In this competition, we applied the same initial alignment process. This alignment was crucial, as whenever we experienced challenges, or someone felt we were taking an easy way out (like making a PowerPoint instead of a video), we reminded each other of our day-one goal: to win. This kept our work congruent with our high-level strategy.

TeamJohnson also taught us to prepare for efficient meetings. Because we had a strict timeline and many time constraints, we kept our meetings productive. We focused only on our tasks at hand during the meeting and were all fully engaged in our roles.

Finally, at Johnson, we learned that strong teams have synergy—where the team comes together to produce more than each individual member could on his/her own. We are proud to experience that first-hand here!

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