Challenges excite me. They push me beyond my comfort zone so that I’m able to realize what I’m truly capable of. They allow me to grow and stretch with lessons learned along the way. Making way for growth means saying yes to opportunities, including the ones that seem daunting at first. My latest challenge was completing a case competition in 24 hours. With a big yes, I registered and never looked back.
As schedules began to pile up with exams, I received a confirmation email stating that I was selected as one of two students to represent Maryland Smith at the 6th Annual PepsiCo MBA Invitational Business Case Competition, hosted by the TCU Neeley MBA Program. I leaped for joy and then later realized that I had a week full of midterms, presentations and finals before and after the competition. “That’s OK, we’ll take it one day at a time,” I said to myself.
Case competitions can be a bit intimidating at times and also thrilling and exciting. It’s a lot of work in addition to the current course load, so a 24-hour case competition seemed like a sweet compromise. Although held in-person in previous years, this year, it would take place virtually. Days leading up to the case competition were filled with studying for exams, as well as email correspondences of instructions, paperwork, and a TCU/PepsiCo gift box, including fun swag and blueberry bubly. I attended orientation the night before on Zoom where opening remarks were made, executives from PepsiCo spoke to us, and finally, teams were announced. My team of four consisted of students (including me) from Smith, Neeley, Fuqua and Wharton. Other business schools participating in the competition included Anderson, Harvard, Simon, Johnson, Ross, Owen, Flagler, Stern, Cox, Jones, and Yale.
It was 10:30 a.m. on the day of the case competition and I was in the middle of my accounting final when the case was released via email. An hour and a half later, I joined my team and was briefed on our strategy of solving a business challenge that PepsiCo presented to us. My mind quickly shifted from accounting to marketing as we laid out the 5 C’s, STP, and the 4P’s (customer, context, competition, collaborators, company, segment, target, position, product, price, place, and promotion) of the brand. With my Term B marketing class beginning in three days, I was granted a preview of what was in store through a real-life business problem. Relying on past experiences and intuition, I leaped into our market research alongside my teammates.
With one hour left to go to submit our presentation, all hands were on deck as we put together our presentation, making sure our story was cohesive with financial analysis and data to support our recommendation. We let out a sigh of relief as we submitted our powerpoint presentation that evening. Together, we managed to pull off the most challenging part yet in just nine hours, while some of us had class, an interview, and a final exam at different times throughout that Friday.
The following morning, we were divided into different rooms, and our team presented our findings on Zoom to the judges that afternoon. Soon after, finalists were announced and I was elated to hear that we made it to the final round. We presented our recommedations again to a new set of judges and about an hour later, the winners were announced. Our team came in second place! Joy, excitement, fatigue; feeling all the feels in that moment, I reminded myself that saying yes was worth it. The entire experience of rising to the challenge, stretching myself, and diving headfirst into the case competition was worth the pressure and lessons learned along the way. I felt more confident contributing to a team that I had just met, explored my strengths, areas for improvement, and improved my presentation skills. Even more importantly, I felt the fear and did it anyway.
I am grateful for my team, for the experience, for my peers and loved ones that continue to encourage and support me. Getting an MBA is no walk in the park, but it’s certainly worth the journey.
–By Frances Ampah. Ampah is a 2022 MBA Candidate, Forté Fellow, and a Smith Fellow. Ampah was born and raised in Accra, Ghana, lived in Virginia, and worked for four years as a film producer and content creator in Los Angeles before coming to Maryland Smith.