January 31, 2008

By Roey Gilberg

On Thursday evening, you get your assignment then have until 8:00 am Saturday morning to put together a presentation that will ultimately be picked apart by a discerning panel of professionals-turned-judges.  It sounds stressful -- and it is -- but it's just another experience in the high-pressure life of a UCLA Anderson student.

This scenario is exactly what happened on Saturday, January 12, as 22 teams competed in the 15th annual Deloitte Consulting Case Competition.  This year's competition had a special twist, as two UCLA Anderson alums, Martin Burns ('07) and Sree Duggineni ('07), who both now work for Deloitte were involved in planning the competition.  Furthermore, both were members of The Case Wizards, the team that won the competition two years ago -- highlighting the competition's dual function as both an educational experience and a recruiting event.

This year's case revolved around Under Armour, Inc., the performance athletic apparel company. Teams consisting of four to five UCLA Anderson students were asked to come up with recommendations as to how UA could continue to maintain top-line growth and expand profits in the face of growing pessimism from the investment community.

In the preliminary round, teams were given 20 minutes to present, followed by a 10 minute period during which they had to defend their recommendations against the questions of the judges.  The 22 teams were then whittled down to five finalists, who then presented again, following the same format, in front of a larger group of judges.

By the time it was all said and done late Saturday afternoon, the austerely named Team D had emerged as the victors.  "It was a little surprising actually," said team captain Zoe Tanaka (’09).  "We had no idea what the other groups were presenting, so it was really exciting when the results were announced."

Case competitions require students to utilize myriad different skills.  Resourcefulness, public speaking, quick thinking during the question-and-answer sessions, and the ability to be both creative and analytical were just some of the attributes that competitors had to call upon.  According to Tanaka, the key to Team D’s victory was teamwork.

"In any situation like this, you need to make sure it’s a complete group effort.  What helped us win was that everyone contributed in a meaningful way," she said.

Judges were impressed with teams that had well-organized conceptual frameworks and also made sure to be realistic and thorough in analyzing the costs and outcomes of their recommendations.  On the other hand, teams that seemed to trivialize or altogether neglect the difficulties, both financial and logistic, of launching new operations drew the judges’ skepticism.

Professor Hans Schollhammer, who judged both the preliminary and final rounds, admitted that it was a very close competition.  "All the teams did a very credible job given the time constraints," he said. He noted that because the proposals made by all the teams were by and large quite similar, in his mind it was their level of detail that set Team D apart.  Tanaka echoed this sentiment.

"We went through our due diligence and were thorough in exploring all possible options," she said.

However, given that many teams pulled all-nighters before the day of the presentations, she also offered another possibility as to why Team D might have had an edge. "We actually slept a little," she offered.  "Maybe that extra stamina helped us stay on our toes."

Team D Members
Zoe Tanaka (’09)
Joshua Horwitz (’09)
Manuel Espirito Santo (’09)
Andres Giraldo Torres (’09)
Philip Irvine (’09)

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