Saturday, June 13, 2009

StarHub-NUS Asian IT Case Competition

Note: Guan Dian and mates won the StarHub-NUS Asian IT Case Competition in March. Below is his personal account of the event:

At SoC, we do not have much exposure to case competitions as most business students do. Whenever I came across a case competition poster on campus, being it sponsored by Loreal or City Bank, I automatically filtered it out while thinking “It’s for those business students again.” And I am sure I was not alone in that thought. =)

So it was quite a surprise for me to see 16 participating teams sign up for Starhub IT Business Case Competition. What’s more, majority of the participants are “native” SoC students! Apparently, the “IT” in the title removed quite some psychological barriers.

All of my teammates including myself are from SoC too. We have known each other for quite some time but it was the first time we worked together. When we signed up, we said to ourselves that we would have fun, and we would be willing to take an unconventional approach when we started working on the case instead of following the more standard practice taught in the business school. The name “Freedom” we signed up under was later creatively used for our tagline design.

It was a 48-hr competition. But unfortunately, two of us in the team caught a cold and coughed badly. So we decided to take it easy for the first day and work hard for day 2.

It was pretty intense 24 hours. We started off with brainstorming. Many ideas were brought about, discussed on, and most were thrown away. While generating random ideas, we also tried to come out with a structure for the whole presentation. Refusing to follow the conventional “problem – analysis – solution” approach, we finally agreed on an organization that started off with a passionate sales pitch, followed by creative and practical recommendations that were backed up with personal experiences close to the customers’ heart, and completed with financial and risk analysis.

The schedule was so tight. We did not get the chance to run through the presentation for even once before we called it a day (It was around midnight). I went back home and spent another 3-4 hours working out financial analysis and doing final touch on the PowerPoint slides. At 4am in the morning, all of our IM and inboxes were still highly active…

After 3 hours of sleep, there we were, a little unprepared, waiting for our turn to present. I was a bit worried initially, but later definitely inspired by my first teammate’s “sales pitch”. We became more and more excited as we went along. When we got to the final round, we were all fully awake and ready to go. The room was filled with audience. The judges were sitting just 1 meter away from where we stood. But the overall atmosphere was friendly and encouraging, with laughter coming from the audience from time to time when we threw out “crazy ideas”.

I think we did better than the first round, presented ourselves more clearly and handled Q&A more confidently. At the end of other teams’ presentations, we were whispering to each other and guessing our chance of winning. =) When the judge panel came back with the results, the room became quiet. All of us were eager to know the winner, but I knew I would not be disappointed if we did not win, because I already realized my goal which was to do my best ad enjoy the whole process. Nevertheless, we were all thrilled when the lead judge announced we were the winner. It felt good to be congratulated by everybody else. The hard work on the previous night seemed to be totally worthwhile. =)

Although it was the first time IS department organizes such case competition, I have to say it was very professionally ran. From the website design to the logistics on the competition day, everything seemed to be in good control. The judge panel was very experienced and their comments and advices were highly beneficial. Most importantly, the three of us had great fun, as we promised ourselves when we first signed up for the competition.

- Guan Dian

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