Alumni consultancy success

Successful performance requires motivation, skills, knowledge and enthusiasm. Connected by their high achievements in the A.T. Kearney Global Prize competition in different years, eight alumni from the RSM MBA Classes of 2010 and 2015 understand this all too well.

Story by Dorine Schreiner

Four of RSM’s newest MBA alumni – Giuseppe Puglisi (Italian), Daniel Cheddie (Canadian), Vibhor Sahay (Indian) and Harold Fotso (French and Cameroonian) from the International Fulltime MBA Class of 2015  – were challenged to tackle a real-life A.T. Kearney consulting case for a medical food company with products targeted at diabetics and which was looking for ways to grow its revenues – and won the competition’s European final in London.

MBA student teams from top universities worldwide developed business strategies during the annual competition organised by management consulting firm A.T. Kearney and which is now in its 19th year.

We were acting like real consultants,’ says Daniel. ‘You’re forced to think creatively, go through financial details and read between the lines. The intensity and global exposure really differentiates it from other competitions.’

As well as the experience of the adrenaline and nerves, the boost from winning the A.T. Kearney Global Prize competition is shared by alumni from the MBA Class of 2010 (pictured this page). Gagandeep Sethi (MBA’10) worked in the media industry before coming to RSM. ‘When starting the MBA, the first thing on my mind was consulting and, consequently, this competition,’ he says. He teamed up with classmates Lothar Vormittag (German) who had consulting experience, Sri Hari Krishnan (Indian) with a finance background, and Daniel Simion (Romanian) with an engineering background.

Fighting for solutions

By joining forces, the team maximised their combined skills and knowledge, and ultimately achieved global victory in the A.T. Kearney Global Prize 2008 in London, beating the best North American team. Their challenge was to develop an investment case for an imaginary wind power production company. ‘We attacked the consulting case with all our cultural and knowledge backgrounds. Diversity was our strength,’ says Gagandeep.

‘The competition gave me valuable feedback about dealing with different kinds of diversity, how to bring people together, and how to think of strategies and implementation,’ agrees Lothar. ‘We learned to make sense of all of our ideas, and that success is all about teamwork. We fought for the best solutions through our

strengths, by questioning how to do things, and by always being agile and flexible.’

For both, the competition was the starting point for their next career steps. Gagandeep says the experience led him into strategy consulting for Deloitte after the MBA. ‘Everything links into the next thing in your career,’ he says. ‘As an RSM alumnus I’m really proud that another RSM MBA team reached this far again. I benefitted from the experience of the competition, and hope to continue to learn and improve.’

The next generation

This open mind to a variety of cultural and industry backgrounds also played an enormous role in the 2014 competition when the team had to make decisions about growth strategies in new markets, acquisition strategies and internal R&D investments for the medical food company.

This new generation of MBAs was also exposed to the importance of diversity. ‘We needed to pull together a set of complementary skills to be successful in the case,’ says Daniel, who added that getting along well is also crucial. ‘From our first informal discussion to the final presentation in London, we balanced hard work with being able to have a laugh to decompress.’

Giuseppe also believes the team’s outside-of-the-box perspectives and the incorporation of business risk into the solution contributed to their victory. ‘We often think executives avoid risk, but in reality they’re open to it if there’s a strong rationale behind it,’ he says. Giuseppe said that using a storytelling approach also differentiated the RSM team from others with a more analytical approach.

Snowball effect

Encouraged by the team’s triumph in his first foray into a real consulting engagement,

Daniel recently became a senior consultant at Deloitte in London. He said the competition opened his eyes to how big the world really is. ‘It was a great confidence

booster,’ he says. ‘I enjoyed the sweat and tears. The more I worked, the more I wanted to work.’

Like Gagandeep, Daniel says that, thanks to the competition, he is not afraid

to take on new challenges and move out of his comfort zone. ‘I feel inspired by my own success. It’s like a snowball effect: letting one thing build into another.

Throughout both editions of the competition, both teams learned that diversity,

hard work and confidence play a key role in the path to success. Gagandeep says: ‘RSM and the competition taught me to respect and value the power of different

points of view from people from different backgrounds. Every day, I see the strength of diversity in solving business problems.’

This article first appeared in the Summer 2015 issue of RSM Outlook.

RSM Outlook , 2015 Summer RSM Outlook