Competing in an MBA case competition is a great way for students to hone their problem solving and teamwork skills, practice working to tight deadlines, and put their growing business acumen to use.
In a competitive environment, students are also motivated to put their best foot forward in a bid to claim the prize—which is often cash.
For Stéphane Larin, though, organizing a case competition was just as valuable as competing.
In the second year of his MBA at Concordia University’s John Molson School of Business, he seized the chance to get involved with the annual International Case Competition (ICC).
Every year, teams from business schools around the world gather in Montreal to competitively tackle real-world business issues within a strict time limit. With 19 sponsors and 200 competitors, the event is one of the largest in the world.
Helping to organize the competition has made Stéphane a better leader, and equipped him with a stronger network than ever, he says.
Building roots in Canada
Although Stéphane is a Montreal native, he began his career in London, working on the sales team of a couple of IT companies.
“When I came home, I felt like I needed to rebuild my network in Montreal,” he explains.
Business school offered Stéphane the chance to build a reliable network, along with the skills he’d need to accelerate into leadership roles.
Having completed his undergraduate degree at John Molson, he was happy to return. The experiential learning on offer sealed the deal, and the ICC turned out to be an important opportunity for developing vital leadership skills.
Stéphane first learned about the ICC at the start of his MBA, as current students came to speak about extracurricular opportunities. The student who explained the ICC really stood out for their confidence and public speaking abilities.
“I later started a conversation with this person, and realized the ICC could be an interesting opportunity,” he recalls.
After 10 days volunteering at the 2019 competition, he was hooked. He applied to be an organizer in 2020, and successfully landed a position on the team, working with four other organizers (below), and an advisory board of 14 local executives.
The power of persuasion
One leadership skill that Stéphane developed through organizing the ICC was persuasive speaking.
“My job was sponsorship organizer,” he explains. “I sold the value of sponsoring the ICC to businesses around the Montreal community.”
He quickly discovered that companies sponsor the ICC with two main goals: building brand awareness, and recruiting students. He used this knowledge to find potential sponsors, and convey the value of the competition.
In the end, Stéphane was able to secure 19 sponsors, including international players from EY to the Royal Bank of Canada.
Team-based problem solving
Throughout the organizational process, Stéphane developed the problem solving abilities he believes are the hallmark of a good leader.
“Organizing the ICC is essentially training to become more like an executive,” he adds. “I think the organizers really go through an incredible transformation.”
As the planning process unfolded, issues constantly cropped up. “You’re constantly putting out fires,” he explains, “that’s where all the value is.”
One particular issue Stéphane recalls was ensuring that every organizer was on the same page. With everyone so busy, it would be easy to slip into “silos”, rather than working as a true team.
Keeping communication open, and overcoming this challenge, has made Stéphane and his peers better team players, he says.
By organizing the ICC, Stéphane feels that he and his team have also developed their confidence. At the start of the process, presenting to the advisory board felt intimidating, but now he’s on good terms with each member.
In January 2020, the competition went ahead successfully. Addressing the opening-day crowd of 300 people without experiencing stage fright, Stéphane could tell just how far his public speaking skills had developed in the last few months.
This improved confidence has helped Stéphane to hone his networking skills, too.
“I’ve networked with quite a few sponsors of the ICC, and I plan on leveraging that network to find jobs,” he notes.
While volunteering at the 2019 ICC, Stéphane made his first important connection. A conversation with Montreal-based startup, SuccessFinder, soon evolved into an internship.
SuccessFinder is a human resources tech company, which uses innovative psychometric testing to match professionals to their ideal roles.
Whether with SuccessFinder or another organization, Stéphane believes his experience as an ICC organizer stands him in good stead for finding a position when he graduates.
“I’ll probably remain in customer-facing roles, but I want to be more involved on the strategy side,” he says.
Stéphane is confident that the persuasive, problem-solving, and teamwork skills he gained through organizing the ICC have left him well-equipped for the challenges of a post-MBA career.
Concordia University: John Molson School of Business
My time at Concordia College has been set apart by huge self-awareness. The steady instructors and staff have assisted me with fostering my abilities and information. The college offers a scope of administrations and extracurricular exercises, giving various open doors to understudies to reach out. In general, my involvement with Concordia has been positive and improving.
"My time at Concordia University has been marked by significant personal growth. The supportive teachers and staff have helped me to develop my skills and knowledge. The university offers a range of services and extracurricular activities, providing numerous opportunities for students to get involved. Overall, my experience at Concordia has been positive and enriching.
Communications and Culture Studies
I am currently enrolled in my first year in the Communication and Culture studies program. I have met so many incredible people and have already acquired skills that I will serve me in my professional career. The courses are dynamic, engaging and intellectually stimulating. I am happy to be a student at this university and look forward to the next 2 years here!
Having attended Concordia University, I can confidently state that I have seen significant advancements in my skills. The faculty and staff demonstrate great thoughtfulness and provide effective support. Additionally, the university offers an abundance of student clubs and services.
Master of Quality Systems Engineering
I completed my Master's in Quality Systems Engineering at Concordia University, where I gained a comprehensive understanding of quality management principles and methodologies. The program provided a mix of theoretical knowledge and practical applications, including coursework in statistical process control, Six Sigma, and Lean principles. I engaged in hands-on projects addressing real-world quality challenges, collaborated with experienced faculty, and conducted independent research. This experience has equipped me with the skills and expertise needed to contribute effectively to organizations seeking to enhance their quality control processes and achieve operational excellence.
The Communication program at Concordia University will prepare you for the future. The program is divided in two blocks: one more theoretical, from which you learn the concept of communications through the perspective of philosophy, history and social studies; another completely hands-on in which you learn how to produce media choosing from three streams; sound, moving images, intermedia. What I love about the communication program at Concordia is that the teachers are clever, up to date, and exited about putting the future in the hands of students. Not only there is so much to learn in the communication program, but there are also so many opportunities!
Concordia is best
Concordia university is one of the top listed universities not just in Canada but worldwide. The most amazing thing about this university is it is a standalone English speaking university in Montreal that allows non francophone students to enrol and study efficiently. My program is beautifully designed with access to high quality classrooms and faculty members that are available every time to attend your queries. The huge campus of the University including the library allows students to indulge in group work and research programs. The administration staff is super supportive and polite in their conversations. I have had the most amazing experience studying at Concordia so far.
Entrepreneurship and Marketing
I had the privilege of being a part of Ryerson University's Entrepreneurship and Marketing program, and it was an outstanding experience. The program's curriculum was well-designed, providing a perfect balance of theoretical knowledge and hands-on practical application. The faculty members were highly knowledgeable and supportive, creating an engaging learning environment. The program's emphasis on industry connections and experiential learning opened doors to valuable internships and co-op opportunities. The resources and facilities dedicated to the program were top-notch, allowing me to explore my passion and excel in my studies. I am grateful for the real-world skills and industry connections I gained through the program. Ryerson University's Entrepreneurship and Marketing truly prepared me for a successful career in the business world. I highly recommend this program to anyone looking for a transformative educational experience.
Integrated Student Life
Concordia University has done a fantastic job at providing on-campus activities and workshops for students to feel connected and less lonely in stressful times. My program, Human Relations highlights this perfectly as a human relations student to be able to see the effects these workshops have on our beings and our mental and physical health as well. The student Life at Concordia has allowed our school to feel more like a community than a school.