Written by Cam Buchan
When IBM hosts a case competition at Ivey Business School, you can be sure that business solutions and leading edge technology will be an important part of the day. But the benefits of this event go far beyond how to solve client problems using transformative solutions and platforms, mobile applications, blockchain or artificial intelligence.
The 2019 Technology Case Competition, held at Ivey in March, is an excellent example of the kind of mutually-beneficial relationship shared between the two organizations.
For students, the case competition is an opportunity to showcase their passion and creativity using the IBM way, a proprietary method to analyze the client’s business problems, develop a strategy, and apply the latest suite of technologies to real-world challenges brought to the event by the case client, EQ Bank.
At the same time, IBM gains access to the ideas and insights brought by the more than 280 students from 17 academic institutions who attend the event, hosted by IBM, together with the Ivey FinTech Club and Western Founders Network.
But the benefits to the organization go even deeper, says Eero Traagel, HBA ’07, Associate Partner at IBM Services. It’s all about fresh perspectives.
“As an Ivey alum, I love taking every chance I can to come back and get involved with the School,” says Traagel on a personal note. “It’s a way to enhance the student experience, and also to develop my team. We’re able to gain fresh perspectives on business problems we face with our clients.”
“As an Ivey alum, I love taking every chance I can to come back and get involved with the School”—Eero Traagel, HBA ’07, Associate Partner at IBM Services
A FOCUS ON THE CLIENT
While technology can play an important role in solving client business problems, the focus is not on selling technologies.
“At IBM, we’re looking for inspired talent who can develop creative solutions to problems. We chose Ivey specifically because of its focus on business cases, and how it helps students understand a business’s strategy, and solve problems within that context. The case competition is a great way to connect with students, and help them gain more real-world experience.” says Traagel.
IBM Canada has a stellar track record of giving back, getting involved in, and collaborating with Canadian universities by sharing its global technology expertise. By building a partnership with Ivey, IBM also participates in building the next generation of business leaders who can bridge the gap between business and technology.
Now in its third year of sponsoring the technology competition, the event enables IBM to keep track of the ever-changing talent environment, and reinforces the need for continuous learning.
“The focus on the case method at Ivey really provides us with a great opportunity to bring real-life business problems that our clients face to the students, and test their critical thinking and creativity” says Traagel. “We expose students to the latest solutions and technology applications, and coach them how to be more effective consultants to their business or clients in the future.”
A FOCUS ON IMPACT
IBM is considered a “Top Hiring Firm” at Ivey, with 12 hires in 2018, resulting in a total of 107 alumni in various parts of the organization, many at the executive leadership levels.
“IBM is developing a more innovative, fresh and youthful culture, and that resonates very much with our students,” says Brenda Pearson, Associate Director of Corporate Recruiting, who works closely with IBM on their recruiting efforts and on-campus brand. “Our students want to go to a firm that is dynamic and exciting, where they have an opportunity to create impact. With IBM’s innovative work environment, students tell us it’s like working at a start-up, but with none of the risks and all of the resources.”
Events like the Technology Case Competition give students an excellent insight into the cultures at organizations like IBM, says Pearson.
“It’s the perfect match because it gives students a chance to meet the people they would be working with and experience the culture first-hand. This can help eliminate any pre-conceived notions students may have about the organization,” says Pearson. “At the same time, a company like IBM gains a first-hand look at how well students think on their feet.”
“IBM is developing a more innovative, fresh and youthful culture, and that resonates very much with our students”—Brenda Pearson, Associate Director of Corporate Recruiting
A STUDENT EXPERIENCE THAT COUNTS
The recent Technology Competition does just that. Students meet IBM employees, gain an understanding of the organization’s culture, and learn first-hand what an organization like IBM is looking for in a potential hire.
As part of the competition, students were challenged with increasing the lending opportunities at Equitable Bank – while incorporating technology and innovative solutions. Students were certainly challenged to develop an understanding of the client’s business model, and competitive landscape.
“It was incredible working with a brand like IBM,” said first-year Engineering student Austin Teshuba, who along with his teammates took home the first-place prize at the competition.
For Teshuba, it was an opportunity to go beyond traditional technology work, and explore a real-world challenge.
“The challenge was to essentially find ways to help Equitable Bank develop a new direction by applying technology creatively to customer needs,” says Teshuba. “This is what I love, it’s what I’ve always wanted to do. So for me, it was being creative in a way that helped the customer, which is what I love.”
For Aishwariya Soupramanien, an MSc student in the International Business stream at Ivey, the competition gave her excellent insights in to her future short and long-term goals.
“In the short-tem, I’d like to work in consulting to gain as much experience as possible,” says Soupramanien. “But in the longer term, I hope to start my own company that specializes in providing tech solutions for life. This was excellent exposure for me in reaching those goals.”
Ivey students – watch for IBM events on campus, and ensure you get involved!