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BCG Case Competition teaches students to think like a consultant

Oct 29, 2021

The winning team with the BCG judges

The winning team with the BCG judges.

Jamie Habert, HBA ’14, didn’t set out to be a consultant, but the chance to leverage his skills in diverse ways drew him in. A graduate of the combined HBA/JD program, he initially worked as a lawyer on Bay Street before turning to consulting.

“Consulting felt like a really good fit because of all of the types of things I could do – this is where curiosity comes into play. I’ve worked across private equity, retail, sports, and financial institutions. I’ve done turnaround cases. I’ve really done it all,” Habert told Ivey’s HBA1 students before they set off to experience the life of a consultant first hand.

Habert, Principal at Boston Consulting Group (BCG), spoke to students at a virtual event to kick off the 26th Annual Boston Consulting Group (BCG) Case Competition, which ran October 26-29.

Part of the Learning Through Action course, the competition challenges students to consolidate their classroom learning related to Organizational Behaviour, Finance, and Analytics to tackle more complex problems.

Divided into teams, the students analyzed three separate cases during the competition – one each day – on disruptive innovation, an entrepreneurial startup, and family business. With only a few hours to prepare for each round, they then presented their findings and recommendations to a panel of judges. Finalist teams were selected to show their elevator pitch videos to a panel of judges in the final round.

Preparing students for the real world

Habert said it’s an experience that will prepare the students for any future career path. He should know. He participated in the BCG Case Competition in 2010 while in the HBA program.

“The stuff that you are doing this week, and at Ivey generally, could not be more relevant. It will serve you well in consulting. And I know from experience, it will serve you well in any organization,” he said.

For HBA1 student David Weiss, the learning was certainly relevant and will prepare him for real-world challenges.

“The BCG Case Competition is an example of the unique aspects of the Ivey curriculum. The opportunity to apply course content to a real company’s problem provides experiences that cannot be found in a classroom,” he said. “My team and I found that the pressure resulting from tight deadlines taught us to be resilient in the face of challenges.”

HBA1 student Samantha Lin said she welcomed the chance to learn from the judges’ feedback.

“Analyzing back-to-back cases was a marathon, but it allowed us to learn from our feedback and improve in later rounds. My brain has definitely expanded and I learned a lot,” she said.

The consultant’s approach to complex problems

One aspect that makes the competition unique is that many of the judges and BCG representatives involved have been through the experience themselves.

Habert shared advice with the students on how to prepare for the competition. He also gave tips for approaching complex problems:

  • Listen to the problem;
  • Develop an initial view;
  • Take in data that’s relevant to prove or disprove that hypothesis;
  • Conduct relevant research and analysis and get to insights;
  • Develop theories on what you think the answer is; and,
  • Test those theories.

“There are probably a million ways you can solve a problem or a million pieces of analysis that you can do. But having a structured hypothesis and being disciplined about doing work that supports or disproves that hypothesis is challenging,” he said. “Your theories may not be right, but at least you’re getting closer and closer to the heart of the insights and to the heart of the answer to serve the client.”

Congratulations to the winners

First Place: Team 6 (Section 1) Connor Chapman, Jaime Lowry, Gabriel (Gabe) Muskat, Benjamin (Ben) Segal, Richard (Aidan) Sommer, Tristan Zarifa, Fang Fei (Amy) Zhang, Liulinzi (Lindsay) Zou;

Second Place: Team 4 (Section 8) Kevin Asselin Alfaro, Justin Del Negro, Joseph (Joey) Langleben, Yuwei (Ivy) Li, Myles MacDonald, Julie Van, Sabrina Wen, Victor Zhang; and,

Third Place: Team 4 (Section 6) Flora Huang, Labiba Islam, Samuel (Sam) Plotnick, Cole Roberts, Michael Samoilov, Yuanfei (Emily) Wang, Cadan Woolstencroft, Aaron Yuan.

Thank you to the BCG judges 

Round 3: Caitlin Cranmer, HBA ’18, Consultant; Omer Humayun, Consultant; Matt Nesvadba, HBA ’15, Consultant; Selina Phan, HBA ’20, Associate; Dylan Scanlan, HBA ’19, Associate; Kelly Sun, Consultant; Josh Weinstein, HBA ’18, Consultant; and Marwan Yousif, HBA ’21, Associate Consultant.

Finalist round: Charlotte MacDonald, Principal, Toronto; Darwin Smith, MBA ’07, Managing Director and Partner, Calgary; and Hugh Underwood, HBA ’11, Project Leader, Toronto.

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