by Isabella Barbagallo, Class of 2022, Individual Winner of the 2018 Simon Scholars Case Competition
In January of 2018, I was a senior in high school preparing to attend the University of Rochester in the fall. I had been accepted to the school through Early Decision in December, and I was thrilled to call myself a member of the University of Rochester’s Class of 2022. I later received an email about the opportunity to apply for a scholarship competition, the Simon Scholars Case Competition. The competition was a case study competition intended for incoming students with an interest in business. At this point, I was pretty undecided about my major, but I did have an interest in business. I was unsure about applying, because what did I, a high school student, know about analyzing and presenting a business case study? After encouragement from my parents to get “out of my comfort zone” I applied. Little did I know this opportunity would help form my college experience.
Upon receiving the assigned case study, I went right to work reading up on Pandora, the company of interest. I familiarized myself with the case, and any necessary background knowledge during the weeks leading up to the competition. This step was important so that when my group met for the first time, we could get right to work on the presentation. When I arrived on campus for the competition, there was no doubt I was nervous. In just 24 hours I would have to work with three people I had never met before to create a presentation on a case. I was worried I wasn’t as “smart” or “experienced” as my other group members, but I soon found out that each one of us brought something different, yet equally important, to the group. Above all, we were all equally motivated going into the competition, and were very like-minded and cooperative when we worked together. I couldn’t be more thankful to have such a positive group experience in this competition, and I attribute a lot of my success to the positive and cooperative work environment we created as a team.
Presentation day brought a whole new set of nerves. To be presenting our work to a panel of the University of Rochester’s faculty was not an easy task for me, and it was crazy that this presentation came into fruition in only twelve hours! When it came time to present to the panel, my group was well prepared, and presented a successful analysis of Pandora and the issues the company was facing. After the presentation, I could honestly say that no matter what happened, I was proud of my team and what we had accomplished in such a short period of time, not to mention everything I had learned from this experience. The Simon Scholars Case Competition was the first time I had presented a business case to a panel of professionals, and I was proud of myself for taking this opportunity and completing the presentation to the best of my ability.
The experience I had during the Simon Scholars Case Competition has influenced my major declaration, and has helped prepare me for my coursework today. By the spring of my first year at Rochester, I was able to say that I wanted to study business for my major. When making my decision, I kept going back to my experience during the case competition, and I realized how much I actually enjoyed reading about Pandora, analyzing their business model and decisions, and then presenting my findings and ideas to a panel. I am now a sophomore about to declare my major in Business, and I cannot be happier with my choice.
The questions I had to face and the skills I had to learn during the case competition apply to my everyday school work as a business student at the U of R. As a sophomore I have had many group presentations for my classes that ended up being similar to this case competition, and even more group projects that ended up being major portions of my grade. A piece of advice to incoming business students is to learn how to work efficiently in a group. There are times and places that you will have to work with a group, and learning how to be a good group member is integral to your success if you want to continue in business. Keeping an open mind and trusting your group members is also necessary, because everyone comes from different walks of life, and you never know what someone can bring to the table. My best advice to anyone entering college, is take any opportunity that sparks your interest even just a little bit, because you never know what it may do for you.