Ulrike Hahn’s student life highlight: The Citi International Case Competition in Hong Kong

Ulrike Hahn is one of the four SBE students who participated in the Citi International Case Competition 2012 in Hong Kong on 28 October – 2 November.

I first heard about the possibility to take part in a case competition at the beginning of my very first lecture at Maastricht University.

Now, two and a half years later I can actually share my own case competition experience. It is a story about an unbelievable week in Hong Kong, an intense, fun, exhausting, unpredictable, surprising and very emotional week.

In numbers, the Citi International Case Competition at the Hong Kong University of Technology and Science (CICC 2012 at HKUST) involved 18 top universities from five continents, 74 students from all over the world, a case preparation of 26 hours about a Hong Kong TV company, seven hours of sleep in four days, tears of joy and of exhaustion, one lost luggage and one retrieved luggage.

The CICC 2012, however, meant much more than that. For me, it was the highlight of my student life so far!

The value of team work

Sitting 26 hours at the case preparation was a challenge for all four members of our team. There were highs and lows and we got squirrely because of the sleep deficit (24 hours without sleeping can feel like one per mille of alcohol…). We felt overwhelmed and humorous and became very stressed in the last two hours when we started rehearsing our style of presenting.

Then it was time to face the jury: not quite sure whether our plan was very good or only mediocre, we proceeded to the presentation venue all suited up. Only Philipp, the cock of the walk, was very optimistic and it was good to have at least one team member who fully believed in the value of our work.

We were all certain, however, that we had chosen the appropriate work approach for the case: we felt like a real team and had enjoyed working together every single minute.

Like a real team, we presented our solution to the judges and were able to answer all their questions in the interrogation session.

Nevertheless, it was a very uncertain time for us since we could not compare our performance to that of any of the other 17 teams. What business plan had other teams such as Berkeley and Thammasat come up with? How did they approach the case? How many of the 26 hours had they worked on the case? And how many hours had they slept? Were two hours of sleep actually long in this type of context?

The finalists were only announced later in the evening. When I heard the moderator shout “Maastricht University”, I was not quite sure if I had understood him properly. I was so happy that I could not fight the tears of joy. We had made it to the finals, together with the University of British Columbia UBC, the Hong Kong University of Science and Technology HKUST and Western University. We were cheering, hugging, and simply celebrating the moment because we had never imagined getting so far.

Reaching the finals

The final presentation of the CICC at HKUST was held the next day in front of seven judges and a total of about 100 people.

After a short night of sleep, we suddenly found ourselves standing in front of the presentation hall. The University of British Columbia team had just finished their presentation. We could hear people clapping, the hall sounded full!

Then the door opened and the show started. We walked to the front stage, shook hands with the seven judges (among them Ricky Wong, the case company’s CEO) who were all sitting in the front row and started our 30 minute presentation.

The judges fired questions at us but we managed to answer all of them and finish our presentation on time.

From that moment on, we knew that it was only a matter of time until the winner would be revealed. Who was it going to be – UBC, HKUST, Western University or Maastricht University?

Before making the final announcement, Ricky Wong held a short speech about the last days of the case competition and about the finalists’ presentations. Suddenly, he asked the audience if they remembered the 4D technology alternative proposed in one of the presentations.

He said that this alternative suggestion had led him to a new, innovative idea for his television company, namely TV connected to 4D technology.

There was a brief moment of silence in the audience and everyone started clapping. This was an important moment: the case company’s CEO coming to his new idea thanks to our presentation.

On the other hand, we had ended up suggesting this solution as an alternative and had offered Mr. Wong another plan for his business. At that moment I was not quite sure if this was a good or bad thing. We had to be a little more patient.

Soon after, the winners were announced.

Suspense..

After Western University ended up third, only HKUST, UBC and Maastricht University were left for the first-runner up and first spots. Finally, the moderator declared: “And the first-runner up goes to…..” – this second felt like the longest pause in history- “…Maastricht University!”

We had won the silver medal! It is very hard to describe the feelings of this moment. We were happy to have ever made it so far!

But we were also a little disappointed because we just missed the first spot, which went to HKUST. It is harder to be second than third because one tends to evaluate one’s performance subjectively instead of objectively.

Nevertheless, this feeling did not last for long because we were impressed to hear that Ricky Wong himself had voted for our solution. He told us that he is implementing or considering implementing 80 percent of our suggestions and joked that he “was not quite sure if we copied him or he had copied us.”

SBE advisor Bas van Diepen, City Telecom’s CEO Ricky Wong, Philipp Loick, Sophie Florian, Ulrike Hahn and Ulrike Thürheimer

Reflecting back

During this one week in Hong Kong hosted by the friendly staff of HKUST, my fellow team members and I shed many tears of joy and of exhaustion.

It is only when I sat in the airplane back to France where I am currently spending my semester abroad that I started to understand the meaning not only of this experience… but also my time at Maastricht University in general.

Maastricht University offers us students many opportunities to develop ourselves and to make an impact in the world, either by becoming a tutor, getting involved in international and local organizations or, in my case, representing the university at international competitions.

Moreover, my study years in Maastricht have made me realize something very simple but essential: so many things in life are possible even if we think they are very far away, almost unreachable.

It has taught me to tell myself: “Give it a try, you can succeed. You can make an impact. Don’t give up. Don’t get distracted by alleged or real disappointments. Go on developing and fighting. For what you believe in, for what makes you happy, to leave a positive impact in other people’s lives.”

Who knows, maybe the TV of the future connected with 4D technology will come from Hong Kong?

Thank you very much team and supervisor Bas [van Diepen]!

By Ulrike Hahn

Photos: Ulrike Thürheimer

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