Competing in the Final of the University Business Challenge by Toyosi Oni

 

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Coming 7th out of 291 teams was not so bad after all.

This academic year, I took part in the IBM Universities Business Challenge Worldwide where I was the team leader of one of the NBS teams that participated. It is the world’s longest established and leading undergraduate simulation-based competition designed to develop employability and enterprise skills. Having participated in the University Business Challenge in 2015 and reaching the semi-finals, when the opportunity presented itself again in 2016, I grabbed it with both hands. Participating the year before had been a remarkable and motivating experience and because of this, I immediately formed a team of final year students; Jaballa Matar, Yohanna Boro and Mengjie Feng.

Within my team, our aim was to successfully complete each stage of the competition by working together effectively. As the team leader, I made it a point of duty to know each member of the team and to make sure that they were all carried along throughout the process of the competition. I did this by using the Belbin personality test to determine what roles each member of the team could perform most suitably. This gave me a clear idea of the strengths and weaknesses of the team and how best to approach these.

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Armed with a more informed know-how of the competition, reaching the 2016 semi-finals was certainly easier than we found it the previous year. Keeping a strategy of meeting at fixed times each week and immersing ourselves fully in the weeks challenging simulation proved to be as effective as it was in the previous year. We were placed in the London Semi Finals which took place at Regents University with 10 other top teams from across universities in the UK.

The most remarkable aspect of that part of the competition was the Elevator Pitch where we were given one minute to present a business idea to the judges. Our idea was called “Plas-chet”, a concept of turning used plastic into yarn and using it to crochet items such as shopping bags, glass coasters amongst others. As the idea identified a contemporary problem of plastic waste and provided a prospective solution, coupled with the fact that my team and I had hastily created a prototype using a bin bag we found at the venue, the judges were highly impressed and awarded us the highest mark for that segment of the competition. We were initially disappointed to have placed an overall 2nd out of the ten teams by less than a 1% margin. This meant that our team and the other teams from the other semi-finals of competition who did not reach the overall top 9 would be put in hat at random to determine who would be the lucky 10th  team  to go on to the finals.

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Getting a congratulatory email at 7 pm a few days after was one of the happiest days in my life. We were the lucky team to proceed to the finals at IBM London. My team mates and I were extremely elated by this news and immediately started preparing for the finals. The day of the finals met us bustling with confidence and grit for the day’s activities. In addition, we constantly received great support from NBS’s Director of Employability, Dr Graham Manville.

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Arriving at IBM London HQ: Left to right: Yohanna Boro, Mengjie Feng, Jaballa Matar, Toyosi Oni & Graham Manville

Our challenge for the day consisted of a business simulation similar to the one in the first round of the competition and using Edward De Bono’s six thinking caps to evoke our creative thinking. There was intense time pressure during the competition which made each passing round more challenging than the previous. We were also separated into different teams with the other finalist to come up with an exciting way to visually advertise the entire process and all the stages of the competition. My team mate, Mengjie Feng in her new team succeeded in building an innovative 3D pyramid construct in 30 minutes which won her a special prize.

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Mengjie Feng competing with her team at IBMs London HQ.

 ubc7Mengjie Feng with her prize

 An experience I would not forget in a hurry was the last part of the competition where we competed for bonus marks in creativity. The challenge was to come up with a one minute presentation on the benefits of taking part in the UBC Worldwide in 30 minutes. As avid lovers of rhythm and poetry, my team mates and I came up with a rap with 16 bars which I performed to IBM staff, UBC finalists and other invited guests of the competition. It was a crowd favourite as we received a resounding applause. When the overall results came out, we discovered that we had placed in 7th place. We felt sad as we believed that we could have done better. However, we quickly comforted ourselves with the fact that coming 7th out of the 291 teams that took part was not the worst thing in the world.

ubc8Team NBS- Left to right: Jaballa Matar, Mengjie Feng, Toyosi Oni and Yohanna Boro

NBS will be fielding three teams for the 2016-17 University Business Challenge (UBC) and if you are an undergraduate student within NBS, you are eligible to form a team. If you reach the semi-finals, NBS will fund your travel, subsistence and accommodation and you will have a fantastic opportunity to compete with the very best in your peer group. NBS has a proud heritage of continually reaching the semi-finals. Who knows this year it could be you! If you want to compete, check out the UBC website, form a team of up to five students and send your details to Graham Manville at g.manville@uea.ac.uk.

There is no charge to participating students as NBS paid for the three teams. Graham believes that competing in such competitions not only improves student employability but it also has a major impact on final year academic performance. Graham says the UBC “provides a potent cocktail of a challenging but fun competition against your very best peers in leading universities, fantastic networking opportunities and career changing possibilities. Our continued success in the semi-finals and finals has not gone unnoticed and employers as well as our peer universities are recognising that our NBS students mean business”.

With many thanks to Toyosi Oni, BSc Business Management Final Year Student for contributing to the NBS Blog.

If you would like to write for the NBS blog, please get in touch by emailing l.coupe@uea.ac.uk.

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