Four students from the College of Engineering and the College of Business forming “Alfaisal Team” have participated in the Engineering and Commerce Case Competition (ECCC) hosted by Concordia University, Montreal, Canada, from Feb. 28th to March 5th 2016, Alfaisal Team scored sixth place among 12 teams from five different countries.
Following is an interview with Aram Monawar and Ehab Alnassar, two of the four students that participated in the competition.
- How did you feel when you first heard about the competition?
Aram: My first impression was that it was such a new concept to work on real-life cases that involved both Engineering and Business. I was extremely excited to learn about the cases and to gain an experience that is so close to true industrial work and life after university.
Ehab: As a former Engineering student, I was excited to have the chance to work with engineering students. Moreover, I felt that the opportunity to represent Alfaisal University on an international platform has finally arrived.
- What was the main goal going into it?
Aram: Our aim was to put our very best foot forward: to create innovative solutions. We wanted to win, naturally, but understood that participating was in fact winning in such a prestigious and beneficial competition.
Ehab: First and foremost, to apprehend the current issues of businesses/corporation and to understand the possible solutions the corporations (sponsors) are looking for, especially that all of the provided case studies are from real life situations the sponsors have. Secondly, I strongly believe that Alfaisal University have respectable business faculty staff and a strong business curriculum, which was confirmed after meeting other University students at the competition.
- What problems did you face during preparation, and during the competition?
Aram: Preparation was very difficult because we had to schedule timings to train, and that was difficult from a timing and location point of view. Also, since we did not have previous years’ materials or experience about case solutions, we were unaware of the expectations of the competition. During the competition, the lack of experience in case competitions again was the major challenge.
Ehab: The nature of the case study and the solution proposed all required intensive financial work; hence, having two finance students would have been more suitable than having only one. In fact, one of the competition organisers has told me in person that the best combination of business students is two finance majors and not one. Furthermore, lack of appropriate preparation due to limited availability and involvement of college of business faculty in general, and from finance professors particularly.
- What was your biggest proud moment?
Aram: The proudest moment was: in the judges’ comments after we presented the third and final case, the first remark was “When it comes to innovation, you were not only out of the box, you were way, way out there. Good job!” The scores for the final case were released a day late, but I was already sure of our excellent performance and very proud that we ended the competition on such good terms. Indeed, we got the second-highest score on that case!
Ehab: Although our cumulative grade for all three cases were not among the top three results, I felt a sense of accomplishment after the final case study results were out (12 hour case) as we were ranked third.
- What would you have done differently?
Aram: I will definitely aim to encourage and inspire my team members more next time. The exhaustion of the travel and the mental strain of the problem solving were significant enough that they affected our performance on the second case. Also, I would rehearse with my team over what to do when we feel something is affecting our performance. Once we agree on how to handle emergencies, we can both avoid and address problems when they occur.
Ehab: Although it was one of my greatest extracurricular activities during my studies at Alfaisal University, I personally believe I could have done better, not that my performance was bad, if I had not had my COOP-internship at the same time during the preparations and case practicing. That is because the firm I did my internship at required minimum of 10 working hours per day and working on weekends if the job required so.
- If you could advise future students that are thinking about participating, what would you tell them?
Aram: Trust yourselves. The brilliance of Alfaisal University students is undoubted—but we need our students to harness their skills and not be afraid or hesitant to put in all their efforts. Even if you “fail,” you will have increased your abilities 100 times by the experience. So always keep a positive outlook, have confidence, give it your all, and compete with nobody but yourself: you will always be a winner.
Ehab: 1. Try to mimic the solving period in the competition i.e. sit in a closed room and allow yourself only 6 or 12 hours of solving time, depending on the nature of the case.
- Being well informed, i.e., having good information about subjects outside of your field of study is very beneficial.
- When coming up with solutions, perform a cost benefit analysis with emphasis on financial costs and on innovative benefits. Regardless, all solutions must be feasible with either the current technologies available or with slightly advanced technologies.
- Thinking outside the box is good, but always ask yourselves is it possible to implement within the next 2-5 years.
- Choose one word to summarize the whole experience.