I crossed the finish line of the Paris marathon at 2.30pm on April 12th. At 5.30pm that same day I had a flight to Copenhagen followed by a train ride to Aarhus, so you can imagine what was going through my head through the entire race and during the few hours right before my plane. I was not ready to miss my flight.
Initially, the plan was for me to relax in Paris on Sunday afternoon and leave the next day. But back in March a couple of friends and I applied to the Aarhus Case Competition and got accepted. The Case Competition is a week long program with three different cases that starts on Monday and goes through Saturday. The 9 Nordic teams that got picked were expected to arrive early on Sunday morning to mingle and be ready to work by Monday morning. There was noway for me to miss this marathon though, so I asked to organizing team to put me on the latest flight possible for Sunday evening and decided to suffer through the middle seat of a 2 hours plane ride. I arrived at the hotel around 1AM Monday morning and put the alarm for 6.30AM the next day not fully understanding quite how crazy this week was going to be.
The program for the week consisted basically of a mini 5 hours case on both Monday and Tuesday followed by the handout of the actual 30 hours case on Wednesday morning. We would solve and hand in our solutions on Thursday afternoon and be ready to present by Friday morning in the preliminary rounds. If advanced to the finals, the team would present their solution once again on Friday afternoon infront of 500+ people.
So there it was that on Monday morning I finally started meeting the other teams and the organizers. I guess when you miss the first day because you’re running a marathon, word travels fast and you find yourself being greeted with “So you’re the marathon runner!” I guess that’s a title I’ll take any day! Overall, there were 4 Danish teams, 2 Swedish teams, 2 Norwegian teams and 1 Finnish team. The funny thing is that none of the Norwegian teams had Norwegian team members. Same goes for the Finnish team that consisted of 3 Vietnamese. The world is truly becoming global!
Monday morning we had several workshops managed by Quartz & Co., one of the sponsors for the event. Afterwards, we were handed our first mini case. It was tough. Not necessarily the case, just the time management and the group work; our team had never worked together on a case before. I’ve worked with Leo, and Leo worked with Kumarr but the three of us were never a part of one team. So Monday for us was definitely a trial round. My thoughts in hindsight are that if we had received the same exact case during the second or third round, we would have definitely been able to perform better. But given it all, we performed badly. Only good side of this is that there was only one way to go, and that was up!
Monday night after presenting, we went out for dinner with Quartz & Co. The food, the cocktails and the entire place was fantastic. Definitely one of the best meals I’ve had in the last year! After dinner, I came back exhausted though; it had been a long day, and Tuesday wasn’t going to be any better!
Tuesday morning, we had a presentation by Deloitte, another one of the event’s sponsors. Soon after lunch, we were handed our second case. This time we were slightly better. We managed the five hours a little better, the slides looked decent and when presenting we were able to complete before the 10 minutes were over. Still, we didn’t get picked for one of the Top 3 spots and so we knew that there was definitely room for improvement.
At this point, you can imagine how tired everyone was. For the last two days we’ve been out and about for most of the day and getting less that 6-7 hours of sleep every night. My body was still killing me from the marathon and running around the school in heels didn’t help either. Good news was there was always a snack station full of delicious unhealthy food for you, and I definitely misused it throughout the entire week!
Wednesday morning we woke up ready to make this case happen. Once we were handed the documents at 8, we got to work and stayed at school till around 11PM. At that point we realized that our energy was minimal and that our ideas non existent. It was time to call it a night and use the few hours in the morning to finalize our strategy.
Thursday morning was another crazy day, but once 2pm hit and we got to submit our final presentation, a huge wave of satisfaction came over us. I hadn’t worked this hard for a long time, and my mind was fried. We used Thursday afternoon to finally walk around town for the first time and got to see a little bit of sunshine and experience some crazy winds. It truly felt like a fresh breath of air that was definitely needed!
During the entire week there had been another internal case competition at the school where teams from Aarhus University got to solve the exact same cases as us. Their last case was to be solved in 24 hours so the presentations for the final 3 teams took place on Thursday evening. Leo and Kumarr went back to school on Thursday evening to watch them and I texted with Leo the entire time. It was kind of a hilarious conversation. At some point Leo messages: “I’m not sure they received the same case.” and I guess that’s when we realized our solution was so different than everyone else’s and that this would either be great or the worst embarrassment ever.
Friday morning it was time for the preliminary rounds! 10 minutes presenting and 15 minutes Q&A. Ours went pretty well, better than the last two times and we knew we had a chance. We just didn’t know how we compared to the other 2 teams in our block so we had to wait. Two hours later, they finally announced the finals! We had made it. We were the only non Danish team that made it to the Final Three and was about to present to 500+ people.
The adrenaline, the energy, the nervousness, the excitement. Nothing can begin to explain how it felt. We were the first team to present, and I was the one who started our presentation. The only thing I kept repeating in my head were the first few words of the presentation. I was not ready to embarrass myself infront of that many people. And so I walked to the stage repeating the same 5 words in my head.
And then it started, and then it was done. There was a break right after our presentation, and so many people came to us to tell us how good we’ve done. Even employees of the bank which the case revolved around. This was huge for us. It meant that we didn’t mess up and that we’ve understood what they wanted.
Unfortunately, we weren’t able to see the other two presentations, but everyone who got a chance to see them all commented on how good everyone did. Sadly, we didn’t end up winning, but I believe I can speak for the rest of my team when I say that we felt like we did. We started at the bottom on Monday and made it to the top on Thursday, and the feedback we’ve received from so many people was just fantastic.
Overall, this week was one of the most intense weeks I’ve had in a long time. There were moments where I questioned why I signed up for this, and why I was working so hard for free. But I’ve learned so much! I made friends with some great people and I had a fantastic time. The case competition was so well organized and the committee consisted of some of the friendliest and nicest people I have ever met! It was truly an amazing experience, and I feel honored to have represented NHH in this process.
Lots of love,