This past month I was involved in a mandatory course as part of my major in Strategy & Venturing. The course was called Advanced Case Seminar in Strategy and if I had any doubts about the intensity the course would require, they were cleared during the first introductory session. The Assistant Professor Timo Vuori didn’t hold back while describing what was to come for us (the course participants) in the coming weeks, and mentioning it as a lot of PAIN.
The course was structured in a way that we had company cases each week, for one month, with a break of one week after the second or third week, depending upon which group you were in. The cases were related to real challenges and the students were divided into teams to work on solving the cases and presenting the solutions in front of the consulting companies as a group. Within these cases were some that had been going on for months but as part of the course, we were expected to come up with a well-thought analyzes and well-structured solution for the concerned company within a week. This made the course super intense but at the same time, it was quite exciting to work in teams to come up with solutions for the problems as well. Moreover, the course also had individual assignments related to the same cases where the structure was a little different then the group ones but essentially the idea was that all the students would contribute in the group cases if they had done the individual assignments beforehand.
The groups were randomized so that the course participants will not be able to choose who they would like to work with. This was to highlight that the students should learn to work in a team even when they don’t necessarily know the people they are working with. Fortunately for me, for the first two cases I was in a group of 5 where I did know a couple of people from before and that made the teamwork and solving the case quite fun and exciting. For the first case, we presented our solution at Accenture Strategy and from the feedback and points, we were the best group amongst the 4 teams that presented there. As for the second one, it was a little bit trickier than before and we presented our solution at the university where we were the second-best from the four teams that presented. A key highlight from this was the amount of difficult questions we had to respond to as part of our solution, and although there were some gaps in analyzes, we were able to respond effectively and in a structured way to the questions.
Following the good two weeks of case-solving came the difficult part, as the groups were to be changed and I was a bit skeptical about who I will be required to work with next. My nerves only worsened as I found out that I didn’t know anyone from my next group, and I was telling myself that the next couple of cases are possibly going to be super tough. To add on to my troubles, the third case was related to a topic which was very much Finland-centered so I was naturally at a disadvantage considering I am an international student who has only been here for less than 15 months. However, as we worked on the group case together, I learned a lot more about Finland, as compared to what I had known previously so that added to my knowledge. We had to present the solution of our case at the Boston Consulting Group and there were 5 different groups than last time. It so happened that we were again the second-best by only half a point this time. This gave us the motivation to do even better next time, and for the fourth case, we were at Bain & Company, and were declared the joint winners of that case there.
Reflecting back on my experience, I can say that it was a course like no other I had taken before at Aalto University, and what’s worth mentioning is that the direct feedback was something rare but super helpful in making me realize on the aspects that I need to improve upon. These things I learned at this course will definitely go a long way in preparing me for what lies ahead.