Taking on the HKUST Global MBA Challenge

by Alex Orechoff, MBA 2019

A few weeks ago, many of you were in London to experience LBS first-hand during Welcome Weekend. Any good student ambassador was present to give you all a great time whether it be by sharing course experiences, suggesting student organisations to join, evangelising certain treks or ensuring your drinks were filled properly at the end of the evening. However, I decided to cross the powers that be at LBS’s admissions office to represent the school in another arena: case competitions.

HKUST Global MBA Challenge

While many of you were travelling into Heathrow, I was travelling out to Hong Kong to compete in the HKUST Global MBA Challenge alongside teams from 13 other schools. The case competition is known for its arduousness: two prepared cases and a negotiation over two days. Add on top the jet lag from being in Africa three days prior for another trek and a wicked strong food coma from the traditional Cantonese feast that welcomed us moments after we landed, the headwinds to a win were very real.

For the two prepared cases, my team and I had worked from the weekend prior through the end of the 14-hour, red-eye flight to complete and script two decks, finishing them in the early hours of the morning prior to the competition. Each presentation came with a preliminary round, followed by a final round presentation. Fatigued at the end of the final presentation, the city lights of Hong Kong island across Victoria harbour became quite alluring. Why would anyone do this to themselves?

What makes case competitions amazing is the opportunity to meet others from other schools, hear about their experiences and learn how they approach the same problems differently. In the competition, it was amazing seeing how people viewed one problem so differently. Outside of the competition, there were banquets and coffee chats, capped off by an all-night escapade into the LKF bar district. There, the competitive spirit of the boardroom suddenly transformed into the competitive 3am karaoke singing (Team LBS was far from a winner on this front). It’s impressive how cultural borders dissolve and friendships are forged when a Jimmy Eat World song is on the deck.

What makes LBS amazing is that it is an opportunity to be a part of a truly international community and case competitions are an extension of this. The HKUST competition had at least 30 nationalities represented, with individuals equally driven to learn and grow from each other. As a participant and winner of two of these competitions, I can’t advise enough that doing at least one is such a value add to your LBS (or MBA experience if you choose to go elsewhere).

My sole touristy excursion in Hong Kong was a 4:30am hike up Victoria Peak to experience the view – the only time I was willing to spare from meeting others and the coup de grace against a chance at a full night’s sleep on my trip. However, it makes me recall what someone told me at my own welcome weekend: “Sleep and staying in one place is for after your MBA.”

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