A team of second year Smeal MBAs participated in the 13th Annual KeyBank Minority MBA Student Case Competition. Held on February 26-27, 2017, the invitation-only competition brought 26 business schools together to analyze a case on cyber security. The Smeal MBA team included F. Jordan Crespo, Justin Richards and Zahidul Naim Zakaria.

The case was a tremendous learning opportunity for the team on two fronts – regional banking industry and cyber security. The objective was to assume the role of a consulting team who would advise KeyBank on how to turn cyber security and fraud into a competitive advantage in the regions they compete in. The primary assignment was to analyze emerging cyber security risks, looking at online transactions and the vulnerability digital banking platforms to phishing and malware attacks. Given the trends of how much has been stolen by hackers and their automated attack mechanisms in the last decade – organizations need to take steps to protect themselves and their customers. The team also took a deep dive in to the regional banking industry to understand what differentiates each player in the market in order to develop a research-backed recommendation that would be practical for KeyBank to implement.Keybank smeal 2017The team recommended both hardware and software upgrades that make financial sense for KeyBank. In formulating a practical solution, the team also considered the differences in the customer base. Although this is a highly technical problem and requires a tech-savvy solution- the effectiveness of these solutions come down to people and understanding how different people think of their security differently. Baby boomers and millennials represent roughly 75 million people each in the US – and their size makes both of them very important to the banking industry. Although both these groups want security, they view risks differently, and have different levels of willingness to be inconvenienced and different willingness to pay additional fees when it comes to additional security. The final recommendation looked into the use of 2 factor authentication, biometric security, training and also regional cooperation with other banks in order to fight cybercrimes against the bank on all fronts. The team also connected their recommendations to business profitability and returns for KeyBank.

The top five teams at the competition were (in rank order), University of Pittsburgh, University of Buffalo (SUNY), Hampton University, The Ohio State University and Johns Hopkins University. While the Smeal team did not place in the top five, they were grateful to be part of a competition that brought such an important topic to the forefront. Cyber security is going to be an area of concern for years to come and will become increasingly important – perhaps that is why we are seeing technology specialists moving from the server room to the C-suite across corporate America.


Being one of the largest and longest running of its kind, the AMBA Annual Conference empowers Asian American students to become leaders, while providing companies the opportunity to meet with potential candidates from this incredible pool of talent. The event was held on November 4, 2016 in New York, featured with a career fair, speaking sessions by industry leaders, (AMBA Talk & Industry Sessions), and networking opportunities.

Second-year MBA student Nan Shen attended the event on Friday, November 4. More than 600 attendees and 54 companies participated the one-day event and career fair which were focused on connecting MBA, B.S. and M.S. candidates in Finance, Science, and Engineering with companies such as PNC, Infosys, Uber, Michael Kors, GE, Suez, Dropbox, etc. Government organizations, including the FBI, USPS and U.S. Department of State, were also present. Company representatives set up booths to introduce corporation values and available opportunities, allowing both students and potential hiring managers conduct intimate conversations on site.

According to data provided by the event organizers, more than 70% attendees were graduating MBA or MBA 1st year students seeking full-time jobs and internships with less than 5 years of experience. In terms of the language ability, 51% of them were able to speak Chinese, followed by 14% Indian and 9% Japanese. One of the highlights of the career fair is that other than the company booths, three independent staffing professionals provided one-on-one resume reviewing sessions with attendees who would like to directly discuss with them about any resume issues.


Penn State took second place and $5,000 in prize money at the UPitt Katz Invitational Case Competition, held in Pittsburgh from January 27-28. The team consisted of four ‘17 MBA students: Kirti Patel, Chris Blanchard, Sasha Alexandra Murr, and Greg Wommer. Fourteen schools from across the US and Europe participated, including Cornell, Carnegie Mellon, University of Maryland, and University of Augsburg (Germany).

Sponsored by Direct Energy, the case asked for recommendations on how a large energy company could begin targeting small business owners. It centered around business-to-business (B2B) marketing, with focus on sales channel, product offering, customer acquisition cost, and policy components of deregulated energy markets.

Katz 2017 Second Place WinThe competition consisted of two rounds on Saturday, January 28. The first round was an intra-room competition, with 3-4 teams competing against each other in four different rooms. Industry judges within each room then selected one winner to compete in a second and final round of presentations. The Penn State team beat out Cornell, Carnegie Mellon, and the University of Augsburg in the initial round, advancing to the final round. The top 4 teams competed again with a different set of industry judges. The final results had Penn State winning 2nd and $5,000 in prize money; University of Florida taking 1st and a $10,000 prize; and University at Buffalo, taking 3rd and $3,000 in reward.

The Katz Case Competition was a great experience for students interested in marketing or the energy industry. It was extremely well organized and a great opportunity to network with industry employees, UPitt deans, and students other schools. The team would highly recommend future MBA teams to participate!


2017 Deloitte Case Comp 2The 4th edition of the Deloitte Supply Chain Case Competition was organized at Brigham Young University, Utah, on the 19th and 20th of January this year. Over 40 teams from various business schools across the US, including Carnegie Mellon, Georgia Tech and USC Marshall, took part in the preliminary round of the contest in the month of December. Eight teams subsequently advanced to the final round at BYU. I had the opportunity to represent Penn State in the finals at BYU along with three other 1st Year Smeal MBA students – Sahil Jain, Tilak Khullar and Carlton Langley.

Deloitte’s Supply Chain Case Competition differed from other case competitions in that it did not expect participants to take apart a standard HBR-type case within a short period of time to recommend specific solutions to a problem. The finals were designed in such a way that competing teams would respond to a Request-for-Proposal (RFP) from a client in the cosmetics industry who had recently undertaken an expensive Mergers & Acquisitions project. Very little information was provided to the team initially, but as the competition progressed, valuable pieces of information were given through telephone calls and conferences with our potential client – various Deloitte practitioners playing different roles such as the Vice-President for Procurement or the Chief Technical Officer. We had just over twelve hours to formulate a competitive response, which included information on the hypothesis the team postulated, the approach the team expected to take in order to successfully solve the client’s problem, as well as staffing and timeline details for the project, all of which culminated in the overall cost to the client.

We presented our proposal to the client the following morning. Our client panel included six senior Deloitte practitioners, who asked us insightful questions about our considerations while formulating the proposal. Penn State had a good run at the competition, with our team taking third place – BYU took the gold, and Georgia Tech the silver.

The case competition was a great learning experience for the four of us. It gave us a glimpse into the world of consulting, and helped us understand how RFP responses are formulated in the real world, especially in the absence of concrete information. The competition also gave us the chance to interact with Deloitte practitioners and with our peers from business schools all over the country.

We’d like to thank 220 for enabling us to participate in this competition. We’d also like to thank Professor David Huff for his advice and support, and for showing us around the beautiful city of Provo. This was an amazing experience for the four of us, and gave us valuable exposure to real supply chain problems in the marketplace today.


The Biopharma Case Competition hosted by Rutgers Business School is an annual competition designed to challenge and expand student’s knowledge around the healthcare industry.  The competition this year was sponsored by Novartis, Bristol-Myers Squibb, Novo Nordisk, Bayer, Herspiegel Consulting, Quintiles, and Buchanan Ingersoll Rooney.  Each team was given one week to research and prepare a recommendation for the case.  The problem tasked in this year’s case highlighted the controversial issue of pharmaceutical pricing strategies.  Each team had to determine the value of a new medication by better understanding the regulations related to the drug’s classification.  From this information, the teams had to create a value proposition for the product, determine the price, and recommend contracting options.

Biopharma Case CompetitionThe Penn State team was made up of second year students with an interest in the healthcare industry.  We focused our recommendation around communicating the value of the new medication to patients through incentivized contracting and additional features to improve patient compliance.  Ultimately we ended up not placing, and the winning teams focused on the financial projections and regulatory complexities for the medication.  The experience taught us an amazing amount about the pharmaceutical industry from challenges with FDA trials to government contracting options to marketing strategies.  We highly recommend future Penn State teams to compete in this competition for the vast learning and networking opportunities offered.

 


If you’re an international prospective MBA student, you will find this blog quite valuable.

I graduated from Smeal College of Business, Penn State University in 2013. My journey to earn an MBA from a reputed MBA school in the US began in 2007. I had no clue where to start because I did not know anyone trying to pursue an MBA from a foreign destination. I was on my own.

However, I was quite determined to make it happen for myself. When I started my research, I encountered people, mainly consultants, who gave me advice – some gave me hope, and some terrified me with the fee structure & lodging expenses an MBA education from the US might entail. I had empty pockets, literally, and, to make my MBA dreams come true, I had to think creatively and differently.

It took me a couple of years, from 2007 (the year I graduated from Engineering College) to 2011, to find the right MBA School. I attribute my success to cultivating the right thought process while learning the nuances of MBA admissions for a prospective international student.

Penn State recognized my motivation and the need to pursue an MBA, and found me a good fit. Penn State has been quite instrumental in making my MBA and US dreams come true and in transforming me into the person I am today. I was not only offered admission to the program but also awarded the merit-based scholarship which meant so much to me at that time.

As a result of my personal success, I wanted to connect with a wider body of students to share my lessons learned, experience, and accomplishments, which could help fellow prospective students achieve their goals. It’s so easy to lose sight of your goals and give up when you do not have any guidance or a plan. Fortunately, I have had the opportunity to receive mentorship and people cheerleading me all the way to MBA admission success.

Within three years on the job after earning my MBA, I thought of setting some time aside to write the eBook from GMAT to MBA to provide insight into the process from the lens of an international student.

So what’s about the eBook? The book is written from a firsthand experience and not from theoretical or academic fluff.

It will SAVE YOU:

  • Many hours from getting lost on your journey from GMAT to MBA – What’s Next?
  • Any misguidance from many novices in this area around you – Be Aware!
  • Spending $$$ on hiring consultants to do the job when it should be you doing for yourself – Why?

Take a glimpse inside the eBook:

  • My wake up call for international student: Don’t let the competition crush you
  • What makes MBA admissions process in the US different: Nuances students are unaware of
  • Know what admissions officers are looking for: Why & How you should position yourself
  • Tackle the rigors of MBA admissions being away in your home country: Self-evaluate your profile
  • My experience on GMAT: Secret sauce to 740

You can get a copy of my eBook from GMAT to MBA from Amazon.com or the regional online Amazon store in your country. Please leave a review if you will on Amazon for my work. I would love to hear from you.

You can also connect with me via LinkedIn.

I wish you all the best with MBA admissions. See you on the other side.

*The expressed opinions, informational content and links displayed in this blog do not necessarily reflect a position or policy of The Pennsylvania State University, the Smeal College of Business, or its affiliates. No official endorsement by The Pennsylvania State University of the viewpoints expressed in this blog or product should be inferred.

comcastintractivThe Interactive Launch Competition was a television-media marketing case competition that had teams analyzing new and evolving technologies specifically for the TV/broadcast market. Each team was assigned a sponsor company and a product they were currently developing and tasked with recommending actions that could be taken to improve the product roll-out, or create a new product altogether. Our assigned mentor company was The Weather Channel, specifically being tasked to roll-out a new Over The Top Application they have called Local Now. Each of the competing teams had different products to take action on, which eventually ended up hurting us since we had a specific product and the other teams had the option to invent a product.

Our team was made up of both first and second year MBA’s and it was an excellent chance to display our marketing knowledge and recommendations as well as our presentation skills we learn from Andy and Nancy in our Communications class. It is always impressive to see the stark difference between a Smeal MBA presentation and every other school’s presentations. We came out tying for 3rd place in the competition and recommend that all future Smeal MBA’s interested in marketing take part in this competition.


A team of second year Smeal MBAs won 1st place at the National MBA Case Competition in Ethical Leadership, competing with business schools across the country. The competition was held on 10-11 November 2016 in Waco, Texas and was the highlight event of the annual Dale P. Jones Business Ethics Forum organized by Baylor University’s Hankamar School of Business.

The team analyzed a social business set in Uganda struggling to manage its people and dealing with issues like theft and embezzlement of company funds. This was a great opportunity for MBAs to learn about the Ugandan and African cultures, about their people and the tremendous role that businesses and social enterprises can play in giving people marketable skills and in uplifting them out of poverty. This was also a lesson about fostering an organizational culture for ethical leadership that exists in a country where the standards of ethical behavior is affected by poverty and corruption. The Smeal team, in addition to using core management and business principles, reflected on how the Smeal Honor Code and events such as Integrity Insights, Donuts and Dilemmas, etc. at Smeal have bolstered a culture of ethical behavior at Smeal.

baylor-competition-photoThe Smeal team included F. Jordan Crespo, Chris Blanchard, Greg Wommer and Zahidul Naim Zakaria. While Penn State took 1st place, MBA teams from Brigham Young University and University of Minnesota took 2nd and 3rd place respectively. Other participating schools included Auburn University, Baylor University, Brigham Young University, Case Western Reserve University, Iowa State University, Pepperdine University, Texas Christian University, University of Miami, University of Notre Dame and University of Washington.


pink-out

The WMBA held a successful fundraiser to benefit breast cancer on Wednesday, October 26th, 2016.  The coffee buzz had two main goals, one was the increase awareness of breast cancer during breast cancer awareness month, and the second was to raise money.  To increase awareness, both classes were encouraged to wear pink.  During a half hour coffee break, the two classes of MBA students were able to raise $689.67, which is roughly $5 per person in donation.  This is the first year that WMBA has partnered with a breast cancer charity, but it will not be the last since the support for this event was substantial.

The money is going to an organization out of South Central Pennsylvania called Pink Out.  This fund works through the Hanover Hospital by finding women’s cancer patients who are struggling financially.  Instead of putting the money towards treatment, the money helps the patients at home.  Pink Out pays rent and electricity bills to free up funds for medication.  Pink Out pays for childcare and transportation to allow women to make it to their treatments.  Pink Out pays for wigs and special undergarments necessary to allow healing.  Since so many of these women are forced to work less or stop working altogether, having these bills taken care of is a huge help.  The WBMA believes in this cause, and we were very happy to facilitate this charity event and pleased with the outcome.  To learn more about Pink Out visit: http://www.pinkoutinc.org/about.


The Women’s MBA Association (img_8264WMBA) participated in the National Association of Women MBAs (NAWMBA) 2016 Annual Conference and Career Fair, held at the Hilton Hotel in Stamford, Connecticut from October 20-22. The event was devoted to helping women MBAs and women in business graduate programs network and grow professionally.

Second-year MBA students Franziska Schmid, Sasha Alexandra Murr, and Alison Digesere represented Penn State at the event on Saturday, October 21. The five-hour Career Fair was focused on promoting awareness about the many jobs and internship positions looking to hire talented women. Company representatives set up booths to connect with conference goers, allowing both the students and companies an intimate networking opportunity.  “It was a smaller conference, so it allowed more individual attention to candidates,” said Digesere, “It was also a great platform for seminars that focus on women in business and in general.”

Companies such as Johnson & Johnson, Cigna, American Airlines, Amazon, Grainger, Black & Decker, Procter & Gamble, Amadeus, Food Lion, and Infosys attended. Government organizations, including the CIA and U.S. Department of State, were also present.  “It was a great networking event. I became aware of the many leadership development programs and opportunities offered by the companies,” said Murr.  Students could take advantage of panel workshops and free resume reviews offered during the Conference.   Schmid commented, “The conference size made it easy to talk with other business school students. The resume check was also really helpful – everyone was able to get time to have their resume looked over.”

The WMBA at the Penn State Smeal College of Business is an organization that aims to empower women to feel confident and prepared in handling the unique challenges and opportunities within the workforce. Our mission is to develop allies within the male community; participate in professional development events; and build a life-long support network of friends and colleagues. For more information about the WMBA at Penn State, please contact Sasha Alexandra Murr at azm5981@psu.edu.


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