Universities Business Challenge

So here’s something I never expected to do, being an engineering student: Enter a business challenge competition. I must admit, curiosity got the better of me when I received an email all the way back in October (Wow, that was way further in the past than I thought it was. They aren’t kidding when they say time flies!). The email was advertising a selection event held by University of Sheffield Enterprise (USE) for participants to enter IBM’s Universities Business Challenge, and said it was open to students from all disciplines, from all years. Since it was the start of my last year at university, I thought, ‘It’s my last opportunity to take part in all of the random things the university is part of’ and so I jumped at the chance.

To be honest, I didn’t think I’d get very far. I really was there just to see what it involved, because I knew of some friends of mine back in my home country (Malaysia, in case you were wondering) who participated in business challenges and did well in them. I have a competitive nature you see, and can’t back down from a challenge. But seeing as this was a business challenge and I had zero experience in this field, I was just trying to be realistic with the outcomes.

At the event, we were put into groups with random people (we were told to line up in the order we think we’d be in according to birthdays, without speaking! It was more fun than you’d think) and then in groups of 4 or 5, you had to run a fictional pizza company (they even provided us little gummy pizzas for snacks!). You decided everything from the type of decor, to freshness of pizza, where your shop was, and even how much to pay your staff! Here’s the (maybe) twist: All the other groups in the room are your direct competitors. They have shops too, and you’re all sharing the same map/town; it’s pretty crazy. Business decisions are made over about 5 periods, which include upgrading your place, whether or not to make improvements to cleanliness because the health inspector deemed your restaurant unsanitary etc. In typical capitalism fashion, the winner was decided by the business or group which made the most cumulative profit by the end of it. Super surprisingly, my team had a comfortable win over the other teams and so we were selected as representatives to take part in the actual UBC.

UBC was a fantastic experience. We had to come up with crazy goat (yes, goat) ideas, do an elevator pitch for an enterprise we had under an hour to come up with, and answer ‘what would you do’ type questions (multiple choice!). I never would have thought it, but my team overtook almost 300 teams to make it all the way to the grand final in March, at IBM’s headquarters in London. Words alone cannot express how proud I am of our achievement. Half of us were doing STEM degrees so we weren’t the most knowledgeable when it came to businesses but I believe it was our creativity, teamwork and pure guts that took us that far. It also helped that we had Seetal from USE give us support from the very start of the long UBC journey. In the end, all I want to say to any of you who may be reading this is: 10/10; would recommend. Have a go at UBC, you won’t regret it.

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