BY RUI ZHONG
WASHINGTON-On a cloudy, rainy November 3rd, forty-four SAIS students worked in teams to build a better school lunch. Their goal, assigned by consultants overseeing the task, was to advise the benefit corporation Revolution Foods on opportunities to expand social impact and profitability. At the end of thirty-six hours, the teams would turn in a completed slide deck. Five days afterwards, they would each prepare to pitch their ideas to improve Revolution Foods to a panel of judges from top consulting firms.
The Deloitte Case Competition arrived at SAIS on November 3rd, and was a collaborative effort between the consulting conglomerate the student-run SAIS Consulting Club, and SAIS Career Services. MA Candidate Kaitlin Lavinder, who serves as SAIS Consulting Club President, credited her club’s efforts, enthusiasm by alumni working at Deloitte, and the guidance of Career services during the process. “A former SAIS Consulting Club Board member worked with Deloitte to discuss case study logistics and to procure the Deloitte judge,” explained Lavinder. Afterwards, the firm and the career club began the planning stages of a larger-scale competition sponsored by Deloitte.
As students frantically worked to perfect the details, formatting, logical flow and visual organization of their information, they worked within a short time frame designed to mimick short turnaround times mimicking actual time constraints of entry-level consultants. On Friday, November 13th, the groups’ work culminated in short presentations of their case studies given to panels of judges, timed at just 15 minutes each.
Four teams then moved onto the second round, where they presented their case again, this time to a larger panel of Deloitte consultants. During the Final Round, judges gave challenging feedback, and were observant of every last detail of student presentations. Runners up Christopher Crow, Katherine Wang, Jesse Barnett, and Yoni Katz suggested opportunities for Revolution Foods to expand operations from the K-12 school services to community college cafeteria services. The winning group, composed of Yoonie Sim, Fernando Ventura, Sid Ravishankar, Taylor Sloane, built up a case based on economies of scale, in which the firm would start with low-risk investments in the short term and broaden expansion efforts going forward. Their polished and streamlined case presentation, which was complemented by a slide deck of minimalist design, took home the grand prize, a set of gift cards to a sustainable restaurant. First year students on the winning and runner-up teams were also awarded the opportunity of an interview for a Deloitte Summer Associate internship position.
Despite only two teams going home with gift card sets, all teams were able to receive the prize of presentation advice by the Deloitte Consultant judge panel, who shared their thoughts on what made a presentation particularly memorable. Common traits of the best presentations by students included clean, purposeful Powerpoint slides, a logical flow to a presentation, and the advice to shift the attention away from a questioner if they were excessively focused on criticizing presenters.
“Getting involved with SAIS Consulting Club is a great way to network,” said Lavinder, who was pleased with competition results. She acknowledged the challenges that students of the MA program might face when competing with MBA program graduates for jobs in the field of consulting. However, SAIS students’ innovation and hard work were able to make its students shine, and create meaningful relationships with alumni and recruiting staff at Deloitte.