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Reflecting on the role technology plays in our life is an interesting exercise.

Growing up, we’re taught about how the Industrial Revolution brought the global economy into high gear; in keeping up with the news, we learn how the foundations of age old institutions of commerce are being shaken by agile, cloud-based business models; living our own lives, we use devices that give us incredible abilities to connect with others and access unimaginable amounts of information. Yet in the typical university setting, unless students seek opportunities that expose them to and build skill sets for the growing digital and technological economy, they’ll find themselves lagging further behind than a dial-up modem trying to race a Bitcoin miner. CaseIT is such an occasion to become fluent in technology trends that are changing the world we know, while creating value for clients in a business context. Last year, I had the pleasure to represent UBC’s Sauder School of Business at CaseIT 2017, learning about the magic and challenges technology presents us with while spending time with ambitious people from around the world.

As someone who had prior case experience through both my studies and other case competitions, one of the greatest challenges I faced during training and the competition was changing my approach to cases to suit the CaseIT style. As technological innovation is a primary focus of the competition’s scorecard, how to feasibly integrate a technology solution that is innovative and can take the client to the next level was constantly looming in my mind anytime we approached a problem as a team. It unraveled all I had previously known about cases, requiring me to rebuild my case framework from scratch. But learning to be uncomfortable with a problem pushes you to stretch your thinking, work as a team, and learn as much as you can about the technological ecosystem your problem exists in, ultimately leading to a stronger solution. This is what innovative companies are doing across industries in order to challenge the status quo and deliver to clients and consumers, particularly as technology takes on a ubiquitous role in our world. Though my approach was far from perfect, having supportive teammates with different perspectives helped me become a better competitor.

The challenges we faced, either individually or as a team, all fell away when we came to the competition. My fondest memories of CaseIT were unrelated to the case, though the case was at the center of us all: what I remember most are the friends I made throughout the competition. Whether it was over drinks at an organized social, while showing off Vancouver to out-of-towners, or in the waiting room for the next round of the competition, the people defined the experience. Despite where we came from, be it Brussels, Singapore, or Madison, Wisconsin, the camaraderie amongst “competitors” was tangible, creating an atmosphere that fostered respect and support for one another during presentation day, and forged friendships that carried over geographies.

Until I started as an analyst at a management consulting firm, I didn’t realize how much CaseIT had prepared me for my first job after graduation. On the job, skills I use like analyzing a problem and its subsets, structuring out a solution with my team, and delivering a succinct presentation to the client can be linked back to my preparation for CaseIT. Beyond professional skills, CaseIT reminded me of the importance of building community in a working environment and getting to know one another beyond one’s everyday work. This has contributed to me being able to quickly adjust to my company’s culture, and develop friendships with the people I work with.

My advice to future CaseIT competitors is three-fold:

1. Behind every strong solution is a stronger team.

Don’t expect to go into the case room and come out with a brilliant slide deck and presentation 24 hours later without getting to know your teammates first. Understand one another’s working styles, know strengths and weaknesses within the group, and be friends first. That way, when things get tough under pressure and on little sleep, you’ll be able to focus on creating something you’re all proud of rather than getting caught up in minute issues that won’t mean much an hour later.

2. Understand your client and what they’re looking for.

In tech, it’s hard not to get caught up in the latest trend and try to force the client’s business to fit the picture. Each client is different, and transformation is difficult for any organization, regardless of its size. A simple but well-communicated solution will add more value than a complex megatrend that is irrelevant to the needs of the business.

3. Be present.

There aren’t many opportunities in life to meet people from around the world and nerd out for a week in one of the greatest cities in the world. Get to know the people around you, both competitors and the organizing committee, and I can guarantee it will be a week you’ll Very Realistically/Always Remember.

Originally from the prairies of Northern Alberta, Sarah is lucky enough to call Vancouver “home” after 4 years of studies at the University of British Columbia. She crossed the stage last May with a commerce degree specializing in Business Technology Management from the Sauder School of Business, along with a treasure trove of memories, including CaseIT 2017. A weekend warrior in training, when not living her best life as a consulting analyst at Accenture, she can be found playing in the local mountains, strolling around Granville Island, and running through the famous Vancouver rain.