Wednesday, January 12, 2011

Final Thoughts as the Dark Horse goes back into the Stall

I apologize for not finalizing my thoughts sooner; upon returning safely to Orrington on Sunday afternoon, I was informed that moving day to Orono was to take place on Monday. Since then I have been scrambling with catching up on work, starting new classes, and making sure I have clothes in all the right places. I know, excuses, excuses - it just gives me more time to reflect....

Our overall ranking in the competition placed us third among the US teams, behind South Carolina and Pepperdine, but before Purdue, Pittsburgh, George Washington, Baylor, and Kent State! By my calculations (be careful here) we were tied for 12th out of 36 teams! We ended our last night at Molson with a bang, followed by an incredibly early rise Sunday morning to make the 6 hour trek home. The return was uneventful, and thanks to our driver, Dr. Mahon for a safe return - if only he could've helped me with the move...just kidding, of course.

Some finals thoughts on this entire experience...I have a lot of mixed emotions surrounding the event, the preparation and the wind-down. This process has very much been a journey and time for exploration as I constantly struggle to find my way (although it is about the journey and not the destination, right? RIGHT, RIGHT?!?!?!) Like Joe had mentioned, I think I am more disappointed at the conclusion of not being able to work with an incredibly talented, fun and amazing group of people. Each of us played our own role of course, and I am thankful for the opportunity to have worked with each and every one of my teammates. Even Joe. :)

I am also thankful to have been coached by some of the best in Paul Myer, Jason Harkins and John Mahon. If we were in the real world and our Molson team was a corporation, I cannot imagine what the consulting/coaching bill would've been, had all of them logged their hours and sent us a bill for services. . . maybe I shouldn't plant THAT little nugget of information.

At any rate, a final note regarding my coaches and teammates: I can't believe we spent that much time together, and the only time we quarreled was in the preparation room. I had an amazing time with you all, and I would do it again in a heartbeat (sans as much red wine) - London, anyone?

To the Coaches - please see previous blog for accolades and adoration, and thank you again to Paul Myer, Jason Harkins and John Mahon...

Ladies first...

To Kim Williams - she was the one the watch...with many years of industry experience behind her, she emerged as the leader of the pack. As a women, she would be one to act as a role model, both personally and professionally. (But she can flip back to Mom-mode pretty fast, let me tell you!) She doesn't shy away from conflict, tells it like it is, and has an enormous amount of patience. She handled our Q&A sessions like no one's business, and I have a tremendous amount of respect for her. I hope to be able to work with her in the future in some other capacity - London? With a side trip to Dublin??

To Victoria Thornton - for starters, she had to put up with me as a roommate, so she could get extra credit for that comments from the peanut gallery, please. Tori performed exceptionally well in all levels of the competition, and I have fondly named her the "Mayor" of the Maine Business School (or Director of International Relations?) I think she managed to meet and engage in a conversation with every single person, not only in the competition, but the entire hotel as well. She is a fantastic presenter, and conflict-resolution manager ("now guys, let's all remember to be professional!" as Joe and Kim are yelling at each other - at which point, I am rocking in the corner, sucking my thumb with my ears plugged :) ) She is a confidant and I am happy to have gotten to know her.

To Joseph Kellner: I really relate to Joe, as we seem to share the 15 year-old boy sense of humor and a tirade of quotations and references from my all time favorite movie Top Gun. He was a quiet leader, but when he needed to get his point across, he did - and could admit when he didn't. He and Kim had a few good go arounds, but it was great to watch, because Joe is very poised and sticks to what he believes is right and needs to be said. He was the analyst of our group, and would come up with thousands of graphs for me to draw, as I refused to let him touch the acetates or markers (to his secret delight). I always thought Joe was quiet and reserved - not true....and that's what she said.

To Fred Kaiser, our endearing alternate - we couldn't have done it without him! Gathering intel should be his middle name, and he brought us information on other teams that may have shocked the Pentagon. He was our biggest male cheerleader (behind Mother Mary Mahon), and supported us tirelessly with plenty of coffee and chocolate - he satisfied our divas (yes, Kim and Tori, that was directed at you) and I thank him for his service! He will be instrumental in leading next years team - good luck and bonne chance!

Again, thank you to all for reading this blog and supporting the "Dark Horse"(s) - we couldn't have done it without your thoughts and prayers! Stay tuned for pictures, I will weed out anything inappropriate and post soon. Au revoir pour maintenant!

When did I get so emotional? Sheesh, must be all that reflective "Pines" living ....

Sunday, January 9, 2011

Safely home and a quick word on the coaches..

Before I get into the meat of the blog for tonight - Results: Porto (1st place), Queens (2nd place) and Kaiserslautern (3rd place). Needless to say, I was VERY surprised as to the results, but I say it again and again and again and again, that is Molson judging for you!

I would be remiss if, all through this process, I didn't say a few words about our coaches, Paul Myer, Jason Harkins and John Mahon. We were incredibly blessed to have the opportunity to work with all of them in different areas, and I feel very thankful to have been able to work with them. They have pushed us all in very different ways, but the resounding theme for all has been "Tough Love." They coach us voluntarily, giving up their own personal time to work with us. (So thank you to their families as well for understanding, as I know it's not easy!)

If not for Paul, I'm not sure we would've made it to Montreal. He handled the thousands of details prior to our arrival and handled all the correspondence between the competition organizers. He worked tirelessly with us on our presentation skills to best prepare us for the level of competition - for me, I know when I was feeling frustrated either during the semester or at the competition, he was always available to listen and provide feedback. As he would say, sometimes the most important teaching moments don't necessarily happen in the classroom. He put up with a lot from us, that's for certain, and we are glad he has a great sense of humor (and expansive wardrobe :)).

John was our other coach and driver on the team for the week. I think I can speak for my teammates, as to the level of depth and expertise he can get to when teaching us how to look and understand a case. His feedback was immediate and helpful - I have said in the past that while his feedback may not be comfortable, it is delivered in a way that you know #1, it comes from a good place, and #2 he wouldn't say it if he didn't think you could learn from it. I appreciate his honesty and his willingness to share his life lessons. (And for bringing along his sweet sister whose prayers we couldn't have done without!)

As Jason is a new proud father and had committed to a conference the week following the Molson competition, it was great that he could join us on Thursday. It was great to see his familiar face as we walked into the presentation for the live case. He has also worked with us tirelessly over the semester to develop our analytical skills and build confidence when we go into a Q&A session. He is such a great spirit to have around, and we really enjoyed having him with us.

I'll post final thoughts tomorrow, but for now...still digesting and absorbing - both literally and figuratively...good night to all, and again, a huge thank you to the work of our coaches - we couldn't have done it without you!

Saturday, January 8, 2011

Open Mouth, Insert Foot

After I've taken some time to decompress and reflect, I will offer an apology to all who are reading this blog. As many of you may know, I am quite opinionated, and have had some things to say regarding this case competition. It is never my intent to offend anyone or show disrespect, and if I have done either, I sincerely apologize. If you are still reading on, maybe I can shed some light on this experience here in Montreal.

Still with me? Good, thank you for continuing. This week has been a constant pressure cooker environment. Your down time is when you are sleeping, and if you're anything like me, you need some time to yourself to reflect, debrief and unwind. Unfortunately, this is a luxury that you aren't afforded here. The schedule is rigorous and demanding - you are expected to be ON all the time - unfortunately, many of my comments were reactionary, and at some times waspish. So now, I say to myself, "open mouth, insert foot." At least I brought enough shoes to choose from...

This week has been an amazing experience, filled with laughter and tears, and I am truly honored to a part of an incredible and supportive team. We will go to the finals this afternoon, where UPBS (Portugal), Kaiserslautern (Germany) and Queen's (Canada) will face off. I'll let you know the final results later, and once again, I do apologize if I've managed to offend anyone.

Friday, January 7, 2011

The Dark Horse gets a Leg Cramp

Well, our run is officially over with a disappointing loss to the Finnish team Aalto - we lost a VERY close match 6-5, and we didn't have enough points to push us into the semi-final round in a wild card spot. If we had won, we would've gone, but alas, this dark horse pulled up with a leg cramp. Unfortunately, we were at a bit of a disadvantage because we only had three judges instead of our usual five judge panel.

The silver lining of this cloud was being rewarded with a three hour nap. We have to get going to ready for the Black and White Ball, but I'll have some more free time tomorrow to reflect a little more deeply. Again, thank you to all for your thoughts, well wishes and prayers - we are exhausted but happy. Bonne nuit pour maintenant!

Thursday, January 6, 2011

Live Case Day...

The day got off to a relatively disappointing start - not because of weather, teammates, or fatigue - it was due to the lack of protein served at breakfast. As most of you probably know, I really like to eat. When it becomes exciting to plan your day around the meals you eat and your glycemic levels and state of happiness depend on the critical intake of food....well, you can see why my day didn't start off so well.

We met at 9:30a.m. and had an hour to read the background on today's live case. Upon receiving our packet information, I jokingly commented that we were going to have to do a case analysis on the Canadian government. It was quickly dismissed by the team, but I had a nagging suspicion. I hate to say I told you so, but that was the gist of today's case - how we would develop an implementation plan of Canadian trade strategy, to ensure Canada is well positioned to be a player in the global market with its imports/exports. I could feel my blood pressure rise a bit, as a surge of American pride welled in my throat - Briefing on this case took an hour and a half (including Q & A time), after which we were whisked away to our prep room for the next two hours, to plan for our 25 min. presentation.

I have to be honest here when I say - I have nothing against Canada - my Dad was born in Canada, so I'll admit I'm 50% Canuck. As a resident of the United States, however, I didn't think it was entirely appropriate for numerous reasons I don't need to go into - do we even get a consulting fee for temporarily working the government of Canada? (The answer was a resounding no, by the way, to which the presenter quickly informed us there would be no pay for 36 teams of free MBA advice - how convenient.

Enough negative Nelly here - we received the results last night during a very spirited dinner, and we won against our Parisian competitors, 8-3. At three wins and a only one loss, that put us at second place in our division, and a good shot at making the semi-finals. We felt confident going in against the division leader, Aalto.

Final note: I'm sorry I didn't this out's a long story, and I hope you will understand. :)

Wednesday, January 5, 2011

The Dark Horse Strikes Again (kind of)

Wow. Today was THE longest day EVER. We had a regular case in the morning, followed by a lunch that was far too short (and not all that appetizing), only to move quickly into the second case of the afternoon. Yes, 2 cases. All day. To make a quick point here, I have to say anything goes in Montreal as it pertains to the fickle thoughts of our judges - our coaches (and ourselves included) thought we took a shellacking in the first case, only to follow up with a strong second appearance, in which we clearly thought we won. Interestingly enough, we won the first case 6-5 against Asper (Canada). . . ? We lost the second case 7-4 against the team from Pakistan, where apparently, the judges favor offering bribes to obtain the cooperation of the local government. Touche.

I'm getting a little ahead of myself here, but we had a lovely "networking" session in the headquarters of RBC - literally, the top floor of this building was built around the expansive board room. I'll be honest - sitting at the board room table, I threw down the "You're fired," expression (Donald Trump style), and it felt pretty good.

After time spent at RBC, we joined the German team of Patterborn, the Newfoundland team, and my personal arch-nemesis Pat and his team of awkward South Carolinians for dinner at a fondue place somewhere in the bowels of Montreal. We had a very nice evening, followed by a VERY interesting cab ride back to the hotel. I will leave some of the more colorful comments that were exchanged out for this evening, as I don't want to offend.

Also, I would be remiss if I didn't note the incredible contributions by our alternate, Fred - he has been tirelessly scouting out the competition, as well as fueling our caffeine addictions with coffee, Diet Coke, and chocolate covered espresso beans. As a logistics person in general, all of the above are delivered precisely at the right time when our team may be engaging in more "spirited" discussions, and just in time for a much needed break.

The live case takes place tomorrow, so I'll let you know who our featured guest is.
Best wishes for our Mother Mary for a speedy recovery - she wasn't feeling well this evening - and we certainly missed her kind words of wisdom.

Tuesday, January 4, 2011


Yes, you heard it here first....WE WON!!! The first day is officially over, and by George (wherever George is), we won it! The score was 7-4 in our favor against Laurier (Ontario, Canada). We had a shaky start (I will take full ownership, as I couldn't quite get a handle on my trembling hands), but picked up the pace, and finished strong. I will speak for myself when I say the feedback we received from our coaches (all three of them, as Mother Mary pitched in too) was probably more rewarding then any feedback that we received from the judges.

Just after the final question was asked - remember it's a 25 minute presentation, followed by a 15 minute Q&A session that seemed to last FOREVER - we congregated to receive our comments from our coaches. Strategy talk quickly turned to hunger pangs, and off to a Mandarin restaurant (Orchid) we went. At the conclusion of dinner, Dr. Mahon received an email that told of the results of the scoring. Did we find out then? Oh no....apparently his Blackberry didn't want to pull up the attachment and shed light on the results and the document wouldn't load. As we approached the hotel, he was able to receive the results, and boy, the whoops of joy of our win could be heard throughout the snowy streets of Montreal!

We have our longest day tomorrow, where we will have a regular case in the morning (early of course), and then the "short" case (crisis case) in the afternoon. We will face Asper and Paris tomorrow, and you better believe I will keep you posted (only if it's good news...). :) Luckily we won't face our biggest, blondest competition until Friday, when we go up against the Finnish team of Aalto. Who says blonds have more fun????

Don't worry - we won't get cocky, I promise - we still have 4 more cases to go before the announcement of the semi-finalists draw. Thank you to all who are praying for our team - we really need it and most certainly appreciate it! Bonne nuit! N