Four UF MBA students and their advisor hold their large $10,000 check from the Katz Case Competition
From left: Ali Kassam, Kristyn Cadwell, Business Career Services Director Carly Escue, Chelsea Creech and Nick Carpenter.

How UF MBA took home the first-place win at the Katz Invitational Case Competition

Compete (v): to strive consciously for an objective

When Ali Kassam (BSBA ’15, MBA ’20) and Nick Carpenter (MBA ’20) asked Chelsea Creech (MBA ’21) and I to be a part of their case competition team, we had no idea what we were getting in to. We knew that Ali and Nick wanted a second chance at winning the Katz Invitational Case Competition and that their expectations were high. But we knew absolutely nothing about case competitions.

We were asked to analyze the future of electrification in aerospace and to identify ways to enter the electrification market. Countless hours of preparation later, we knew more about the case competition, Crane Co., the aerospace market and electric batteries than we could have imagined. For two weeks our team spent every evening and weekend locked in a Hough Hall breakout room together arguing solutions, drawing and re-drawing ideas on the whiteboard and trying to anticipate every question anyone could have about our presentation. We ran through the presentation so many times that I could not only recite my slides from memory, but everyone else’s too. We knew that our objective was not just to win; it was to become better presenters, researchers and problem-solvers; it was to represent UF MBA in the best way possible.

The day we left for Pittsburgh, we were nervous and excited. We took turns carrying a giant box full of copies of our presentation through the airport and hoping that we would be carrying an equally inconvenient giant check on our flight back. When we landed, we were greeted with snowfall and even more nervousness. We made our way to the University of Pittsburgh Katz Graduate School of Business and met the other teams competing with us. We did two practice run-throughs in the room we would be competing in the next day. The clicker was lagging, and our animations weren’t appearing at the right time; I was freaking out. We were faced with the fact that after weeks of creating this project we were so proud of, we could still compete tomorrow and not win.

The day of the competition was surreal. We sat in our practice room doing a few final run-throughs and watching clips of The Office to calm our nerves. Finally, it was time for our first-round presentation. I watched Ali start off the presentation the best he ever had; I went on and presented better than I ever had before. I then watched Nick and Chelsea do the best run-throughs of their slides I had ever seen. Ali concluded our recommendation and it was time for Q&A. The judges asked every question we wanted them to, and I was so pleased with our answers. Then someone called time. Thirty of the most stressful minutes of my life were over and we walked solemnly back to our practice room. As soon as the door was closed, we started hugging each other, overwhelmed by how well we had done. Some of us had tears in our eyes.

We anxiously waited for lunch when they would announce who was going to the final round; our name was called; I couldn’t believe it. We presented the second time and felt great again. Then the competition was over and we would have to wait several hours to hear the results. We were nervous; we had done a great job and were proud of ourselves, but was it what the judges were looking for?

When it came time to announce the winners, we all sat quietly, whispering that no matter what we were so proud of each other. Third place was announced; it wasn’t us. Second place was announced. It also wasn’t us. Chelsea and I made eye contact and started to tear up.

“First place, University of Florida!” It was us. We had done it. Weeks of hard work, frustrations, and hope and here we were the first-place winners. The night ended in a flurry of pictures and congratulations and finally we were alone again as a team, reminding each other every few minutes “Guys, we won.”

Here we are, over a week later and I still can’t believe it. This case competition didn’t just bring us a win. It brought us pride in our school, support from our peers, congratulations from our administration and three of the best teammates anyone could ask for.