Procter & Gamble Case Competition gives students real world experience

As Dr. Alex Sevilla put together the curriculum for his new leadership class, he wanted a tangible way for third-year students to put the theories and concepts from lectures into action. Heavener’s increased focus on case competitions created a natural way for it to happen.

Procter & Gamble’s Kroger Team Leader David Silvestain (BSBA ’97) and Sevilla were already having conversations about how to expand the relationship between Procter & Gamble and the Heavener School. They decided to provide students with an authentic case competition experience that would benefit both sides.

The Procter & Gamble Emerging Leaders Case Competition was created to make sure students are prepared for the business problems they will face in their internships or full-time jobs. At the mid-point of the semester, students were split into teams and teams were broken into three divisions. They received the case two weeks in advance of the competition to begin processing it. That’s where the challenges began.

“When they got the case, there was clearly an “Oh wow” moment from some students,” Sevilla said. “They realized the depth of the challenge in front of them. There was clear enthusiasm for this unique learning experience, as well as some questions regarding how to tackle the case, or even where to begin. From the start, this was an immersive exercise that required our students to think critically, navigate through team dynamics and deliver a well-defined, impactful solution directly to Procter & Gamble executives.”

After every team presented their solutions to the judges, many of which were Procter & Gamble employees, each division winner returned to the stage the following day to present again. Students from teams that didn’t make the finals also watched the final round presentations to learn from their peers, listen to the judges, and assess and absorb what their presentations lacked.

After a winner was decided, Silvestain took the stage to address the students about what made some teams successful and what areas others needed growth, tying the lessons back to the theories and concepts that were taught during the class.

“The best way to show leadership is for students to form teams and tackle real challenges that are similar to what our teams at Procter & Gamble face,” Silvestain said. “The students represented multi-functional roles on customer teams and took on challenges that they might face working with a major US retailer.”

The competition also allowed time for Silvestain and his Procter & Gamble team to meet with multiple students who had interest in internships or jobs with the company.

The final assignment for students was a reflection paper that asked them to assess how well their team specifically incorporated leadership concepts covered in the course, such as emotional intelligence, emergent leadership, influence, leading teams and authenticity. While students had many different takeaways from their experiences, they all felt better prepared for life after graduation because of the competition.

“My key takeaway from this experience was to never go into anything feeling like you don’t know,” said Kristen Nguyen, a May 2018 graduate who wants to work in human resources or consulting. “The truth is, you do know. You just have to take the time out to learn it first, practice it some more, and show all of your hard work when the time comes.

“Before this case competition, I had no idea what case competitions were. I was terrified. After the first couple of meetings, I got over the hurdles and decided this was a learning experience.”

The impact of the competition was felt by multiple students.

“Participating in the P&G Emerging Leaders Case Competition was among the best experiences I have had in college,” said Abby Fielding, who will work as a consultant at Protiviti after graduating in the summer of 2018. “It was such a rewarding experience to work with people I had never met, utilize the business knowledge I have accumulated over the last few years, and deliver a presentation to convince P&G executives that our solution was the way to solve their business problem. The skills I gained from this experience will be invaluable as I move into the business world.”

For Procter & Gamble, being involved in the competition made sense because it allows them to benefit students and get a close look at some of the most competitive, equipped business students in the world. UF was the No. 1 source of incoming talent from any college campus to Procter & Gamble in 2017, and the case competition gives the company insight to the strengths of Heavener students.

“The student body at UF and how the university operates fit well with Procter & Gamble,” Silvestain said. “There are shared values. There’s the idea of being part of something really big and being excited by it. Procter & Gamble is not a 20-person start-up and neither is Heavener. It’s this idea of what UF offers with endless opportunities in development from inside and outside the classroom. People who are successful at Heavener can see themselves fitting in and succeeding at Procter & Gamble.”

The plan is for the case competition to continue to grow in the future. The leadership class will expand over the next two years until it is a part of every third-year student’s experience. As Heavener students become more comfortable in case competitions, they become better equipped to make an instant impact in a job or internship.