Cracking the CaseMore in this issue
The first case competition in Lebanon puts spotlight on students' business savvy
Over two intense days on April 21 and 22, 41 teams from universities across Lebanon participated in the LAU Case Competition, a student-led initiative that has succeeded in creating a space for students to meet, network and collaborate with professionals from different industries while competing to solve real-life business cases. The experience trains competitors to think critically about business problems and to come up with innovative solutions – skills they will need in the professional world.
Zakaria Jouni and Badih Salha, lead consultants and founders of the LAU Case Competition, which promises to become a yearly event, decided to create their own version of the competition at LAU after struggling to find opportunities abroad.
“As we were trying to apply for case competitions around the world,” said Jouni, “We decided to stay here, at LAU, our home, and do things our way. Thus the LAU Case Competition was born.”
“This is a student-led competition. This is us: Students trying to bridge the gap between theoretical learning and the corporate world, the market and the skills we need to enhance in order to be ready for the industry.”
The competition’s organizers invited students from universities across Lebanon to participate. Each team was comprised of four undergraduate students, and each was presented with four case studies from the participating firms — Ernst & Young (EY), Cisco, Leo Burnett, and Careem — that demanded focus, quick thinking and innovation in order to find the best solutions.
Winners were awarded their prizes at the closing ceremony on Sunday in front of a crowd of excited student participants, representatives of the partner companies, faculty, staff, and LAU President Joseph G. Jabbra.
In his address to the students, Jabbra affirmed that “We have a motto at the university: The 21st century belongs to the innovators… Education is absolutely essential, but no longer sufficient. In order to stay ahead of the curve, over and above education, we need to be innovators.”
The company representatives all said it was difficult to choose the winners of their cases.
The representative of EY, a professional services and accounting firm, applauded the teams and organizers for their professionalism and announced LAU students Julie Assaad, Wendy Hajj, Fares Ghoul and Charbel Saade as the winners of the case, giving them each the opportunity to undertake an internship at EY at the time of their choosing.
“As a first-year student, I learned today what I will be learning in the coming years,” said Assaad. “So this experience kind of summed up everything that my major encompasses: networking, meeting teams — and the stress.”
According to Hani Raad, general manager at technology company Cisco Middle East, “The engagement was very inspirational. The work that the teams have done on the Cisco case is at the core of innovation and disruption.” He announced that the winning team, comprised of LAU students Rayan Audi, Elie Fatteh, Joey Feghali and Chadi Osseiran, would receive a wireless networking hardware device worth $1,000 to help them bring their product to life. Raad also recognized three other teams for their excellent work and offered them, along with the case winners, the opportunity for mentorship and engagement with the Cisco team.
“This competition gave us the opportunity to show what we’re capable of,” said Fatteh.
For Audi, the competition was “a chance to work under pressure, and we found out that, under pressure, we were really able to give good results.”
Diego de Aristegui, communication director at Leo Burnett MENA, emphasized that, “It was refreshing to see the high quality of thinking and entrepreneurial minds of students. The point here is not to get it right on the first go, but to understand the value of the learning process and to never stop learning. And I really admire LAU for carrying these sorts of initiatives.” The winning team received internships at Leo Burnett, an advertising company.
The representative for Careem – a transportation network business – awarded winners credits for the company’s services, certificates, an opportunity to spend the day at their offices, a chance to meet a Careem executive, and, for first-place winners, an internship.
The biggest surprise of the night came with one team’s triple win. Karam Aawar, Lara Al Bashouti, Mira Al Kamand and Maysaa Shehadeh, all from Rafic Hariri University, won the Leo Burnett Case Award, the Careem Case Award, and the LAU Case Competition Award, a special monetary prize given to “the team that showed the utmost dedication, professionalism, innovation and creativeness in the competition,” according to Salha.
Literally jumping for joy, Shehadeh said, “This was an amazing opportunity. This is a pivotal moment for us. We believed in ourselves and our ability.”
Al Kamand added, “You give up for a little time, and then, because of the team and their encouragement, you keep on going. It was great.”
After the competition wrapped up and the guests filtered off campus, Salha stated, “What we’re aiming for is much bigger than this; this is only the beginning.”