Team of Minishrang Borgoyary, Carolyn Heusser, Joon Jin and Youngbin Tak took home first place in the virtual competition. The case dealt with how the company might execute and achieve its Sustainability 2025 initiative.
Questrom’s Professional Evening MBA Program (PEMBA) has held its own case competition—open to just Questrom PEMBA students—since 2013. This year, PEMBA teamed up with Milford, Mass.-based Waters Corporation to develop a case for the 2021 event, held on February 19 and 20.
The publicly traded Waters Corp. is a designer, manufacturer, servicer and purveyor of analytical technologies. The challenge presented to 11 four-person PEMBA teams was how the company could execute and achieve its Sustainability 2025 initiative, given recent losses in personnel and a pandemic that caused supply-chain disruption. Unlike typical cases that have a clear-cut beginning, middle and end, co-authors Greg Stoller, Senior Lecturer, and MBA candidate Emily Bigelow, developed a case that was purposely open-ended. Students, who worked virtually over Zoom, were given a brief narrative along with pages of raw data from Waters.
“It was a very timely theme and real-life situation,” Stoller observed. “What pleased me most was the rigor with which all 11 teams approached the competition. During the semi-finals and finals, a few of my colleagues and I were corresponding in real time, describing the teams’ recommendations as professional, consulting-level quality. I was also extremely pleased to know that Waters struggled with determining the winner.”
In the end, top honors went to Team 9, made up of Minishrang Borgoyary, Carolyn Heusser, Joon Jin and Youngbin Tak. Elated with the outcome, team members describe the competition as hard-fought. “It was tough—maybe the most intense two days over the course of my MBA,” noted Jin. “Facing a real-world situation is something different from what we do in the classroom. Having a team with a balance of appropriate skills turned out to be very important.”
“I knew going into it that it was going to be challenging, but I don’t think I realized just how stressful and exhausting it would be,” added Heusser. “However, Greg did an amazing job organizing the event, and I had an excellent and tremendously talented team pushing me and encouraging me along the way, which made the whole experience much more enjoyable.”
For their part, Waters’ executives were impressed with the quality and variety of the teams’ recommendations. “I am so glad we took the time to support this case and to listen to the fine analysis each team provided,” said Senior Director of Workplace Solutions Tom Wesley. “The student teams each came at it using a slightly different lens and were courageous in their observations of the facts as they were able to discern them. In the final analysis, each team provided a nugget for our team to take back to our executive stakeholders at Waters. I had an expectation of something, but never so much.”
“The students thought of ways to make our sustainability program even stronger, and in some very creative ways,” agreed Director of Sustainability Andrew Pastor.
“One place where we received a lot of great feedback were the students’ ideas about how we could bake sustainability into our corporate culture, which was not something we’d really considered before. We heard great ideas about incorporating sustainability into our performance management and employee recognition platforms. We were also advised to create internal communications channels designed to spur collaboration and innovation, and to identify informal, self-motivated leaders that we can cultivate. We plan to take these learnings with us as the program evolves over time.”
Waters Senior Talent Management Partner Jeff Steer, a PEMBA student himself, was excited by the partnership. “It was incredible to be a part of an experience that brought together two communities that I care deeply about for a mission as important as sustainability,” Steer said. “Though I’m hopeful that the conversation doesn’t end there. I see that there is much to gain for both sides. For Waters, this is an example of the value that select partners in academia can provide in addition to recruiting—enabling the company to truly live out its virtue of “outside-in thinking.” For Questrom, I hope they found an open and transparent partner that cares about enriching a world-leading curriculum with real-world case studies.”
Stoller, who oversees case competitions at Questrom, considers the event to have been an all-around success. “The PEMBA case competition gave our students the opportunity to deal with a real-world problem and interact with executives at a publicly traded company,” he concluded. “I want to thank the 44 PEMBA students who took part along with the 30 mentors and judges. And of course, knowing that Waters will be implementing some of the students’ recommendations is the ultimate ‘thank you’ in determining the success of any case competition partnership.”