Tuesday, 15 March 2016

A team of MBA students from The University of Western Australia has beaten teams from around the world to win an international competition focusing on sustainability in the resources sector.

Matthew Horgan, Jessica Harman, Jessica Volich and Tim Andrews – all current MBA students at the UWA Business School – continued UWA’s winning run in the Schulich International Case Competition .

The competition – which required teams to define and investigate a sustainable strategy for a mining company – incorporated an essay and presentation to a panel of executives from the mining and consulting sectors in Toronto, Canada.

The diversity of the UWA team members, Tim said, played a large part in their success.

“Being a competition with a mining industry focus, one would think that mining experience would be mandatory. However, our team showed that whilst having some mining experience on the team was necessary, our diverse interests, experiences and backgrounds [chemical engineering, business planning, project management, procurement] were our main competitive advantage that clearly differentiated us from the rest,” Tim explained.

Team captain Matthew Horgan valued the opportunity to compete against some of the top MBA students from around the world.

“I’m far too competitive to let an opportunity like the Schulich International Case Competition pass me by! The opportunity to represent UWA at an international level and to compete against some of the top universities from around the world was one that had considerable appeal to me, as was the opportunity to apply my resource-sector experience within a case competition format,” Matthew said.

Meanwhile, fellow team member Jessica Volich was hoping to raise awareness of sustainability in the resources sector.

“The competition seemed like a great opportunity to use my resources sector experience – which includes mainly sustainability, but more recently the commercial and financial side.  My experience working on an oil and gas pipeline project in Russia has made me a passionate advocate for incorporating sustainability into decision making at all phases of the project life cycle,” Jessica said.

So what was their winning formula?

The team’s tips include conducting extensive research on the topic, writing multiple drafts, using constructive criticism, being bold in setting out a new framework – and, of course, not being afraid to put in lots of hard work.

“We conducted an extensive amount of academic research, including suggestions from our coach/mentor Professor Allan Trench, UWA geophysicist John Sykes, and last year’s UWA Schulich team member and captain Peter Dyett. To put the research into perspective, we ended up citing 53 references in just a two-page essay,” the team explained.

“Our conversations, sharing of research, questioning assumptions, and challenging of ideas that frequently took us to midnight is where I believe we took our work to the next level and allowed us to succeed in the competition,” Jessica Harman said.

Jessica Volich adds: “I learnt that team conflict should be embraced. Being such a diverse team we often had differences of opinion. However, I believe the conflict and resulting negotiation/compromise had a large part to play in our high quality outcome. Conflict when combined with commitment to its resolution is a good thing!”

After all the hard work, there was the trip to Canada to present the team’s case.

For Matthew, the travel was gruelling. “The trip itself was fairly tough – I’m the world’s worst traveller and didn’t have much success in adjusting to the time difference, even when arriving a few days before the competition with Tim and Jessica H. That aside, Toronto is a great city and I am delighted to have had the chance to experience a new part of the world. It is difficult to pick a single highlight from Canada; however as someone very passionate about their industry, hearing the panel of international judges in their unanimous praise of the Western Australian mining industry across the two day competition was certainly a personal highlight,” Matthew said.

And other highlights?

Tim has a list of great experiences: “We met some incredible people (MBA students and industry professionals) and visited some amazing locations (Niagara Falls, Prospectors & Developers Association of Canada mining convention),” he says.

“But for me the highlight was the time we spent together as a team either completing final preparations or celebrating the successes of each day. After having spent three months together, meeting effectively every second day and being so totally focused on the work, the time spent together actually enjoying the final experiences was the highlight of the competition. I can confidently say that I have made three amazing friends as a result of this experience, which would have been more than just reward.”

The UWA team competed in Toronto in early March was supported by James McClements and Resource Capital Funds.

Media references

Karen Della Torre (UWA Business School)                                    (+61 8) 6488 8538
Verity Chia (UWA Business School)                                              (+61 8) 6488 1346


Awards and Prizes — Business and Industry — International — Students