July 13, 2022Print | PDF
Earlier this year, 86 first- and second-year Business Technology Management (BTM) students competed in this year’s caseDebug@BTM competition at Wilfrid Laurier University. The caseDebug@BTM competition offers students an opportunity to work as a team to research and present solutions to real-world business challenges.
Competitions like this are a core part of the Lazaridis School of Business and Economics’ mission to provide students with experiences to help them succeed in their programs and careers.
Josephine McMurray, associate professor in the Lazaridis School’s BTM program and Faculty Liaison for caseDebug@BTM, started the competition seven years ago to provide students on Laurier’s Branford campus with case analysis and skills-building opportunities.
Initially, the competition was an optional activity, but today it is part of the BTM program’s core curriculum. The BTM program allows students to take a foundational business curriculum and then specialize using technology to help solve real-world business problems in a four-year degree program, including automatic entry to co-op for those who meet the requirements.
“We wanted to be able to graduate students who, by their third year, had exposure to real-world situations. Understanding the mechanics of other businesses and the kind of strategic decision making that’s going on helps prepare them for meaningful participation early in their careers ,” McMurray said.
McMurray graduated from the Lazaridis School MBA program in 2003 and received her PhD in Public Health and Health Systems from the University of Waterloo in 2013. She joined the Lazaridis School faculty in 2012 and initially started teaching strategy courses before joining the BTM faculty. During her MBA program, McMurray was first introduced to case competitions.
“You never fall far from your roots. I was on the Laurier MBA case team that went to the John Molson International Case Competition in 2003. That, plus my experience with the ICE [Integrated Case Exercise] competition has left me with an enduring commitment to allow students to make decisions about a business and try out that management role in a safe and de-risked space in the classroom,” McMurray said.
This year’s caseDebug@BTM was held virtually using a case written by Simon Ford, senior lecturer from Simon Fraser University. The teams received the case at noon on a Friday and had 24 hours to research and prepare their presentation. At noon on Saturday, teams presented to the judging panel, and the final results were announced at 3 p.m.
The case for this year’s competition was about the Vancouver International Airport (YVR). Like most major airports across Canada, YVR is working to recover after the airline industry collapse during the COVID-19 pandemic.
“All these cases are always highly relevant—very of the moment,” McMurray said.
Team 33 was awarded first place in the Year 1 category, while Team Corsair were awarded first place in the Year 2 category. First year student Ethan Gardiner and second year student Pery Au were also awarded Best Presenter for their respective years.
One of the students that participated in the caseDebug@BTM competition is Arjunn Sivakumar, a fourth-year student in the BTM program. He said that the competition helps students in their academic and professional lives.
“When I was interviewing for post-graduate jobs, I was able to tell the interviewers how I could take a business case, analyze it, and come up with a robust and detailed solution with a PowerPoint presentation—all within a short time period,” Sivakumar said.
The caseDebug competition at the Lazaridis School is one of the few places where first and second-year BTM students have the opportunity to participate in case competitions. McMurray said it’s a chance for the students to immerse themselves and develop their business understanding right from the start of their academic careers.
“We’re actively preparing students for decision-making roles. We often hear from businesses that you can have a strategy but fall short when executing because people don’t know how to make decisions in the face of limited information,” McMurray said. “These competitions help students develop their confidence in gathering data quickly. Not only from the case, but to be able to do their own research from credible sources that will inform their decisions—and then actually make a decision.”
Sivakumar said the competitions helped him develop new ways of thinking about how he views business problems. The competitions have also taught him the importance of communication when working in a team and business.
“Communication is everything. If you can’t clearly communicate—whether that’s to a judge or a stakeholder—all the work you put in suddenly won’t matter. It’s all about taking what you have on paper and telling a story in a compelling way,” Sivakumar said.