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“Optimistic” Poole College of Management team wins honors in Wake Forest Case Competition

A multidisciplinary team of NC State Poole College of Management graduate students received honors for the Most Creative presentation at the 2015 Wake Forest University Healthcare Strategy Conference Case Competition.

The competition which drew teams from across the United States was held March 13 and 14 at the Wake Forest Biotech Place in Winston-Salem. It was sponsored in part by Boston Scientific, the subject of the case. The NC State team’s innovative approach to solving that problem made them stand out and earn the $1,000 prize.

Team members were Christon Wiles, graduate student in NC State’s Master of Microbial Biotechnology and Jenkins MBA dual-degree program; Jenkins Master of Accounting students Vadim Mikhaylyants and Daniel Michael; and Jenkins MBA candidate Rafael Estevez.

“We were given a multifaceted case involving one of Boston Scientific’s smaller divisions,” Wiles said.

Calling themselves “The Careful Optimists,” Wiles said the team described a long-term goal for the division, drawing on team members’ diverse experience and skill sets.

As for the name, “The CEO of Boston Scientific loved it!” Wiles said.

Teams received a diverse product portfolio, along with historical financial and market data and indications for growth and innovation. They then had to present a strategy for achieving the long-term goal, with short-term and long-term implementation plans, Wiles said.

“This case allowed us to use our knowledge in healthcare, finance, marketing, global strategy, innovation and technology,” she said.

In developing their solution, Estevez said, “I wanted to make a positive impact and convey our proposed idea as revolutionary. As Vadim put it, I wanted the judges to experience a ‘Steve Jobs’ moment,’” he said.

Students said their coursework in the Jenkins Graduate School of Management prepared them for their individual contributions to the team. For example, industrial case studies in her MMB coursework helped prepare her for the organizational and logistical tasks, she said.

Estevez’s career experience in electrical utilities, along with coursework in global strategy taught Dr. Stephen Markham, professor in Poole College’s Department of Management, Innovation and Entreprenerushp, helped guide the team’s recommendations.

“Vadim was our numbers guru,” Wiles said. “He calculated all of our future projections and compiled all of our historical data so that we could make an outstanding recommendation.”

And Michael worked long hours to make sure that the team’s calculations were logical and correct, Wiles said. “He did a huge amount of outside research and provided us with a solid foundation on which we would build our recommendations,” Wiles said.

The result: original ideas and an actionable, creative strategy for Boston Scientific.

“We were a very diverse group as far as education, backgrounds and stages of life are concerned,” Wiles said.

Team members gave up most of their spring break to finalize their presentation in the days leading up to the conference.

“We were extremely committed to learning from this experience, networking with our peers from other top MBA schools and promoting our NC State MBA,” Wiles said.

Teams from Johns Hopkins University, Cornell University and Wake Forest University took the top three slots, in that order.

The team from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology received the award for Most Innovative presentation.

Team members also made use of opportunities to network with Boston Scientific administrators, including Michael F. Mahoney, chief executive officer.

“One of the most important lessons I learned from the competition is that you have to think outside the box and differentiate yourself,” Estevez said.

“As MBAs, we are taught to think a certain way and apply similar tools, but to stay competitive, you must find your competitive advantage,” he said. “Our team did this by leveraging our diverse talents and strength to create value.”

“This competition has driven home the importance of the knowledge and skills that I will need to set myself apart as a leader in the biosciences arena,” Wiles said. And, she said, the ability to represent NC State’s Poole College of Management was valuable for everyone on the team.

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