In his college career at Purdue University, Austin Coon–a senior double economics Honors and management major–has found participating in case competitions to be an excellent way to apply what he’s learned in the classroom and to real-world business scenarios.
“Taking part in case competitions has vastly improved my public-speaking skills and given me confidence to succeed in job interviews. In a typical case competition, participants are given anywhere from four hours to two weeks to solve a case with a team. During that time, you are tasked with becoming an expert in the given problem and industry. Oftentimes, you have to start right at square one, as you will be presented with an issue that you know nothing about,” he explained.
Coon is one of many Purdue students whose learning activities outside of the classroom require information literacy skills. In the brief Q&A below, he talks about how he has applied those skills to his areas of study in economics and management.
Q. What are ways that you are learning to use information at Purdue that will be useful for your future professional (or personal) endeavors?
A. Case competitions allow students to expand their knowledge by challenging them to learn as much about a topic or industry as possible in a short time frame. Purdue offers several competitions a year—such as the annual Midwest Business Libraries Case Competition (formerly known as the Parrish Library Case Competition)—that target students who have never competed in a case before.
Furthermore, as you improve your ability to perform in the introductory case competitions, Purdue offers more advanced competitions, for which they will fly you around the country to compete. During my sophomore year, I was fortunate enough to be taken to the University of Connecticut to compete in a competition there.
Q. Describe a time when you learned to use information in a new way to help you accomplish something.
A. A couple of years ago, I competed in an international case competition about big data and applying the data to the human resource (HR) practices of a company in the auto industry. At the time, I knew nothing about big data, had never taken a class on HR, and had very little experience with the auto industry. My team members and I were all in the same boat. We spent that week diving as deep as we could in those three topics and then were able to build a presentation that we were incredibly proud of when we were finished. We ended up earning second place, which was the best placement a Purdue team has ever achieved in the competition.
Q. Have you learned to use information in a course that you have applied to a different situation?
A. Purdue and case competitions have strengthened my ability to process large amounts of information and condense it. For example, in my internship this past summer, I worked with large sets of data. One of my tasks was to turn the data into a “meaningful story” to present to the company’s senior leadership team.
To explain, I was tasked with creating a scorecard that tracked our relationship health with our different clients, so I would track to see which of our clients were happy with us and which were upset, as well as what made them happy or upset.
To create this scorecard, I analyzed data on the hundreds of different metrics that my company recorded for each client, as well as conducted interviews with client contact leaders in the organization to get a holistic understanding of what made clients upset.
After understanding this, I was able to design a scorecard that was automatically populated with objective metrics and organized in an easy-to-understand color code and format for each of the 180 different clients that we tracked internally.
By doing this, I was able to give our leadership a way to pinpoint quickly any pain points we had with our clients. With this knowledge, they could then focus their efforts on any key issues to improve client satisfaction.
My experiences at Purdue have given me the confidence to believe in my own abilities and to trust that I will produce a product of high quality. My time at Purdue has also made me feel properly prepared to work with several other full-time employees that are high in the organization’s hierarchy.