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Teamwork, Coaching and Feedback

March 13, 2013
“Merrimack really prepared me.”

            Ashley Varano ’08 immediately put to work the lessons learned in the case competition.

            Like many of her fellow Girard School Masters of Science in Management students, Varano works full time. She’s just started as Social Media Marketing Manager with Esquire Deposition Solutions, a court reporting and corporate litigation services company.

            She was asked to present her 2013 social media strategy at a regional sales meeting in Chicago. Her content and confidence so impressed Esquire CEO Perry Solomon, she said, that he asked her to attend the other three regional meetings – in San Diego, New York City and Fort Lauderdale, Fla. She presented her strategy to other area directors, managers and sales representatives.

            “Normally this would be a little intimidating, but after our case competition, I was ready. I have heard nothing but great reviews on my presentation style from senior management,” said Varano.

            Learning how to put aside academic presentation habits and develop a business presentation was a key lesson for many students.

            “We’re so used to developing our presentation to show we comprehend the material, but it’s actually the opposite when you’re presenting in a business setting. Managers and CEOs don’t care about your analysis of the current situation; instead, they want to hear how you’re going to improve the current situation,” said Varano.

            Students credited the coaching of their professor in the Marketing Analysis and Decision-Making class – Associate Dean Julie Fitzmaurice – and the critiques of their team presentations before the final round of judging by Dean Mark Cordano.

            “I think that was the most shocking of all. Before our meeting with the dean we all had really great school presentations, but in that short period of time we learned what we really needed. Our presentation went from a school presentation to a business presentation after that,” said Joanna Petrucci ’12, who works at Talent Retriever in North Andover.

            Feedback from Fitzmaurice and Cordano was crucial in preparing to face three business executives in the final round, said Kelsey Mason ’12, a graduate student.

            “We got feedback on our ideas, organization of those ideas, eye contact, the overall energy of the presentation and much more. This feedback gave me insight into the expectations of business executives I may face in the future, and this is insight I may not have gained otherwise.”

            Business students want to be successful and they learned from their exposure to the judges in the final round, said international student Yi Liu, a restaurant owner in China. “It was a real-life practice,” she said.

            “It felt like I was presenting in a business setting and these were actual shareholders,” Sarah Stone ’12 said about the three judges. Stone, a fifth-year student, is a marketing intern at MediaMate in Andover.

            For Sean Peterson, whose undergraduate degree was in criminal justice, “the utilization of successful local businessmen, who created a realistic business setting through their critiques and methodical judging process, brought me out of the school setting’’ and into a corporate conference room. Peterson, a 2006 graduate of the University of Massachusetts works as a sergeant for the Merrimack College Police Department.

            These graduate students appreciate the opportunity to “get out of our comfort zone and present like managers,” Varano said. “This helped us all become better leaders and team players as we worked together over the semester.”

            Teamwork is vital in the business world, said Jordan Jean ’12, a graduate student.

            “The main thing I learned from this case competition is that you need to work as a team, learn from each other, and be confident that everyone will do their parts to create the best possible outcome,” said Jean. “It is important to hear ideas and inputs from all teammates because most of the time, it becomes valuable information to contribute to the final project.”

            “Give everything to the team,” said Liu. “When you want to achieve a goal, you have to give 100 percent of your attention and effort, trying the best to work out with your team, trying to bring the best value out from your team.”

            Understanding a case study means far more than summarizing the information, said Stone. “It is about formulating a clear analysis from those facts and figuring out what the key issues are that need to be changed in order to solve the problem.”

            The case competition experience instilled self-confidence in Alyssa Wertz ’12, a graduate student, whose team won the competition.

            “I believe that in the business world, the most confident people are the ones who experience the most success. Confident people face problems rather than run away from them. They lead, guide and encourage others to look in directions they may not have considered,” said Wertz, who has an internship with Ameriprise Financial Services.

            “People with confidence have a competitive spirit that enables them to consistently exceed expectation and push themselves to new heights. Confidence is contagious and people respond to it. To me, the confidence I had in myself, my teammates and my ideas is what propelled us to victory.”

With the case competition experience, Varano exudes that self-confidence.

“My CEO literally came up to me in Chicago after our first meeting and said, ‘You did a tremendous job, a natural presenter,’ and I told him Merrimack really prepared me,” she said. 

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