Give 'em a 'like': Thunderbird students vie for global recognition in corporate competition

By

Mary Beth Faller

Collaboration is critical in today’s business world, and a team of four students from the Thunderbird School of Global Management is competing for a chance to showcase their collaborative skill on a global stage.

And the Arizona State University community can help them win.

The four master’s degree students, who won the first round of the P&G CEO Challenge competition, created a video commercial promoting their team that’s now posted on Facebook. The university team with the most “likes” for its video will move on to the national competition in Boston in April. The winner there will compete internationally in Dubai in May.

The competition is run by P&G, the corporation that makes personal-care products including the brands Gillette, Pampers, Tide, Tampax, Pantene, Crest and Olay.

Thunderbird student Larissa Simoncello first heard about the competition in the fall semester and pitched it to classmates Brandon Dovgan, Sharlene Key and James Quinby Roberts. Simoncello, Dovgan and Key are second-year students who will graduate in May, and Roberts will graduate next December.

“I’m always on the hunt for these kind of challenges and competitions,” said Simoncello, who is president of the Thunderbird Finance Association student group.

The first round of the P&G CEO Challenge, in November, was an online case study in which the team had 75 minutes to answer multiple-choice questions, complete math calculations and write several short essay answers to business scenarios regarding the Gillette brand. They defeated more than 200 other teams to make it to the second round, which includes 30 teams. The team that wins the international competition spends a week this summer at the P&G headquarters in Cincinnati, networking with global business leaders at a conference.

“There was this huge unknown variable to the case study. We talked to a lot of professors about what we could expect, and we got a lot of different answers,” Roberts said. “We had to go into it ready to split up tasks.”

They found out that they won on the last day of class before the winter break in December, two days before two of the team members were scheduled to leave campus. That prompted a mad scramble to create the video commercial by the deadline of Dec. 30, Key said.

“We got together at like 4 or 5 p.m. and we locked ourselves in a room and just started bouncing ideas off of each other until about 10 o’clock that night — if we should do serious or funny or talk about ourselves and what that should look like,” she said.

“We had a general idea, borrowed the camera and were shooting the next day from 10 a.m. until 7 or 8 p.m. We just tried different things and then put it together.”

The last-minute challenge was intentional.

“P&G said in the email that they realized they were putting us in a tough situation with only giving us a few weeks over Christmas break, when everyone is going in a lot of different directions,” Roberts said. “But they were doing it on purpose, and they wanted us to be scrappy and figure it out.”

The result is a superhero-themed video that pitches the group as “anything but conventional.”

While frantic, the exercise tied nicely with what the students are learning at Thunderbird.

“It gave us the opportunity to pull together and use that teamwork and creativity and brainstorming, which are all things we’ll use in our real-world experience,” Key said.

“It speaks volumes about Thunderbird and what we’ve learned about being able to think outside the box, reach out for resources and learn as we’re going.”

To vote for the ASU video, find it on the P&G Careers page on Facebook.

Top image: The Cincinnati headquarters of P&G will host the winner of the P&G CEO Challenge. Photo courtesy P&G