Winning MBA students Nefe Etomi, Apple (Yuan Ying) Mao, Willie (Zheng Xiao) Zhao and Alexandre Marc

Team NAWA scores big in the 2019 Global MBA Challenge

There’s no sure-fire route to a smooth transition during a merger or acquisition, but four HEC Paris MBA students certainly have some tips that can help. Team NAWA, otherwise known as MBA students Willie (Zheng Xiao) Zhao, Alexandre Marc, Apple (Yuan Ying) Mao, and Nefe Etomi, recently used their ideas to seize the top prize in the “Flash Case” at the 2019 Global MBA Challenge.

The team presented their insights into how to best reconcile two extremely different corporate cultures at the annual competition. They beat 12 other finalists during the timed Flash Case, earning HK$5,000.

The case involved a real-world acquisition within Hong Kong’s food industry, in which a western company had acquired a large, local company. The students’ recommendations, which included setting up a task force of best practices, captured the attention of the judges, who were also members of the acquiring company’s C-Suite.

“One thing I learned from this competition is that it’s not the individual skills that matter, but the team dynamic,” Alex says. “We were able to win using everyone’s strengths.”

Another HEC team member, Willie, adds that global diversity was one of the key elements that helped the team make it into the finals and ultimately win the competition. “We’re friends who’ve worked together on other projects, and we know what each of us brings to the table,” she says.  “Nefe, for example, is strong in organizational behavior. Alex is great with details. Apple grew up in China and worked in Singapore, so she understands the local culture.”

During the two-day Global MBA Challenge, hosted by the Hong Kong University of Science and Technology (HKUST Business School), the students also tackled two other cases: an APAC-specific strategy case and a moderated negotiation case. Overall, HEC’s Team NAWA placed third.

Along with gaining valuable case-cracking experience and connecting with APAC business leaders, Willie says that she realized something important. “One takeaway is that you see how your talent as an MBA is valued throughout the entire world,” she explains.