, , , ,

Congratulations to the REH team from the University of Guelph which won Ryerson’s EYE Competition: Hillary Hetherington, Conrad Hilgendag, Stefanie Kaminski and Sasha Somjen.

Case competitions are something new since I was an undergraduate student.  The team was given an address and a week to put together a proposal about the highest and best use.  In this case, the “Stone Group” proposed that 20 Valleywood Drive in Markham be redeveloped into a six-storey mixed use office complex.

(Source: The Stone Group)

Case competitions are nerve-racking because you can be made to feel very silly very publicly: judges with decades of extra experience will ask questions only about the “obvious” weak link in your proposal and expect you to have an answer. For this competition, the team discovered that they had to learn some new skills quickly (such as how to create the images shown above).

This situation may be very realistic but it discourages some good students from participating.  Public speaking is a common source of insecurity as people are forced to step outside of their comfort zone.  From this experience, Stefanie Kaminski became more comfortable, remarking “finally I gained confidence in my existing abilities”.

Everybody agrees that the ability to work together as a team is critical but few can identify the secret sauce which makes it succeed.  All of the team members noted it.  Stefanie noted “I learnt quickly that collaborating with your classmates for seven days straight can be a challenge in patience and compromise.”  Sasha Somjen noted “I had never worked with a group of people for so many consecutive hours, and it solidified the importance of good listening skills in team settings.”

It worked.  Hillary Hetherington was pleased to hear one of the judges say “we had to take a step back after the question period and realize that you guys aren’t actually practicing within the industry”.

The most experienced member of the team added an extra insight, which may be appropriate given International Women’s Day on Wednesday and the relatively few women in parts of the real estate industry.  Conrad Hilgendag has participated on teams of mostly men and on a team of mostly women.  Of the team of mostly women, “There was a greater sense of collaboration, everyone shared their ideas (good and bad), and the level of organization and detail was to another level.”  When presenting, he noted that “the real head-turner was [during] the question period: a judge would ask us a question and at least two [or more] would answer.”  This behaviour may also have helped another Guelph team (of five women) win first place in a different competition last year.  Conrad has no doubt that this cohesiveness enabled two of the team members to win individual Best Speaker awards.

This level of team work is certainly a sign of the character of the individual on this team.  It is hard to teach well even if, as one of our College’s Learning Outcomes, our classes create many opportunities and much experience.

Thank you to the organizers; it demonstrates the leadership skills of these students.  Thank you also to the judges, who made this event so memorable for all of the teams which participated.  Sasha Somjen, in particular, appreciated their time and feedback.  It was “one of the most rewarding experiences I have had during my time at the University of Guelph, so far.”