Talented DMU team reach finals of national business competition

Team Nova photographed before lockdown. From left to right: Rodwell Sibanda, Ibrahim Naveed, Sonia Wang, Hamda Abdi and Ayoub Jamal

Students at De Montfort University Leicester (DMU) overcame new challenges to compete in the virtual final of the Universities Business Challenge.

Before the coronavirus lockdown, ‘Team Nova’ – formed of five postgraduate students at Leicester Castle Business School  – had been preparing for the prestigious grand final in London. Having competed against more than 200 students to secure their place, the team was presented with a new obstacle when the event was altered and postponed due to the global pandemic.

Team leader Sonia Wang said: “The final was really different to what I had imagined and what the team had planned for. We had to change the way we worked and communicated, moving our physical teamwork online using Zoom, Slack and WhatsApp.”

The Universities Business Challenge sees entrepreneurial students work in teams to participate in a simulation-based competition. The groups act as a board of directors tasked with improving a company’s financial performance.

Sonia, originally from Shanghai and studying for her Master of Business Administration MBA (Global) degree, said: “The virtual final was an intense all-day event, from 9am-5pm. It called for a great deal of co-operation and discussion.

“We were given tasks throughout the day and between 10-20 minutes in which to call our team members on Zoom to discuss ideas and put a plan together. We have a great team spirit, so we were able to assign tasks depending on the strengths in the team; whether it was marketing, leadership or finances.

“Even though it was held virtually, I still got to meet peers from other universities and was exposed to so many creative ideas for future business, which was fascinating. I gained a lot of practical knowledge about social enterprise, which you cannot get from books alone.”

Leena Dattani-Demirci, head of professional development at Leicester Castle Business School, said: “The students had to adapt very quickly to find a way to connect in order to compete remotely, while also balancing other priorities.

“They have been pushed to work apart, yet together to generate ideas, create content, coordinate activity, pitch and present their concepts, and for some of them in their second language.

“It’s a great example of real-world learning. They are experiencing the same challenges we all are, and as a result will have developed tools which will help them long after leaving university.”

After the university campus closed due to COVID-19, teaching and learning moved online. Sonia commented: “The remote learning has been great so far, we’re still able to have discussions and ask questions about the lecture material.

“All of the academics have kept in touch with us throughout the lockdown through different platforms, and we’ve been able to keep working and collaborating with our course-mates online too.”

After benefiting from the university’s career and mentoring service before lockdown, Sonia plans to make use of the online careers help as she begins her search for roles in management consultancy.

“I’d absolutely recommend the MBA (Global) course for graduates who want to get direction and improve their overall knowledge of management and business operation,” she said.