My Experience Designing a New MEM Competition

Fizza Jaffer reflects on her opportunity to help organize the first ever Master of Engineering Management Programs Consortium (MEMPC) Design & Pitch Competition.

By Fizza Jaffer

Soon after I began my time in Northwestern's Master of Engineering Management (MEM) program, I realized MEM truly encompasses a variety of industry roles, from product management and consulting to project management and business operations — and a lot in between. So, when I got the word about a new MEM competition that would highlight this variety, I knew I wanted to get involved.

The Master of Engineering Management Programs Consortium (MEMPC) Design & Pitch Competition aimed to provide students of the nine MEMPC schools with an experience that would help them leverage their technical expertise and business skills. As the world battles the impending energy crisis due to the rapid depletion of natural resources, this competition was developed to encourage students to ideate sustainable technical solutions packaged with compelling business plans.

I joined the competition organizing committee as a representative of Northwestern. The fact that I would be working under the leadership of Rutu Manchiganti, executive director of the MEMPC, and with peers of exceptional caliber motivated me to organize this competition. I wanted to help create an annual competition that would give students a platform to display their technical prowess and business expertise, and the prospect of making a difference in the lives of current and future MEM candidates really appealed to me.

Eleven students from the nine MEMPC schools worked under the leadership of Rutu for more than six months to organize the competition. During this time, we conceptualized what we wanted the competition to be and helped shape the vision and foundation for the event. Once the vision was set, we reorganized ourselves into different teams that focused on tasks like outreach, marketing, logistics, and content.

I took charge of the marketing strategy and led the marketing campaign for the competition. I spearheaded the social media identity for the event and worked with the marketing team to re-establish the MEMPC social media presence. We helped raise brand awareness for the event and saw our audience growth rate and user engagement both increase.

I was also honored to be named the emcee for the final round of the competition.

Thirty-one teams made up of more than 120 students from across the MEMPC schools registered for the competition. These students competed at their own universities for the chance to represent their school in the final round at MIT.

We were incredibly encouraged by the response to the event. We didn’t anticipate such a massive inflow of applications! The quality of submissions also raised the bar from the elimination rounds to the final round.

Congratulations go to "4 Guys Consulting" from Duke University, who stood out among the other finalists and won the 2019 MEMPC Design & Pitch Competition.

As part of the final round, we also organized an optional virtual business pitch presentation workshop for the finalists that was conducted by Steve Leonard, a thought leader in sales, marketing, and strategy who is president of the Decision Coaches, a management consulting firm. This was held in the week leading up to the final round as a way to help students prepare to pitch their ideas in front of the judging panel, which was made up of industry pioneers from the energy sector.

The judges were pleased with the competition design and the quality of deliverables turned in and presented by the participants, which was great to hear! After the competition, several MEM students reached out to us inquiring about the next Design and Pitch Competition and other ways to engage with MEMPC! That means we generated curiosity, garnered support and left a lasting impression, which were our main objectives!

When I first started organizing the competition, a few people asked me why I was doing it. At that point, I said it was "for the experience," and looking back, boy was it an enriching and memorable experience!

This opportunity reminded me that it's important to grab every opportunity that comes your way, regardless of whether it yields monetary returns or not. Some of the most cherished life experiences can come through volunteering for causes. If something resonates with you, go make it happen!

Fizza Jaffer is a current student in Northwestern's Master of Engineering Management (MEM) program. This summer, she will be interning at T-Mobile as a product manager intern at their HQ in Bellevue, Wash.