Northwestern Wins MEMPC PriSim Business War Games Competition

Four Master of Engineering Management (MEM) students led 'Team T-Wrecks' to Northwestern's second straight victory in the online business simulation competition.

Four students from Northwestern's Master of Engineering Management (MEM) program collaborated as a management team running a simulated multi-billion dollar auto manufacturing company to win the seventh annual MEMPC PriSim Business War Games Competition.

The five-week, online business simulation concluded last week and featured teams from Dartmouth, Duke, Johns Hopkins, Purdue, USC, and Northwestern. The competition was part of an overall initiative of the Master of Engineering Management Programs Consortium (MEMPC) to raise awareness for the MEM degree, expand its value-added opportunities, and forge business partnerships with employers, potential job candidates, students, faculty, and alumni.

The competition helps students build business acumen, think strategically, understand financial statements, and develop leadership and teamwork skills, says Max Hernández, vice president of PriSim Business War Games Inc. and an adjunct professor in Northwestern's MEM program.

This was the second straight year that Northwestern won the competition. This year's team included Rohit Salgaonkar, Arvind Sivaraman, Lokesh Raj Raju, and Ryan Kent.

Kent, who is a part-time MEM student and works as an electrical engineer at HBK Engineering in Chicago, took a few minutes to talk about the competition, what he learned from it, and how he and his teams benefitted from their MEM training.

How would you describe what the games are to someone who has never participated?

The game is essentially a business simulation where you and your team are the executives of a car manufacturing company. You make decisions for almost every aspect of the company, from product development and dealership support to marketing and financial planning. There are other teams competing against you in the same environment, and you are competing against them for market share, stock value, and other metrics.

What were you looking forward to most about participating in the games?

I'm a very competitive person, so I was very excited to compete against other schools. I knew our team was up against students that are every bit as bright and intelligent as we are, and they are from schools that have the same level of respect as Northwestern. I was really looking forward to applying the things I've learned to see how our team measured up to these other programs. I am very proud to say we were able to finish at the top of almost every financial metric while breaking a couple of competition records.

What did you learn from the experience?

There's so much that I learned from the competition that it's really hard to not go on and on. Probably one of the most valuable lessons for me was the importance of negotiation skills in a small group setting. You need to know when to push your viewpoint as well as when to concede to others. If you are tenacious enough, you can probably convince your team to follow you in any direction, but you have to know when to exercise that tenacity.

How do you think the competition supports what you're learning in MEM?

As a part-time student, I've only taken three classes so far, but there are already so many ties between the competition and class learnings.

There is sometimes a need to influence group members to support your idea, and the influence tactics we learned in MEM424: Organizational and Leadership Behavior really came in handy, while more of the business simulation objectives can be tied to the introduction to MEM class, MEM402: Engineering Management. In this class, one of the most valuable lessons for me was learning how to read and interpret all of the financial data. Many of us as engineers had never read a financial report, and in this class, we were exposed to income statements, balance sheets, and cash flow statements for the first time. Once I learned how to read these documents it became much easier to understand how our production choices affected our finances and also how our financial decisions affected our overall performance.

What does it mean to you and your teammates to come out as champions of the competition?

It's a validation for us that the time we have put toward our classes, as well as our team discussions, has been well spent.

Your team name was the "T-Wrecks." What's the story behind the name?

Haha, it was fun to come up with a team name. One of our group members originally proposed "Autobots," but I thought it would be fun to have our name be a play on words that was car-related. I looked online for car puns and found jokes like "The Wheel Deal," "The Auto Body Experience," and "The Ford Siestas." In the end, everyone's favorite ended up being "The T-Wrecks."

Is there anything else you'd like to add?

I had a great team that was dedicated to success and willing to put in the necessary time to win. We all had a great time and would like to congratulate the other teams that helped make the competition so spirited.