Four sophomores from Wesleyan – Asa Sakornpant, Pim Wandee, Sarah Rizky Ardhani, and Ransho Ueno – won the New England regional competition in business consulting, hosted by the Boston office of Roland Berger. Read on for their thoughts on what makes a successful team, which parts of Wesleyan experience have helped them, and where do they see themselves in the future.
Asa Sakornpant, Natchanok (Pim) Wandee, Sarah Rizky Ardhani, and Ransho Ueno make an interesting team. They are all sophomores, class of 2023, and three of them (Asa, Sarah, and Ransho) are Freeman Asian Scholars. They are members of the Consulting Pathways club at Wesleyan, supported by the Gordon Career Center. And, the point that brought them to this blog, all four are pursuing a minor in Data Analysis at the Quantitative Analysis Center, which is how I learned of their success in the Case for a Cause competition. We were able to get together for a chat over Zoom one week after their win.
Q: What are your backgrounds?
Pim: I plan to study CSS (College of Social Studies), double major in Econ, and minor in Data Analysis.
Ransho: I double major in Government and Science in Society Program, and minor in Data Analysis.
Asa: I am a double major in CSS and Economics, with a potential minor in Data Analysis.
Sarah: I am an Econ and Psych double major, and also a minor in Data Analysis.
Q: How did you organize as a team? Did you know each other from classes? Do you have a team captain who brought everyone together?
Asa: No team captain. We have a very flat structure. I wanted to do the Case [for a Cause] competition, mentioned it to Sarah, and then forgot about it. And then she texted me … some time during the winter, or maybe even at the start of the spring semester. But, yes, we know each other because we are Freeman Scholars and hang out together, and Pim and I are from Thailand and we knew each other from the beginning.
Pim: And so, after Asa reached out to Sarah he kind of roped me into it, too.
Q: I was trying to google about the competition and found that Wesleyan took first place in 2018, UConn – in 2019, and UMass Amherst – in 2020. And it’s a very big competition. There are teams from Harvard, Dartmouth, other New England schools.
Pim: Actually, Wesleyan was in the finals in 2019 and 2020.
Q: Who else was in the finals this year?
Pim: Bentley University, MIT, and UMass.
Q: I am interested to see whether your backgrounds from Wesleyan helped you in the competition.
Asa: It is interesting, because what we study is not necessarily the same as what is in the competition. Wesleyan does not have business courses except for some courses on entrepreneurship through the Patricelli Center. It was more of the soft skills that I got at Wesleyan that I used. Plus, the Excel course and QAC courses helped a lot. But it’s not only the quantitative skills that we took; qualitative ones as well, like CSS and Economics, they helped a lot in terms of the logic behind the case and how we should approach it. The fact that we could debate as a team was definitely very helpful, because each one of us could take an entity and agency to debate out which one is the most probable idea. I guess that’s my take on it.
Ransho: In my case it is different from Pim and Asa. My major is not Economics, I am interested in global healthcare policy. But at some point, in my freshman year, I got interested in business consulting as my future career, and I was close to Sarah, and so we decided to do this competition. And I’ve really benefited a lot from my teammates, because I have never done Case competition before, so I did not know how to approach it. But, I really liked QAC classes, since freshman year, and the skills that I might be able to gain from QAC classes — I was able to apply them in the competition.
Q: Which course have you enjoyed the most at Wesleyan? Or the one that influenced you most? Something you would recommend to others, say “you should definitely take it”?
Asa: It was a freshman seminar, Uncertainty and the Future (SISP 120F, First Year Seminar, Uncertainty and the Future). It’s a psychological or, if you like, anthropological, take on human psychology and how we study the world and how we pose ourselves amidst it. I loved it. It was a small class, so we got close to the professor. And the other course? Probably the history tutorials at CSS: I never studied European history, and I was going in thinking, “oh, it’s not going to be something that I am super interested in, and I have no background in it”, but I really enjoyed talking to the professor, Jennifer Tucker.
Pim: My favorite two classes? So, one of them is definitely the European history tutorial at CSS. Before Wes, history for me was something that involved memorization and multiple choice questions. I always thought that history is very concrete and it just exists, and you just memorize what happens, and it’s the truth, but when you get to read these different readings and analyze them, and actually argue with them, it makes it feel more dynamic. And I think it’s a really good class because Professor Tucker is really good at facilitating debates and discussions so, yeah, it was definitely one of my favorite classes.
Sarah: I am at Wesleyan and, I guess, we can take a lot of classes from different departments. I always loved music classes, and I take one music class every semester, because I think they are fun and I enjoy learning more about cultures and places. Things that are pertinent to my major? I think the financial crises class I took with Karl Boulware was really good (ECON 237, Financial Crises: Beginning to End), because we were learning about the 2007 financial crisis and the depression and then we analyzed them in different places.
Ransho: I really liked QAC 201 (Applied Data Analysis) and QAC 251 (Data Visualization: An Introduction) that I took with Professor Val [Valerie Nazzaro]. The cool thing about QAC classes was that you got to choose your research question and then you can explore your interests, while you are gaining coding skills. That was very interesting, and Professor Val’s class made me pursue data science minor, so I really enjoyed these classes. Oh, outside of QAC, the other class that I really enjoyed was Japanese Politics (GOVT 296 Japanese Politics) that I took with Professor Haddad. It was very interesting. And, like Pim and Asa said, I’ve always learned history or politics as memorization in Japanese high school, but the class made me look at the Japanese politics through the lenses of democracy and how democracy was formed in Japan, and through the American perspective.
Q: So, in the previous years, the company would send a car to pick you up and take you to the final round in Boston. How was it this year? Did they drive you, or was it over Zoom?
Sarah: It would have been cool to go to Boston, but, sadly, no. It was remote this year. But we put on our blazers and did the presentation in Butts [Butterfield dorm] B lounge. It felt very appropriate just to do it in the lounge: we also did a lot of our work in Butts A lounge.
Q: You are making a distinction between Butts A and Butts B lounges. Do they draw different kinds of students? I’ve heard that that’s the case with the Olin and Science libraries: in Olin, you can find a remote spot and be on your own, but in Science, with its open layout, you need to be more social.
Sarah: Not really. It’s just that we originally wanted to do the final presentation in the Butts A lounge, but someone has already occupied the space, even though it was 8 am, and we had to move to another building.
Pim: Walking in suits across the Butts hall [laughs]. Everybody was surprised.
Q: Everybody was surprised. Why?
Pim: People were wearing shorts and lying on the grass at the time. We looked very out of place.
Q: You said that you were interested in a career in business consulting. Did your opinions change after the competition?
Pim: I did come to Wesleyan kind of interested in consulting. I knew a few people who went into CSS and went on to consulting roles afterwards. And, so, after speaking to these people, I was even more intrigued in consulting. That’s what led to me to participate in the Case competition. But … because it’s so competitive, the process itself, I kind of realized how consulting, even though it has a lot of merits, … I would not want to put all eggs in one basket and just have, like, “consulting or bust” mindset, so I am very much still open to explore other career paths.
Sarah: I came into Wesleyan not really knowing what I want to do, but then I got acquainted with a lot of people who are trying to go into consulting, or the finance industry, and I think these are two main areas that I will be looking into in the future. And joining the Case competition made me think that consulting is actually pretty fun. We had to stay up pretty late at night, but we were trying to solve problems as a team. I am still pretty open about my future, but the Case competition made me realize that this is pretty cool.
Asa: I have been interested in consulting for a while because I enjoy the challenges and appreciate the room for creativity within business-solution frameworks. I will definitely try my best and optimize my opportunity at the first-round interview at Roland Berger. I am open-minded about the future, and will be looking more into the consulting industry as well as the investments world, but there is definitely a lot more to learn.
Ransho: I came to Wesleyan with an interest in consulting. I knew a lot of Japanese students who studied abroad and came back to work in consulting roles. But now I feel that I want to pursue graduate school, maybe a Masters or a PhD program. I find consulting interesting, but I have a super strong interest in healthcare. Maybe if I could find a consulting role related to healthcare …
Q: How did you learn that you won? Was there a ceremony?
Pim: It was last Friday (April 9th, 2021), after the final round of presentations. We were in a large room, with a lot of people, and then they just announced in PowerPoint, basically.
Q: So, no confetti or balloons falling from the ceiling?
Pim: No, just a PowerPoint slide.
Q: Do you feel like your life has changed now that you won the Case, leaving behind so many competitors?
Sarah: It made me realize that there are so many people out there, and there are so many things that I do not know, compared to others, so I need to get into knowing them ASAP.
Asa: I don’t really have an answer. I don’t see myself as, “oh, we are better than the other people and we are set for life now”. Even though the Case gave us exposure and recognition in the industry, I don’t think it’s enough to use it like a ticket to employment. I feel like there is so much more that we have to do, and we are realizing it now.
Pim: I wasn’t going into the competition to win. It was more like, “Okay, we want to do our best and give it all”. And it doesn’t even matter what other people do because we did not get to see our competitors present at all. So it was just us and the judges and our main focus was “just do our best”.
Q: What would be your advice to the future participants? Like, avoid hierarchical team structure and stay flat so you could be equal partners, choose people with diverse backgrounds so you can benefit from that, or take a specialized course that can help with skills?
Asa: I think finding a good team is really important, not just in terms of whether it’s flat or hierarchical, but as in, “be with the people that you like to spend time with”. I think that’s the most important, even before looking into what each person’s expertise is.
To be fair, when we were talking to other people, they thought our team was weird because we came together in a different way than other teams, because other teams look and say, oh, you need to have a quantitative person, you need to have a qualitative person, and everyone is about “divide and conquer”. I mean, that is true, to an extent, but the way we approached it was, we like switching around what each one does because we are holistic. But I don’t think it is because of our expertise, but rather because we chose a team in which we knew we could communicate together and, I think, that’s the most important thing, in my opinion.
Sarah: I definitely agree with Asa. If the dynamic within your group is good, then you can make it because, to be honest, at the beginning of the competition I did not know a lot and Pim and Asa taught me a lot of stuff and went through it together. Knowing your groupmates is really important because you have to stay up late a lot to do the work.
Consulting Pathways: Wesleyan Consulting Club
College of Social Studies
Wesleyan Economics Major
Minor in Data Science
Majoring in Government at Wesleyan
Wesleyan Science in Society Program
Psychology major, Wesleyan
Freeman Asian Scholarship
Quantitative Analysis Center, Wesleyan University
Jennifer Tucker, faculty profile
Karl Boulware, faculty profile
Mary Alice Haddad, faculty profile
Valerie Nazzaro, faculty profile