The GMC is growing in popularity among students and young professionals keen to complement the training and mentorship they have received. Beyond a chance to put what they have learned into practice, participants have left the competition carrying with interesting tidbits that will persist in their thoughts and actions for many years to come.

Wambui Kuria is not your typical 21 year old. She has studied finance, has already worked in marketing and human resources, uses psychology tools like ‘intent segmenting’ to plan her days, and has a clear vision of where she wants to be in the next ten years. It only follows that for her, taking part in the GMC was not a happy accident, but a very deliberate choice. “My team joined the GMC with a lot of passion,” Wambui explains, “passion and drive”.

Every one of us is familiar with the excitement that comes with unwrapping a brand new gadget, most likely a phone. Tearing through the plastic, pushing down the power button and hurriedly swiping to accept the terms and conditions without a second thought. However, for Wambui and her team, the terms and conditions got a more thorough consideration. “We decided to take part in two trial rounds on the GMC system before we took the plunge,” she says.

The team got a taste of what was in store for them. “The trial was very different from what was pitched to us; there was a lot of data and information presented. Having done ACCA, this is understandable – not enough data creates loopholes and you will eventually have a system that does not work.” With her accounting background, that dictates heavy data analysis over short periods of time, Wambui thought the level of detail in GMC very impressive.

But even with their collective expertise in finance, marketing and number crunching, the team quickly realized that they needed to specialize tasks and work very closely together. There were several components that needed to come together to complete the jigsaw puzzle that was their team, including marketing, HR and finance. “In the first round, we saw decisions made in marketing and HR affect the business. We learned to appreciate that all these functions are an entire value chain. We had a high marketing budget so we over-sold, while HR decided to cut pay. Our virtual company suffered so many strikes but our products were still selling. Intuitively, we knew that the business could not sustain such a trend,” she reflects of their grappling with real-world business challenges through the GMC’s simulation system. While the money, employees and products they dealt with were virtual, the implications of their actions felt very real. “The moment you have strikes, it affects your image, which touches on corporate sales and eventually affects the whole investment. This is the moment when we realized how important data and information are in decision making.”

The team began taking even more time to process the data at hand and understand the ‘business context’ in which they operated. This took some investment – they had to spend some of their virtual money buying business and market intelligence to better understand what other GMC teams, their competition, were doing. Some of Wambui’s team mates borrowed from their work experience to add value to the team; an actuarial scientist read the trends in the data collected, while a banker educated the team about shares and strategies used to build value. “We decided to meet twice a week as opposed to the weekly meetings where decisions were made. We would use the extra meeting to intensively discuss what our competitors were doing, as well as what went wrong with our previous decisions.” The team was now adapting to a harsh reality of business – you cannot afford to be inward looking and expect to beat the competition. By paying for business and market intelligence, they were able to establish business trends. They decided to go the consulting way and sub-contracted their business functions. “We stopped buying machines and employing too many people, and focused on marketing. That is how we eventually got into the GMC National finals.”

For her, GMC was a discovery process. “That was one of the things that came out – discovery. The other thing that really dawned on me was the importance of team work. We were working, going to school…everyone was busy, but if you missed meetings you were fined and this made us more consistent. We would also reward ourselves; one time when we made a particularly good decision, we went for a hike to Mt. Kilimanjaro. That made me realize that I would want to work for a company where I work hard, but my needs as an individual are also met.”

She had a mentor who became invaluable during her GMC experience “We talked when I joined the challenge and I asked her what she thought.” By that time, Wambui was struggling with her work place and even though there was money coming in, she was not satisfied. Her mentor’s turn of career mirrored her early dilemma – she had worked in advertising as a manager but left a good pay cheque because her job was not giving her the satisfaction she needed to start her own coaching company. “She found personal fulfilment,” Wambui explains, “she is very good at what she does. When Wambui’s mentor turned 40, she left a job she had worked at for 20 years to start her own thing. She was very open with me – she said that I was really young and GMC was an opportunity that I might never come across again. Lessons learned young have the potential to add value, bring in money down the line – much more money than I was earning at the job I had to leave to take part in the competition.” It was a bold move for Wambui to leave her job, but after the two trial sessions she was certain that she wanted to participate in the Global Management Challenge.

“I kept updating my mentor through the whole GMC process; she was instrumental because she helped me improve my decision making. She taught me how to do segmenting. Before I sleep, I segment my next day. Think about your activities, what you want to achieve and what you need to do in advance – chances are that it will work out better. Basically, you need to be ready for any outcome. And through the GMC competition, I was able to put this into practice.”

“It is one thing to be intelligent, and a completely different thing to know how to work with people,” Wambui continued. “If I had done the GMC before I started working, I would probably have approached things differently in my job, as there was a disconnect between me and my team. I excelled at my job, but my issue was people. We weren’t syncing and seeing the same vision.” The GMC competition allowed Wambui to work in a team and build a shared vision. “Even within departments in one company, sometimes people have different visions. In GMC, the competition is not just about an immediate reward such as a monthly salary. Even if you know some of these things from school, selling your ideas and vision to a team is what really drives success.”

Author: Diana Ngaira