Brianna Reid ’12, leading three teammates from other universities, was awarded the $20,000 grand prize at the Firenze|BXT case study competition in Redmond, Wash., on Feb. 6.The BXT competition, hosted annually by The Microsoft Corporation, presents student competitors with problems in business and design and implementation issues, according to an e-mail from Pradeep U.N., program director for the Firenze Innovation Competition.“Competitors are given a creative brief and asked to come up with ‘their solution,’” Pradeep said. “The solution can take any format. Students have in the past submitted word documents, business proposals, PowerPoints, videos, boards of sketches, prototypes, architectures, code … the format is open-ended. Microsoft conducts the innovation workshop to help kick-start the work and does not give any resources to students that can’t otherwise be found in their fantastic university campuses.”BXT stands for business, experience and technology, which Reid said were the main focal points when designing a case, combined with a marketing strategy or “selling point.”According to Reid, the problems were not fictional scenarios created for the competition, but actual situations facing Microsoft. Competitors worked between Feb. 4 and 6 to come up with a presentation to showcase a final service or product. The exact details of the cases were not available due to a nondisclosure agreement that Reid, the other competitors and Microsoft employees signed, Pradeep said.Reid said that her studies at Cornell helped guide her team to victory by promoting strong collaboration in addition to other skills required in a business scenario. As the youngest competitor at the BXT competition, Reid said the “Cornell environment” — which she defined as motivation, diversity, talent and a desire to accomplish “something great” — helped her negate any age factor.“It’s harder to be intimidated by other people’s brilliance when you come from Cornell,” Reid said.Reid attributed her ability to collaborate and innovate in a competitive environment to her work in Cornell’s Design and Environmental Analysis department. Cornell is the only Ivy League university to offer an interior design program, although Prof. Paul Eshelman, design and environmental analysis, said the program is not as recognized as it should be.“We certainly could use more [attention] than we get,” he said, adding that he hoped Reid’s leading role in winning the BXT project would result in more recognition for the field.“Design is not a formula driven process; it’s a process that’s driven by curiosity … It takes a mindset of looking for different opportunities, of being exploratory,” Eshelman said. “Undoubtedly, that kind of thinking contributed to the richness of what they were able to generate.”Reid’s teammates, with whom the prize was split, were students from University of Michigan’s Ross School of Business, The Ohio State University and Carnegie Mellon.Pradeep suggested that money is not the real prize for the competitor.“In the big scheme of things, [$20,000] is nothing,” he said. “The learning through the competition is far more valuable than money.”According to Pradeep, the BXT invites certain universities to assemble teams of three to four students. Three of those students must be from a design, business or engineering major, while an optional fourth student may come from any major.The students collaborate and decide among themselves who will be on the final team. This, Pradeep said, is to simulate a “real-world” environment for selecting a start-up group for a business. This year’s BXT had over 250 competitors, an all-time high.
Correction: An earlier version of this article included several errors. The article originally reported that Brianna Reid graduates in 2013. In fact, she is in the class of 2012. Additionally, Pradeep U.N.’s title at Microsoft is program director for the Firenze Innovation Competition; he is not, as originally reported, a Microsoft program manager. The article also incorrectly implied that runners-up in the competition were the only participants to receive an invitation to Microsoft’s innovation workshop. In fact, all participants received such an invitation.
Original Author: Byron Kittle