Challenger already feels like a champion

KAREN KOTZE

Kommetjie resident, Courtney Meyer, is the only woman representing South Africa in the finals of the Global Student Challenge, organised by the Chart-ed Institute of Building.

Courtney is one of a four-member team from UCT’s Department of Construction Economics and Management, currently in Hong Kong and competing in the finals.

Other members of the team are Brendan Ardagh, alain Alexander and James Myburgh. They have called themselves Team Prestige Worldwide (no doubt fans of the movie Step Brothers).

They will be pitted against five other teams, one each from Glasgow Caledonian University, Hong Kong Polytechnic University, Chongqing University, Bond University and Deakin University.

Courtney spoke to the False Bay Echo while packing, the day before their flight. “Of course we would love to win. We’re going across to do our best to do just that, but in many ways I feel we already have won,” she said.

“Attending the Global Student Challenge finals in Hong Kong will be an amazing experience, but it will also provide us with an opportunity to network with the top industry people – the networking will be an incredible experience,” she said.

The team’s excitement is understandable: over the past six weeks, more than 50 teams from universities all over the world competed in the challenge.

The teams have been acting as boards of directors for a virtual construction company in a simulated environment.

Courtney explains that the challenge uses software developed by Loughborough University and has players take decisions on staffing levels, estimating and bidding, managing cash flow and capital, and seeking investment opportunities.

The competition is seen by the industry as an opportunity for university students to learn real skills in contract management, teamwork and leadership.

Teams consist of four people who each take on a specific job role such as finance director, construction director or chief executive.

Courtney’s team submitted six assignments. “There were other South African teams initially, but you could monitor how you were doing throughout, and the others dropped away over the weeks,” Courtney said.

This makes Courtney the only woman representing South Africa, but very possibly also the only woman in the competition.

“All we know about the other teams are lists of their names, and we may be wrong, but we haven’t seen any other women’s names,” she says.

Although proud to be part of the team – and to be a woman representing UCT and the country – she says she’s not given the gender issue too much thought; she’s just been involved with the team’s submissions.

“I am really grateful to be asked by the guys to join the team, they are all fourth-year students, I am the only third-year, and we are all so excited for this opportunity,” she said.

“We submitted our forecasts on Excel spreadsheets and met every Wednesday afternoon to work on the competition. It really is a great simulation of the real life workings of a business,” she said.

The team flew out on Friday July 8, and will be in Hong Kong for seven days. Courtney said the time includes the competition, a members’ forum, a conference and some site visits – as well as some free time to explore Hong Kong – and it culminates in the presidential dinner and announcement of the winners on the last night.

The winning team receives 2 000 pounds in prize money along with access to mentoring from industry leaders who will offer advice and guidance on their future careers and professional development.