Five transfer students shine at Zendesk Case Competition

Haas juniors—all transfer students—Alec Li, Beta Jui, Nyquist Avilla, Andrada Metz, and Adriana Vanegas, won first prize at last week’s Zendesk Case Competition.

A group of five Haas junior transfer students bested 26 other undergraduate teams charged with revamping a pilot mentorship program for women in the Zendesk Case Competition last Friday.

Andrada Metz, Alec Li, Nyquist Avilla, Adriana Vanegas, and Beta Jui, took first place for their year-long program called “Azend.”

The Center for Equity, Gender, and Leadership (EGAL) and Berkeley Women in Business (BWiB) co-sponsored the one-day event, held in Chou Hall’s Spieker Forum.

The case competition, which was open to all UC Berkeley undergrads, grew out of EGAL’s alliance with customer service software company Zendesk, which recently provided a $1 million gift to the center.

The students were charged with helping Zendesk solve problems with its existing pilot mentorship program, including an imbalance of mentors and mentees, a program that was too short, and inadequate engagement. They were also asked to design the mentorship program to operate on a global scale.

The Azend home page for mentors and mentees.

The Azend home page for mentors and mentees.

Team Azend’s secret sauce may have been a standout app they developed for the company’s mentoring program. The app, developed around a curriculum and targeted content, allowed both mentors and mentees log in to a home page, check events, connect with each other outside of mentoring sessions, watch videos, and collect data to assess progress. During each quarter, the women participating in the Azend mentoring program would focus on one area, such as “growth and development,” and follow a self-assessment, working toward a goal that included sessions on developing self-confidence through skills such as public speaking.

The project was a true team effort that required many hours of intense work during the week they had to work on the case, said Metz, who is from Romania and transferred to Haas from Diablo Valley College. “Last night Alec, Beta, and Adriana were up until 3 am polishing the slides and making sure the app was working,” she said. “This week was hard. I had interviews (for internships), exams, and working on the case. But everyone did a great job.”

Li, who developed the app using prototyping software he’d used before in class, said everyone on the team had different strengths that made their project come to life.”

Nyquist agreed. “We all brought something to the table,” she said. “I brought the idea for the app and Alec was the brainpower behind putting it together.”

Kate McMahon, a senior director of sales and one of three Zendesk employees judging the case, praised the winning team’s work, noting that it was clear how serious they were about the challenge. “What we loved was the simplicity and how you pulled the challenges into one place,” she said. “We loved the engagement piece. That was a challenge. How do we keep people engaged when they’re not in one-on-one sessions?”

The winning students hug the Zendesk judges.

The winning team hugs the Zendesk judges.

After the winner was announced, the Azend team cheered and hugged.

Vanegas, a transfer student from Irvine Valley College, said she never expected to win. “As transfer students we really didn’t think that we’d be able to live up to the other continuing students so we didn’t believe we’d be here,” she said, adding, “I think one of the best experiences was being up all night and working together and making mistakes.”

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