How We Won Second Place in UC Davis-Financial Times Biz Quiz

Team GUM in finals vs. UCLA and UC San Diego

We had 45 days, 10 categories and 400 articles to study.

This was the mandate given to us during our first team meeting to prepare for the UC Davis-Financial Times Biz Quiz. Our initial team was six students. I thought between the six of us, we could read and absorb the information from these articles without too big of a challenge.

Three people standing in front of the UC Davis welcome sign
Second-place winning UC Davis Team GUM (from left to right) Umang Kulshrestha, Mika Shang and Gordon Chang.

By the end of the first week of preparations, I’d already changed my mind. It was shaping up as a bigger challenge requiring much more personal investment from each of us!

Joining the Biz Quiz Team

This was an exciting and new challenge and one I would not have had the chance to experience without a dear friend and classmate, Mika Shang. Mika was one of the initial team members recruited by our advisor, Professor Ayako Yasuda, to invite potential members to the UC Davis Biz Quiz team. When she first reached out, I was intrigued by the challenge but was worried that my lack of deep finance acumen and expertise would negatively impact our team. Mika’s responses to my concerns helped me to charge forward confidently and join the awesome team led by Professor Yasuda.

Our Full-Time MBA team was made up of three students from the class of 2023 and three first-years from the class of 2024. Another great bonus from this competition was the opportunity to work closely with the new first-years who had only recently joined the program a few months before.

Preparing for the Competition

As a team, we discussed the best way to approach the distribution of Financial Times categories as well as methods to study for the competition. Our final approach was to build a shared database of questions based on what we thought were the key insights from each article.

Group of people conversing at a table
UC Davis Team GUM (from left to right) Gordon Chang, Umang Kulshrestha and Mika Shang participating in the final round of the inaugural UC Davis-Financial Times Biz Quiz.

Each team member was assigned two categories where they were the primary reader, and as they read their assigned articles, they would generate two-three questions that were then added to the database. Our original plan also included secondary readers for each category who would read the articles in parallel and provide recommendations to the primaries.

After a sufficient pool of questions was added to the database, a team member created a quiz simulator (thank you, Lucas Haskins!) that would draw questions from the pool. We used the simulator to mimic the competition: we split our team into two, and our advisor acted as the host and question reader. These were not only an efficient way to disseminate key knowledge and facts from across all ten categories to the team, but it was also incredibly fun and inspiring to see team members excel in their assigned categories!

As we got closer to the day of the competition, a wrench was thrown into the mix. Due to one of the University of California business schools dropping out of the competition, a decision was made by the organizing body to allow two UC Davis teams to participate. So, we formally split into two competing teams. Even after the split, nothing changed: Our teams still practiced together and helped each other shore up our weak spots.

Watch video with perspective from second-place UC Davis MBA team.

Competition Day!

The day went by in such a blur it’s hard to recollect specific moments! But what stands out the most for me during the four rounds of rapid-speed, “Jeopardy!”-style competition was the support and team spirit.

Our team took on the challenge as a unified front, and no matter how we were doing at that moment, our support and encouragement for one another did not waiver. We pushed each other to take calculated risks and made sure to diffuse any guilt each of us felt from getting an answer wrong. This collaborative spirit allowed us to push through to the finals, where we went head-to-head with students from UCLA and UC San Diego, and we took home second place overall!

Final Thoughts

One of the other key reasons our team could perform well was the incredible coaching and support from Professor Yasuda. Throughout the month-long preparation period, she took the time to guide each of us individually and provide counsel on ways to perform better during the competition.

Even on the day of the competition, Professor Yasuda’s unwavering support and advocacy allowed us to focus solely on beating the challenge as a team. I appreciate her time and effort, and I hope she continues to coach future generations of the UC Davis-Financial Times Biz Quiz teams!

Huge shoutout to my Team GUM teammates, Mika Shang and Umang Kulshrestha, and Team LeVeR: Sriranjani Ramachandran, Vaibhav Kumar and Lucas Haskins. Thank you for an incredible learning experience, and I hope we have the chance to take on more challenges together in the future!