The Deloitte Difference University Challenge

by Ross O'Neill

My Experience

By way of a brief introduction, my name is Ross O’Neill. I am a second year Analyst in Deloitte’s Consulting Department as part of the Finance Transformation service line. In my final year of college, where I studied Business and Law (UCD), I had the great pleasure of taking part in the Deloitte Difference University Challenge.

To be honest I can’t speak highly enough of the competition. The level of organisation and the care that went into all stages was evident throughout and the experience I gained has been truly invaluable starting my career. If anyone were on the fence about participating I would strongly recommend they do, it is a fantastic competition and brilliant way to get a taste of the life of a consultant.

Round 1 – University College Dublin

I attended the first round in UCD around mid-October of 2014. There was a huge turnout by a wide variety of students; from masters to undergraduate and business to engineering. Straight out of the blocks the day was a success for me as it gave me the opportunity to chat to all the other competitors, but more importantly to chat with current Deloitte employees of all levels.

As a student, I knew very little about any of my prospective future employers, Deloitte included. Many firms will profess to have a fun and charismatic workforce but this competition gave me the platform to witness this first hand.

Everyone I met was very approachable, down to earth and quite frankly just really sound. I would probably attribute these casual conversations as the reason I first really thought about starting my career in Deloitte.

The competition itself was nothing I had ever done before; the challenges were really unique and enjoyable. They really let the competitors show their ability to think on their feet and interact with a team of people they had just met; both of which are crucial qualities of a consultant. The whole evening was great, with everyone enjoying themselves thoroughly. Although it is a competition, participating is a win-win situation.

Just by attending it gave you invaluable face time with Deloitte employees which can help you assess the firm, but it also acts as a great example of you being proactive about your career, which will stand to you immensely come interview time. On top of this, as is the nature of competition, there is the added bonus for a lucky few of coming out victorious which giving them a place in the national final and another step closer to Deloitte University in Dallas. There’s also a nice cash prize involved which always goes down a treat.

National Final - Ireland

The national finals were held in the Deloitte offices. It was a full day event that was jam packed from beginning to end. I happened to be in a ‘wildcard’ team, and so that morning was the first time my team had met. After introductions had been made, all competitors had a chance to chat amongst ourselves and a few Deloitte employees over tea and coffee. It was great meeting all these students from all of the universities in Ireland and again, great to have the chance to talk in an informal setting with Deloitte employees.

The final was a much more conventional Business Case Competition, with each team being given a brief outlining details of a simulation company, in a simulated marketplace with simulated queries. Although a condensed and isolated situation, this is not too dissimilar to what Deloitte is presented with in its consulting engagements. Competitors, like our consultants, were tasked with breaking down the issues at hand, discerning what exactly the client company wanted to achieve, and then coming up with the best ways to deliver upon these objectives.

They had to take all of the internal and external factors into consideration and collate their findings in a clear and concise manner to deliver their suggestions. Each team was assigned a Deloitte employee as their ‘Team Facilitator’, although facilitators were limited on how much they could influence team actions, they were invaluable sources of experience should teams encounter any issues. The teams had to prepare slides to use to communicate their findings. These slides were then delivered to Deloitte directors and partners who acted as key stakeholders in the simulation client company by way of a presentation ‘pitch’. Submissions were judged on four grounds;

  • Content of slides
  • Quality of appearance of slides
  • Quality of team’s presentation
  • Teams ability to answer follow up questions of client

After all team presented, the best two teams were picked to battle it out in a final round of presentations before finally one winner was selected. The whole process was quite intense, but really enjoyable and engaging. It gave competitors crucial insight into consultancy with strict deadlines and a wide variety of issues to tackle.   

It tested key competencies like team work, leadership, communication, timekeeping and lateral thinking.

I loved the competitive nature of the day, and really opened my eyes to what is expected of a consultant. It also gave me the unique opportunity to meet partners and directors of Deloitte, which is not a regular occurrence. I was blown away by how the qualities I had noticed in all other Deloitte employees to be just as evident in the upper echelons. Everyone I met was relaxed, jovial and again, really down to earth.

As it happened, my interview with Deloitte was four days after the final. My experiences that day solidified my view that Deloitte was the firm for me, and also proved to be a great and unique talking point in my interview.

National Final – Dallas, Texas

When I signed up for the first round, the thought of actually going to Dallas was far from my mind, yet luckily enough I found myself on a plane jetting across the Atlantic. It was a surreal experience that only got more surreal when I arrived at Deloitte University.

I genuinely cannot fully describe how incredible the place is; based on a huge campus, the buildings were beautiful and pristine. Food and accommodation was five star, there was a gym, complimentary Starbucks and kitchenettes every few hundred yards and fifty foot touch screen interactive walls. I feel like I could go on forever about the place and its facilities but instead I’d just urge everyone to google Deloitte University Texas (however, even online it isn’t done justice).

The competition comprised of our team (team Ireland) and the best teams from top universities around the states. The setup was similar to the final in Ireland with all teams being issued a brief of a simulated company. However this brief was much larger and much more detailed given that this case study spanned the length of three days. There was a big step up in the difficulty levels and a big step up in the competition so we had our work cut out for us! After an intense few days and a couple of late nights we had our slides done and our presentation prepared. Again there were partners in attendance that acted out the roles of client stakeholders for our presentation, this time partners from the U.S. offices.

Once more, I would say intense is the best word to describe the competition, but an intensity that I thoroughly enjoyed and one that brought out the competitive side of all involved which made for great fun. Sadly team Ireland did not win (something that may be rectified this year), but I cannot speak highly enough of the experience and again, could not recommend participating any higher!

If anyone has any questions about my experience or would like to know any more, please don’t hesitate to contact me at

Good Luck!!

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