Using Teamwork to Oust the Competition

Kleinman Center team thrives at McCombs Energy Competition

This fall, five Wharton MBA students were funded by the Kleinman Center to participate in the prestigious McCombs National Energy Finance Competition at the University of Texas at Austin. The team of Upadhi Kabra (MBA ’18), Zachary Goldstein (MBA ’18), Claire Tramm (MBA ’18), Suhrid Mantravadi (MBA ’18), and Graham Gallagher (MBA ’18) placed third among a highly competitive field of teams from 13 universities across the country.

As a part of the competition, students were required to solve a problem statement based on real issues facing energy companies today. The team from the University of Pennsylvania had a leg up on the competition given the diverse background of its members including a former petroleum engineer with energy venture capital investing experience, a former private equity professional, an energy lawyer, a former energy start-up executive, and an energy research analyst. 

“In my view, we came in with the most diversity of skill sets to the competition and it showed in our approach,” said Mantravadi, a former petroleum engineer with energy venture capital investing experience. “Other teams took a purely financial approach to solving the exercise, while we choose a more holistic approach that incorporated financing.” The Penn team was able to conduct in-depth analyses and utilize collective knowledge to come up with a successful assessment of the given prompt.

The competition included networking opportunities for students to get to know other energy professionals from across the country, and to create connections with energy companies. “Sitting with a group of individuals focused on the energy industry was a fantastic platform for me to deeply understand the industry landscape,” said Kabra. “Being closer to the companies working in this field is a very enriching experience.”   

The first-year Wharton students excelled despite their rigorous academic schedules. “Even though we are all students in the midst of the most stressful time of year academically, we all managed to pull together a deep analytical model, fabulous presentation, and learn from each other in the process,” said Tramm. “We learned how to work better as team members while also expanding our knowledge base as energy professionals,” echoed Mantravadi.

“I have come away from the competition with an increased sense of confidence in my own abilities as an energy professional and with a renewed zeal for the energy space,” reflected Goldstein. “Being an aspiring energy professional, I cannot underscore enough the importance of this competition, this experience will certainly help us in our future goals,” said Kabra.

But one of the greatest takeaways from the competition was one of teamwork and collaboration. “My most significant takeaway from the conference was how much I can learn from my fellow students and how much I can contribute to their learning,” said Goldstein.  “As we debated over strategies, it became abundantly clear that each of us held a different piece of the solution.”