Tusaani Kumaravadivel was a second year Commerce student at Queen’s University when she entered the TalentEgg Purolator Challenge.
Her submission was designed to address the Challenge question: “How can Purolator leverage social media and other communication platforms to build the company’s reputation as a Canadian innovator and customer-centric brand?”
“A friend referred me to the Challenge, as he knew I had an interest in strategy and solving problems,” said Tusaani. “I personally liked how the format was open enough that I had the opportunity to highlight what I believe to be some of my strengths.”
Tusaani got to work, and submitted what ended up being Purolator’s top-placing Challenge submission. Her winnings included a $3,000 cash prize, as well as a paid internship with Purolator’s strategy team. We caught up with her to discuss her submission process, internship experience, and advice for this year’s Challenge entrants!
Creating a (winning) submission
Tusaani was not by any means a social media expert when she took on the Purolator Challenge. But as a member of her school’s case union, she was familiar with case challenges.
“The Purolator Challenge was a bit different,” says Tusaani. “It was the first case challenge where I wasn’t working in a team and there was a direct question posed to me.”
However, the unfamiliar elements of this Challenge did not deter her. She began by brainstorming for her submission – she says many of these ideas were unfocused, and she did not end up using most of them. However, her “trial and error” method helped her create a strong final product.
“I wrote down some particular angles which resonated with me, and words which made me think of the industry,” said Tusaani. “Then, I looked at what Purolator’s competitors and related industries were doing.”
Tusaani says that information on social media was not difficult to find. She realized that since Purolator primarily served other businesses, she’d have to look at other companies with a similar business model.
“I noticed that B2B (business-to-business) companies are shifting. They’re becoming knowledge centres in addition to providing physical products and services,” says Tusaani. “This led me to a large part of my overall recommendation – exemplification of thought leadership through the development of papers and a knowledge center.”
One of Tusaani’s biggest challenges was streamlining her content. Prioritizing her information and getting rid of unnecessary components helped make sure she featured her strongest points. It also made for a more “polished” product.
Tusaani chose to display her strategy in an e-book format, which enabled her to organize her submission into major areas. She says her approach to the content was similar to an essay: it contained an introduction, the idea, and sample social media posts which conveyed how her strategy would play out.
Even the title of her submission was carefully chosen.
“My submission was called “Beyond Borders” which was a play on how Purolator connects businesses in Canada and abroad,” says Tusaani.
A career-launching internship
It was almost the end of school year when Tusaani heard the good news – her submission had placed first among all the entrants.
“I was definitely super excited – I knew that there were a lot of talented applicants,” she says.
Before she knew it, Tusaani was awarded her $3,000 cash prize. Soon after, she joined the Purolator team as an intern, and was quickly gaining professional experience with one of Canada’s largest transportation companies.
Tusaani worked with the strategy team during her placement. During her internship, she would always have a few different tasks she’d be working on at a time. The work she did varied greatly, including market research, internal analyses, and product development.
She worked on cross-functional teams, which she says was an incredibly valuable experience. As a student, she had never had a chance to work in a setting like that before. She learned how to be flexible – and since she was involved in such a wide range of activities, she developed this skill without really noticing.
“I was always engaged in the type of projects I got to work on; there was definitely a good fit between my own interests in business strategy and the role itself,” says Tusaani. “It was real work that a full time employee would do (e.g. no stereotypical photocopy runs), and I even got to choose what I worked on.”
Regular meetings throughout the week gave Tusaani the opportunity to observe what her colleagues were working on. She also had regular updates with her manager, Erik, who offered a lot of constructive feedback and opportunities for her to ask questions.
“I worked with great people who were more than patient with me which was super helpful to my professional development,” she says. “Moreover, I think that in Canada, there is very limited space to be on a corporate strategy team so I am very grateful to have had the opportunity.”
Advice for Challenge entrants
For Tusaani, winning the Purolator Challenge has had a huge impact on her career. Working on the strategy team of a large company helped her obtain a summer internship in management consulting.
“Potential employers have definitely been interested in the work I’ve done and there are a lot of projects that I am now able to speak to,” says Tusaani. “My internship has provided me with a lot of insight on how businesses work operationally.”
How can a Challenge entrant make their submission stand out? Here’s Tusaani’s advice:
- Professionalism – Imagine that you are an analyst, not a student. The submission shouldn’t be from the perspective of a student but from the perspective of the company or an external consultant.
- Research – As a student, you have access to a wide array of research materials. Knowing about the industry will give you a better idea of what will work.
- Results – Show that you’ve thought about the return on investment (both cost and time). Why is your idea the best?
Tusaani never thought that she would win the Purolator Challenge. At the time, she felt that a second year student would be at a disadvantage. But she says that even if she didn’t win, the experience was a great addition to her portfolio, and she received great feedback from the Challenge judges as well.
For Tusaani, the most rewarding part of completing the Purolator Challenge was the amount of autonomy she got in completing her submission. Working individually meant she was responsible for all parts of the Challenge submission.
“There were certain functions that I never really got the chance to work on,” says Tusaani. “[Through this Challenge], I got to try my hand at things that would normally be handled by my teammates.”
From her internship experience with Purolator, Tusaani learned a lot about the company’s vision for the future. For the upcoming Challenge, she has this advice for TalentEgg entrants:
“During my internship with Purolator, their demonstrated focus on innovation and idea generation really stood out to me – it is a rapidly growing part of the organization. Therefore, I would encourage you to reflect that. Take risks and be innovative.”