Could one of these four Concordians be CEO for a day?

Concordia semi-finalists reflect on the competition’s rigorous selection process — and what it takes to get to the top of the corporate ladder.

This week, four John Molson School of Business (JMSB) undergrads spent an enriching, nerve-wracking day at the offices of the global executive search firm Odgers Berndtson. They ranked among the 15 Montreal semifinalists in the company’s annual CEO x 1 Day competition; ultimately, six of these third- or fourth-year university students will win the opportunity to spend a day in the shoes of a senior executive.

The day-long semifinal event was part of a rigorous selection process in which the students must exhibit relationship-building, goal-setting and strategic-thinking skills. Students who demonstrate outstanding leadership potential are identified, and Monteal winners will be paired with Manon Brouillette of Videotron, Alain Brunet of SAQ, Yves Desjardins-Siciliano of Via Rail, Charles Guay of Standard Life, Yannis Mallat of Ubisoft and Thierry Vandal of Hydro-Québec.

A Concordia student, Katerina Fragos, won the 2014 CEO x 1 Day competition.

On January 14, as we entered the iconic IBM-Marathon Tower, located at 1250 René-Lévesque, we knew we were in for an unforgettable day. We participated in a half-day evaluation, hosted by Odgers Berndtson; a renowned global leader in executive search.

As one of 15 Montreal semifinalists, out of hundreds of applicants, we each had the opportunity to network with the firm’s senior consultants and managing partners while meeting a handful of exceptional students from across Quebec.

Overall, this meaningful experience assessed our leadership skills through individual and group activities. Most notably, however, the initiative taught us the fundamentals of being an effective leader and allowed us to gain a newfound understanding of our own strengths and weaknesses.

Our day began promptly at 8:30 a.m. when all semi-finalists gathered on the 39th floor at Odgers Berndtson’s Montreal headquarters. While overlooking the Montreal skyline in the firm’s boardroom, we enjoyed a meet-and-greet breakfast, followed by a brief description of the event.

Subsequently, our analytical and presentation skills were tested as we tackled our first group activity, the case study. We were divided into three teams and were given 30 minutes to prepare a thorough analysis and brief presentation, while being monitored by the firm’s consultants. Next up was the speed-interviewing segment, which was a novelty experience for all four of us, as each candidate rotated interviewers every five minutes.

One of the most resonant moments of the day was the leadership assessment workshop, hosted by Eric Beaudan, a senior consultant at Odgers Berndtson. This presentation enhanced our understanding of what it takes to be an effective leader, and the importance of being aware of our team’s strengths and weaknesses, as well as our own.

Mr. Beaudan also took the time to provide critical feedback on our individual leadership assessments, which were completed in November as part of the CEO x 1 Day application process. Each semifinalist was presented with an extensive report that summarized his/her behavioral characteristics, strengths and shortcomings.

Finally, we ended our day with an insightful presentation by the firm’s managing partner, Roger T. Duguay, who reinforced our knowledge of the professional services industry, particularly the executive search sector.

In retrospect, the half-day evaluation not only tested our ability to think on our feet, it truly allowed us to enhance our leadership skills, which will undoubtedly support us in our professional and academic endeavors. As we stepped out of the building, we each felt that this was an unforgettable experience that would propel us to become great leaders one day.