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Winning at worlds

The competitive nature of DECA makes it difficult for competitors to stand out, but two Oakton juniors rise to the challenge.

Photos+courtesy+of+Sambriddi+Pandey
Photos courtesy of Sambriddi Pandey

Photos courtesy of Sambriddi Pandey

Photos courtesy of Sambriddi Pandey

Rebecca Woodhouse, Feature Editor

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Juniors Shazmeena Khattak and Sambriddi Pandey recently won first place at DECA Internationals in the Sports & Entertainment Operations Research (SEOR) event. Their competitors came from all around the world, ranging from places such as China, Japan, other states in the US, and even the people who they competed against at states.

As part of this, they partnered up with one business and developed a marketing plan. For their project, Khattak and Pandey worked with Fairfax Racquet Club and Fitness Center. This included doing an interview with management, and looking at their current marketing strategies to see how they could be improved. They projected their growth and gave them ideas how they could improve their business

How did they win first in Internationals? While Khattak and Pandey prefer not to discuss the specifics, they attribute much of their success to their in-depth research. The topic for this years operations research event was SoLoMo, or social mobile local marketing, which required them to focus on different social media platforms.

The competition is in a shark-tank like format. The two competitors have to pitch their marketing plan to the judge, who is acting as the CEO of the company the marketing was developed for. As competitors, they have to persuade the judge their plan is the best one for them to utilize.

The competition includes both a 10 to 15 minute presentation as well as a 30 page paper that goes in depth with their research. Surprisingly, “the paper really wasn’t that hard to write,” says Khattak. After using the outline and going through the research, their paper was initially around 47 pages. The harder part was figuring out what to cut down. However, this paper did not come together overnight.

What helped them stand out was the fact that, “everything we have, we backed up with strong evidence and research,” said Pandey. Additionally, after states they really took the critiques from the judges to heart. “We really went back and fixed those parts in our paper, which helped us have a more well rounded presentation,” said Khattak. They had from States in March to Internationals in May to edit both their presentation and paper. Their attitude towards competing at Internationals also probably helped with their success. “We had spent so much time and money, the way I saw it we at least had to try. We for sure took it seriously, and even on the plane ride to California I was still studying and brushing up on some facts,” said Pandey.

Their goal was honestly just to make it to finals. Each different category (such as SEOR)  consisted of multiple groups with different judges, and each judge selected two groups to move onto finals. After  Khattak and Pandey made it to finals, they were competing against other competitors under the same judge. “This made it nice, because it was really just one judge who choose the winners so it wasn’t like people could say, ‘ your judge was just nice’ or anything like that,” said Khattak.

Through DECA, both have learned many lessons. “I have definitely gained more confidence. I worked so hard the entire year perfecting this. Now when it comes to presenting, it’s really not that big of a deal for me,” stated Pandey.  Even though in the future, business isn’t necessarily what Khattak is interested in studying, DECA has definitely been a positive experience.  “Through DECA I’ve learned a lot about presenting myself. Additionally, I have a much better understanding of how much work it takes to get what you want,” said Khattak.

The pathway to getting first at Internationals was not simple, easy, or quick. Pandey has been a part of DECA and competing since freshman year, and Khattak has been part of DECA since sophomore year. Working on such an important project for so much of the year was a struggle for their friendship at times too, but looking back both are glad they invested so much into the project. As the Oakton community, we should all be proud of Khattak and Pandey, who are the first people from OHS to win first at Internationals.

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Winning at worlds