Taking on a challenge

The Universitas 21 & PwC Innovation Challenge is an annual international competition exclusively for postgraduates. PricewaterhouseCoopers set a current workplace challenge and participants record a 3 minute video pitching their solution. In 2020, University of Birmingham Philosophy PGR Eugenia Lancellotta did fantastically well, getting into the top 10. Her video was judged by high level staff both within PwC and their client companies, and she won careers training and mentoring from PwC. Here, she tells us about her experience.

Eugenia Lancellotta – University of Birmingham from Universitas 21 on Vimeo.

It felt great and completely unexpected to be in the Top 10, especially because I realised I was one of the few students of Humanities there! I felt really proud of representing the category and of doing it for the University of Birmingham.

I decided to take part in the challenge because I just love challenges and the whole idea of getting out of one’s comfort zone to develop new skills. This challenge confirmed something which I already knew, at least in theory: that a holistic approach to problems is what allows you to solve them, even when these problems are quite removed from your day-to-day reality. As a philosopher, I have never dealt with the economic and social issues related to climate change and the green economy. However, what philosophy taught me is that you don’t always need to have technical knowledge to successfully engage with a problem. What counts even more than that is being able to think critically about problems, engaging both one’s creativity and rationality. The PwC challenge helped me see that this idea of mine was not merely “a philosopher’s daydream” but that it could be successfully applied to real-world problems.

I really enjoyed the creative thinking part involved in the challenge: finding new ideas to answer the issues posited by the challenge was fun and intellectually stimulating.

The most difficult part for me was the recording of the pitch: I would have never imagined that speaking for three minutes in front of a camera would prove to be so challenging. Trying to be clear, persuasive and comprehensive at the same time required more than one shot before the video was ready – and still, I was not completely satisfied with the final result. The thing which got me through the pitch recording was only one: trying, failing and trying again. Practice really does make perfection. By the tenth time or so I shot the video, I had learnt the speech by heart and had gotten much more confident in front of the camera.

I was quite happy with the entire online training experience, as it allowed me to squeeze the training in between the duties of my academic schedule. Had the training not been online, I don’t think I would have applied for the Challenge! Moreover, I really liked the way the training module was structured: the fact that the explanatory parts were followed by games and tasks which challenged one’s skills was fun and useful at the same time.

Register for the 2021 U21 & PwC Innovation Challenge, which has a focus on improving and maintaining shared and sustainable prosperity.

With thanks to Katie Hoare from Careers Network who interviewed Eugenia.

2 thoughts on “Taking on a challenge”

    1. Hi Douglas,
      You are the correct that the link above is only for University of Birmingham postgraduates who want to register to take part, but the Universitas 21 PwC Innovation Challenge is open to postgraduates at all U21 institutions across the world. However your submission needs to be via your institution, postgrads cannot submit directly to U21. In previous years most, if not all U21 institutions have taken part. You can find out more at https://universitas21.com/get-involved/student-competitions/u21pwc-innovation-challenge.
      Kind regards,


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