College of Business: University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign

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An American “Activist” from a Global Perspective


Tabrizi (far left) and his team.

When Billy Tabrizi ’13 (Honors) was selected from a list of 3500 world-wide applicants to attend Deloitte’s International Student Business Forum in Athens, Greece, he started down a path that would reveal much about his personality and potential.

Each year, the top global professional services firm gathers 72 of the most talented university students they can find from around the world to compete in a truly global case competition. This year the competition involved making a case for the 2020 Olympic Games to be held in Johannesburg, South Africa.

ILLINOIS was one of only 8 U.S. schools represented at the competition and Tabrizi was the only native English speaker on his team, though everyone spoke English at the competition.

The team received hundreds of informational documents and in 24 hours they found the most important pieces and formed them into a rehearsed presentation.

But before they started sifting through the background information, Deloitte analyzed each of the participants for personality and leadership to assemble well-balanced teams. Tabrizi was labeled an “activist” due to his natural focus on the “big picture” and ability to brainstorm with others.

Tabrizi’s team members were analyzed and labeled reflectors, theorists, and pragmatists. Deloitte’s efforts produced a cohesive group with strengths in business/accountancy (Tabrizi), finance, engineering, and a range of specific problem solving abilities.

Tabrizi contributed an intelligence and leadership drive common to honors students in the College of Business, as well as a positive and sensitive disposition that enabled him to thrive in a group of people with dissimilar backgrounds.

“As much as anyone in the College of Business Honors Program, Billy exemplifies the attitudes of Energy, Optimism, and Enthusiasm. His energy is used to improve himself and others. His optimism allows him to set high goals for himself. His enthusiasm brings along even the most reluctant bystander,” according to John Hedeman, assistant dean of honors.

Since joining the College of Business Tabrizi has co-founded Project Future, a summer program targeting underprivileged youth, and he has been a course manager for Business 101, an introductory course on professional responsibility. He also leads the Business Council, a 130-member professional organization charged with improving the student experience in the College.

With so much effort put into his time at ILLINOIS, it is hardly a surprise that Tabrizi was voted “Mr. Business” last fall in the Phi Gamma Nu business fraternity’s annual competition.

Tabrizi’s team was assisted in their preparations by Deloitte coaches, one from Canada and another from Poland. A professor from the IMD Business School in Switzerland also walked the team through a sample case.

Ultimately the team developed a plan and a presentation for the group of European judges. They came away with powerful lessons about themselves and many global perspectives. Tabrizi noted,

I learned that there are a lot of diverse experiences, and you have to give people the opportunity to share them. I definitely learned how I fit into a group, and I know that I need to encourage others and ask them how they plan to contribute. Once we all got on the same page and had a better sense of what I role could be, the team worked much more smoothly. I think we all also learned to take a step back and analyze what we are trying to accomplish and set a game plan. At the beginning, we all just started reading through the case materials with no clear vision. Only after an hour or so did we realize that we had to start targeting our research and really hone in on those important facts. This is useful for wherever I go in life.

Tabrizi says he listens more in the teams he works for now. He credits the ISBF experience with a fundamental improvement of how he thinks about himself and others as they work on any challenge. “International experiences like [ISBF] are essential for anyone who wants to be a leader in business,” said Tabrizi.

Furthermore, Tabrizi recommends all students with aspirations for international work put special effort into getting to know others on an individual basis, to readily ask questions, and listen to responses. He believes the lifelong friendships he gained in Greece changed him for the better and helped him gain a more global perspective.

“I doubt I would have had such an opportunity if I had chosen a different school than ILLINOIS. [Undergraduate students at ILLINOIS] receive so many chances to do incredible things,” said Tabrizi. “I am grateful and look forward to doing more in the next two years.”

UIUC College of Business