Zendesk Case Competition 2020

After hosting two successful in-person case competitions with Zendesk, Berkeley Women in Business (BWIB) and the Center for Equity, Gender, and Leadership (EGAL) teamed up to host our first-ever virtual case competition on September 18th, 2020. With everything going on in the world these past 6 months, diversity, equity, and inclusion is more important than ever before. Recognizing this, Zendesk focused the competition around their new Global, Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion (GDEI) framework and encouraged participants to come up with several Objectives and Key Results (OKRs) to quantify the framework.

Headquartered in San Francisco, Zendesk is a service-first CRM company that builds software designed to improve customer relationships. Zendesk’s powerful and flexible customer service and engagement platform scales to meet the needs of a variety of businesses and industries. With $1billion annual revenue and 150,000 unique paid customer accounts, Zendesk is an emerging technology firm that operates globally in 22 offices with over 3000 employees spread across Asia, Australia, Europe, North America, and South America. As a company that encourages each other to continuously grow and innovate, Zendesk prioritizes diversity, inclusion, and equity. While Zendesk continues to be the fastest growing customer service and engagement platform, the firm simultaneously sets a strong example for other technology companies by building a culture where everyone belongs.

This year’s case was centered around the firm’s shift from Diversity & Inclusion to Global, Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion. Zendesk’s goal was to move from a programmatic approach to a more leader-led approach, creating leader accountability towards GDEI goals across all functions and ensuring a systematic approach across the firm. As the multinational company has grown exponentially, nuances of discrimination and diversity that vary across geographies have come to the forefront. The need to shift away from a “one size fits all” approach and take individual experiences into account quickly became apparent, as well.

Students were tasked with researching and presenting the value proposition for executives to incorporate GDEI initiatives into their work streams. This involved outlining why the leader-led framework adds value to Zendesk’s business model and how it can be operationalized across the three “pillars” and various business functions. To make the deliverables as tangible as possible, teams came up with objectives and key results (OKRs) to supplement their strategies.

With over 175 students and 37 teams participating, this year’s competition was our largest to date. Ultimately, our top finalists came down to Team 26 (First Place), Noah Oppenheimer, Michael Xia, Aneesh Goel, Audrey Zhang, and Katherine Stevenson, and Team 18 (Second Place), Magali Venegas, Natalia Nava Urbina, Juan Jesus Rosales, Julio Ornelas, and Salvador Marin.

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When asked for her thoughts on the competition, Katherine expressed “this was my first case competition and when I learned that I won, I was shocked and so excited. I learned so much from this case competition, both from the case itself and my amazing teammates.” Team 26’s solution was centered around a DEI certification program that all managers are required to complete in order to be equipped with the necessary skills to promote an inclusive culture. When the team was working together, Noah mentioned that “everyone on our team had a different background and wanted to approach the case in a different way, so we actually argued a lot more than some of the other case competition teams I’ve been on. In the end, I think this discourse really helped us because nobody’s idea went unchallenged and we were ready for most of the judge’s questions because it probably represented a concern one of us had raised at some point.”

After months of planning, I am grateful to the EGAL, BWIB, and Zendesk team for coming together to put on a successful event and were happy to gain so many creative ideas from the participants to implement into the firm. Until next year!

At the heart of UC Berkeley's Business School, the Center for Equity, Gender, and Leadership educates equity-fluent leaders to ignite and accelerate change.

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