May 08, 2012


Rob Erskine, class of 2012
Rob Erskine recieveing first place in web design
Graphic Design & Digital Media Major 2012

The only thing worse then getting up at 5am to catch a flight is a two-hour layover in Detroit.  Luckily, these were the only low points we had on the entire 2012 DECA International Career Development Conference trip in Salt Lake City.

Utah Jazz
Actually, there were a few very high points on the trip; going to a Utah Jazz( game, hearing an inspirational speech from the Jazz’s announcer, attending a few awesome seminars, and ultimately taking first in the web design competition for the second year in a row, but more on that later.

After we touched down in the Little America Hotel ( in Utah we were fortunate enough to get courtside seats a few hours early for a really insightful speech from Thurl Bailey, a broadcast analyst for the Utah Jazz. Bailey had the whole arena glued to every word he said as he described his upraising, and his love of basketball. Bailey was able to connect his passion for basketball into an equally passionate post basketball career. He really illustrated that it’s important to love what you do, and I couldn’t agree more with him.

Social Market Mantra
The conference also showcased some excellent speakers. I know for my track in Communications and Technology, we had Mrs. Shilpa Gauba, President of Social Market Mantra(, give some awesome tips on promoting yourself and others through social media. Did you know that if someone follows you on twitter, it’s polite to follow him or her back? Also, if your linkedin profile isn’t 100% complete, you’re missing out on potential employers being able to find you?

After the seminar, we broke out into teams for a quick workshop. Mrs. Gauba threw out real world situations and had our groups solve them through the use of creative social media marketing. It was an engaging experience that really helped me understand how to professionally use social media.

Web Site Competition
Now on to the competition part: the web design and development competition was a prepared event in which I had to build an ecommerce website and market it in a role-play to a few judges. Even though this was a prepared event, and of course I had months to prepare, I was preoccupied with the Johnson & Wales Advertising team( So I literally built my entire project and campaign the weekend we were in Salt Lake City. Not to worry though, I had a solid idea in my head, and the JWU determination to get it all done.

I was surprised how many teams were competing this year. The small competitive briefing room we were in was packed with teams from Canada, Mexico, and twenty-six other states. I was able to mingle with a few of the teams, but as soon as the briefing was over I went straight back to my room to prepare for the first round of competition.

The next morning I presented for the first time in front of two judges (whom I later found out were a Stock Investor and TJ Max Marketing Officer) who really grilled me throughout the presentation. The total time allotted for the presentation was twenty-five minutes, so I was really worried that all the questions would set me over. I ended up asking if they could hold their questions to end, which from their judge feedback sheet I could tell they really despised. Overall my case couldn’t have been bad, as I made the top ten stage the next morning.

After the top ten awards I went to refine my presentation and iron out the kinks I had found during the first presentation. The second time around, when I presented to only one judge (who I later found out was a senior marketing director at ServPro (, was absolutely blown away by my product. At the end I asked her if she would be willing to sign a contract today (remember, this was a role play), and she said absolutely. She signed on the dotted line as my sole investor, prepared to front my expedition for $250,000.

That night my name was announced last as one of the top six competitors, which honestly was the most nerve-racking part of the competition. After the 3rd place and 2nd place teams were announced, I knew I had a pretty good shot at being called first. Hearing the crowd erupt when they prefaced the announcement of the 1st place winner with “from Johnson & Wales University…” was such an awesome moment. My experience in not only design and development, but also my ability to advertise and market my site really gave me the competitive edge I needed to win.