My MECC Experience: Insights from Ashley Shi

Ashley Shi, Tess Patton, Spencer Angell, and David Brown Associate Professor of Finance Eller College of Management.

Ashley Shi, a Junior at the University of Arizona studying finance and management information systems, is a Microsoft Excel Collegiate Champion. She was a member of the University of Arizona’s 2023 MECC Finals championship team. While now a champion, Ashley didn’t have such high expectations when she started building her Excel skills a few years ago.

Ashley began as a pre-business student at the Eller College of Management, and like many fellow students, she felt intimidated by Excel. She learned a bit of Excel in some of her classes, and eventually heard about the Financial Modeling Club. Despite feeling nervous, she attended her first meeting. She found a passionate professor and a welcoming group of students, all eager to develop their Excel skills. With her classmates’ encouragement and professor’s guidance, and a lot of practice, Ashley developed her keyboarding skills and learned many Excel functions and techniques.

“Participating in the MECC has given me more confidence in using shortcuts on Excel, which is an important skill to have in the finance industry. With Excel, practice is key, and the more exposure you get using shortcuts, the more comfortable and efficient you will be. Thanks to the challenges in the MECC, I feel more prepared going into my summer internships, knowing that I have developed a skill set over the past few years. It does take time to be comfortable using Excel, and it is still definitely a work in progress, but it is incredibly rewarding when I work on an Excel sheet and do so with ease.”

As Ashley became more comfortable in Excel, she began applying her skills to cases, which pushed her to think critically and develop intuition for how to best solve problems. Even then, Ashley was worried about competing due to the risk of failure. She overcame her fear, thanks to the support of her fellow students and mentors, and worked towards being a part of the winning team during the finals. In the fall of 2023, Ashley ranked 43rd in the 2023 MECC online qualification rounds and earned a place on the University of Arizona team.

During the 2023 MECC Finals, Ashley and her teammates, Spencer Angell and Tess Patton, excelled in the early rounds and were the top qualifying team for the live-streamed finals. In the finals (which were aired on ESPNU), the University of Arizona team jumped out to an early lead, only to see it evaporate in the closing minutes. In the last minute, Ashley and her team regained the lead and became MECC champions. Reflecting on the experience, Ashley shared, “I’m grateful I competed in a team. It was nerve-wracking because it was live-streamed, but it was nice having a team and communicating with them. I’m happy I did it. We owe a lot of our success to knowing Excel shortcuts and being able to navigate the grid quickly.”

Becoming an MECC champion gave Ashley a significant confidence boost and she now feels comfortable enough with Excel to help other students on their MECC journeys. Ashley encourages students to get involved early – exposure to a variety of cases and lots of practice are crucial to developing Excel modeling skills. And the MECC isn’t just about competition. It is about learning, personal growth, camaraderie, and a platform to enhance and showcase your skills outside of the classroom. She knows it can be scary, but she wants students to know that it “just takes one moment to take a risk and bet on yourself.”

Ashley’s Excel journey exemplifies the transformative power of the MECC, teamwork, and self determination. She didn’t expect to become an MECC champion, but by taking a chance on herself, she developed her Excel skills, built her self-confidence, got to be on ESPN, and picked up a little hardware along the way.