The Expectations vs. Reality of DECA
Walker Penfield | Nipmuc Regional DECA
Recently, I got the opportunity to sit down with first-year DECA member Brooke Glasier to talk about her expectations vs. reality of participating in DECA. Brooke is currently a sophomore at Nipmuc Regional High school, MA, who competed in her first DECA competition this past January. She placed second in her category and is now advancing forward to the Massachusetts State Career Development Conference. As someone who had never competed in DECA before, Brooke’s view on the organization drastically changed over the course of a single day. This is an insightful opportunity to talk about what she was expecting heading into the districts, and how that compared to the reality of competing for the first time.
So Brooke, the overarching goal of this interview is to learn about your expectations vs. realities of DECA so far. To keep with this theme, what influenced you to join DECA and what were your first impressions of the organization?
I was inspired to join my high school’s DECA chapter when I saw the camaraderie between the members and all the friendships you can form during your time participating. It’s an opportunity to meet new people from all over the state with similar interests and aspirations. Another aspect that drew me into DECA was the opportunity to explore what a potential career in business would be like, and to hone in my skills as a public speaker and presenter. Going into DECA can be scary when it’s your first year, and I was really nervous about how everything was going to turn out. It was really professional, with all the suits and the venues, but it’s filled with like-minded people who are just as nervous as you are. Everyone is very willing to help you out, and it’s a great community.
What were your expectations heading into your first DECA competition and how did they change throughout the day?
I had heard lots of different stories from peers who had done DECA the previous year. The way I saw it, your judge determined your success in everything, and I stressed over so many factors I could not control. Who will my judge be? Will they like me? What will my case be? Another one of my expectations was that when it’s time to present, you’d be rushed in, dragged through the process, and pushed out. In reality, it’s slow moving in a way that really allows you to prepare yourself. You get ample time in the holding area to psych yourself up and calm your nerves, and all the processes run smoothly and routinely. One thing that really surprised me was the judge’s room itself. I had imagined it being a small room with my judge and me, alone. This concept intimidated me, but in my case, it was a huge ballroom with everyone else presenting their cases. You’ll be so focused on your judge that you won’t get distracted, and I found that the background noise reduced my own stress and helped me feel more at ease.
What were you thinking coming out of your role-play, and was it the “reality” you were hoping for?
Coming out of my roleplay, I was super nervous. For starters, I didn’t know which door to leave out of, which was really just a personal problem (but I figured it out). Once I saw all my friends waiting for me after presenting their own cases, I calmed down a lot. I got more post-stressed than pre-stressed, waiting for the results, and it left me some time to contemplate everything that had happened. The one thing that honestly surprised me the most about my roleplay was just how nice my judge was. I had the image of someone serious, who would be critiquing my every move and seeing my nerves unfold, but she was really so great. One of the most tragic parts of my roleplay was the moment I sat down and introduced my company as “Target” rather than “Bullseye” (as the roleplay was clearly based on the store Target) and I was so grateful that she completely understood; we even had a laugh about it. It was better than any reality I could have hoped for, and I will always remember it.
What were you expecting going into the awards ceremony and what was going through your head when they called your name?
Going into the awards ceremony, I was rooting for all my friends first and foremost. Most of my thoughts were honestly taken up by hoping other people, who I knew had poured so much effort and time into this, got what they deserved. I did not realize the results of my category would be one of the first announced, and it was so surreal. My name was last to be called, and after that moment, I just completely checked out. It was wild to be standing up there, seeing everyone else receive their awards. It felt so insane to place second in my first competition, and I am extremely grateful for the experience. I was really really proud of myself, and it pushed me and inspired me to work twice as hard going into States.
Overall, how would you compare the district competition to what you had imagined? And how did any descriptions/accounts from DECA members you knew compare to the real thing?
Districts actually went better than I could have imagined. The feeling of unity between my classmates and me as we all went through the stress and joy of competition was truly amazing. It was a lot better than what I had initially imagined too, as I had heard a lot of different things from my friends going in. Everyone has their own personal experience to everything, it depends on your level of preparedness and your devotion to what you’re doing. The real thing is what you make it, and I can assure that it will be better than whatever your nervous brain can cook up.
What advice would you give to other first-year DECA members who may be reading this?
To any future DECA members, I would recommend waiting until you get there yourself to truly judge how it will go. You’re always going to experience it differently than others, so do not scare yourself with other people’s accounts of what happened! You’re gonna walk out feeling better and more at ease than when you walked in, and that’s the best advice anyone can give you. Put in the work, study for your tests and really try your hardest, and you will succeed. The food is reliably great, so at least you can depend on that!
Do you plan on continuing to compete in DECA and how has DECA influenced where you see yourself in the future?
I will definitely continue to compete in DECA for the rest of my high school career. I think it’s a perfect way to get yourself prepared for real-world experiences and improve your speaking skills. You become a more confident person through DECA, and that’s one of the most valuable things anyone can receive. DECA helped me explore future career paths, as I find things I may excel at and have an interest in. Whether or not I have a future in business, I will definitely use the skills gained during DECA for whatever field I go into. When you think about it, every career requires skills granted by your participation in DECA. I never expected DECA to have such a profound impact on my future plans. Everyone should do it at least once, for the experience and practice, and I’m thankful for the opportunities it has opened up for me.