A closer look at SBC, 2016: an interview with a PHD lecturer from University of Craiova, Romania

Silvia Puiu

Ms. Silvia Puiu is a PhD Lecturer at University of Craiova, Faculty of Economics and Business Administration from Craiova, Romania. She teaches marketing, public marketing and, starting from this semester, business simulations. She has 8 years of experience in Education field, a PhD in management. Recently, she has completed her postdoctoral studies in Ethics in the Public Sector. She is passionate about her profession and the innovations that are able to revolutionize the approaches to learning and teaching.

Silvia Puiu: I tried to find different programs for my students and today I asked them which simulation they liked the most and they said -- Simformer

After the end of the 1st Stage of Simformer Business Cup 2016 Minvydas Latauskas, Head of Product Development at Simformer, interviewed Silvia Puiu, the lecturer at University of Craiova (Romania) and playing coach for 9 students' teams.

ML: Tell us about yourself and your position as an educator. What is your main focus when teaching?

SP: My name is Silvia Puiu and I am a PhD Lecturer at University of Craiova, Faculty of Economics and Business Administration, Craiova, Romania. When teaching, I try to inspire my students and also let them inspire me, because I really believe we are a great team, me as a professor and they as students. We are partners and friends.

ML: Tell us a little bit about your university and what it can offer to students in terms of business management studies.

This year, Faculty of Economics and Business Administration celebrates 50 years since its foundation. This means history, responsibility and also pride. Our faculty has a Management specialization for the bachelor’s degree and a Business Management specialization for the Master’s degree. But we also offer specializations in the field of marketing, tourism, informatics, accounting, finance, economics, statistics. And a good manager should extend his/her knowledge. Information means power.

ML: What is the university‘s view on integration of innovative approaches into study programs? Have you ever used business simulations at your university?

The faculty is open to new and modern ways to teach our students. We have some courses for the students in their final year named Business Simulations, in order to prepare them for the labor market. I really believe these simulations can help our students a lot in making connections between theory and practice. Maybe these simulations should be implemented for all our specializations in the future. Our faculty mostly used applications and free software for these business simulations, because unfortunately the economic and financial crisis also had an impact on the public budgets. And in Romania, most higher education institutions are public.

ML: How did you know about Simformer Business Cup? Why did you decide to participate?

It is rather magic, I would say☺. This semester (started on 22nd February), I had a new course called Business Simulations and I was trying to find a free software, a business simulation to use with my students following Management specialization. After a few days of intense searching the Internet, a representative of Simformer I think, Adelina J., contacted me on LinkedIn. She told me about the contest and convinced me. It was 25th February. I do not know how she did it, but I really needed it, so for me it was some magic involved. The contest started on 4th March, so I had only one week to prepare my students for the contest and motivate them. Because once you motivate your students, things become easier.

ML: Apart from winning, what other goals can the contest help to achieve?

I always tell my students they are winners from the moment they decided to enter a contest and these are not simple words. They are, because winning is just a little part of the trip. The most important parts are when you successfully coordinate a team, handle potential conflicts, organize the activity of a team, motivate your team members, assign responsibilities. These are real challenges and can help students very much.

ML: How did your students react to the idea of participating in such a contest?

They had a really fast reaction, in one week, they chose their leader, they established the members of the team, the name of the team (and we had some interesting names), they registered for the contest, they applied to Best Reporter Competition, read the rules and asked me lots of questions. I was very happy and very proud of them because they were enthusiast and till the start of the contest, they told me the simulation is addicting (in a good way) and they loved it.

ML: What did your students think about the contest? What did they like the most? What were the difficulties and how were they solved?

They enjoyed the contest and this was a general perception of all teams, because I organized all the students in 9 teams (40-45 students), from which one team was with two students from the 1st year, because they were really fascinated about it and the opportunity offered. I know a lot about what they liked and the difficulties they had, because I have a lot of private messages on Facebook from them. I was connected with at least one-two members from each team. I stayed on my laptop almost 20 hours from 30 (the duration of the first stage) to be able to help them. I focused mostly on the motivation part, because I really believe they needed to be encouraged. The contest was something new and from outside of their comfort zone. I tried to give them some directions but that was all. They did all the hard work and I am very proud of all of them, they are all winners for me. 7 teams from 9 qualified for the final stage. With me, 8 teams and from I what I know, 33 are qualified for the final stage, so we are an important part ☺ I am curious if our faculty is the only one that attended your contest or there were also other universities from Romania.
In conclusion, they loved the fact they were working as a team and learnt how to manage their time and responsibilities. Other important aspect they confessed to me was that they did something practical in faculty not just theory. I was really impressed by their reactions and very happy I could be a part of this experience. Seeing them enthusiast was the most important thing for me. They also liked that they had the possibility to read about some economic indicators in the application (the wiki links) and the challenge of taking decisions under pressure.
The difficulties were normal as in real life, but I think the long period of the contest – 30 hours, was one of the challenges. Even if they were tired and some of them did not sleep very much, the experience was unique and we became friends after this experience. I met those students for the first time that week and I felt I knew them for years. They trusted me and I trusted them.

ML: How did your students manage to achieve such impressive results in the first stage of the contest?

That day (5th March) was one of the happiest day from this year. One of the teams was the team of Diana Bobaru (her team had 6 members, Cristina Raicu, Gabi Tudor, Gabi Pungaru, Adi Voicu, Ionut Renghea and Diana). They told me they made an analysis of their competitors and in the last five hours they succeeded to place the team on the second position. They managed their activities very well and assigned tasks and responsibilities for each member. They were responsible with the stores and offices in a region. They were six and probably this fact helped them in dealing with more stores. They have their secrets as in real life and this is good☺. We were invited at a local TV station to talk about their result and also to a marketing event in our faculty. So, we mentioned Simformer a lot☺. Only good things!

ML: How did you support your students? What help did you provide to them?

I like to call myself a motivator and I am good at that, at least my students tell me that. So the most important part I did was related to keeping them motivated, enthusiast and give them a boost of energy. We had a group on Facebook and I told them to post pics with the awards they got in the simulation, to create Facebook pages for their virtual firms and post something there, I even posted some happy music there to relax them a little (Sia – You’re Never Fully Dressed without a Smile, Bobby McFerrin – Don’t Worry, Be Happy, Westlife – You Raise Me Up etc.).
Of course, in order to be able to help them, I fully used the opportunity offered by your contest. As a professor, I registered for the contest and I was alone in my team, my goal was to be there and live the same experience as them. I wanted to qualify myself for the final stage from the same reason, but I had a “baby steps” strategy. I preferred to have profit but not to take risky measures and it was difficult for me to be a one-member team and to try to help the other students that were sending me lots of messages and pics with their companies. I think it is not wrong to say that we were a big TEAM here at my faculty (FEAA Craiova). We helped each other.
I also coordinate a journal of the students in our faculty and I asked them to write something about Simformer Business Cup. On 13th March, the journal appeared and from what I've read in the article written by Lavinia, a student that attended the contest, I understood that the experience was quite unique and I quote: "Neither Santa Claus was expected with so much interest as we expected the day of this contest."

ML: What are your thoughts on the first stage of Simformer Business Cup?

I think it was a great opportunity, it appeared when I needed it. The simulation was friendly and not difficult to understand its principles, but at the same time it was very challenging and very dynamic. We teach our students about dynamic markets, environments but sometimes they don’t fully understand what this means. This simulation made a real connection between theory and practice. And for me, as a teacher that coordinated 9 teams from which 7 qualified for the second stage, it was very inspirational. I had the opportunity to know my students better, to communicate with them in a very intense way and for me, all of my students are winners and I am very proud of them.

ML: In your opinion, what is the perspective of such contests?

Oh, this contest is amazing and offers so many challenges for students and professors and I really encourage all of my students to attend it. Maybe you are not aware of the impact, but after the first stage, you announced that you will also organize a parallel contest for amateurs. Seeing me talking with so much enthusiasm about the contest, the students in the first year were convinced by me to register for this contest. They tried the demo and they are waiting for the competition to start. And the professors should try it too, not because of the challenges provided by the simulation but for the most important challenge, that of living the experience through the eyes of their students. It is amazing!

ML: How will the experience with Simformer Business Simulation help you diversify your approach to teaching?

I tried to find different programs for my students and today I asked them which simulation they liked the most and they said Simformer. So, this simulation helped me a lot with my course, because it creates an equilibrium between simple and complex, stable and dynamic, theory and practice, intense and relaxing (the messages they got were funny). The students better understood the theoretical concepts and when they did not understand them, they used the explanations provided by the simulation. They felt they did something practical and I felt how they became more confident. Confidence is very important because you can make lots of amazing things if you trust yourself.

ML: How do you think your students will do in the second stage of the contest? What would you like to wish them?

First of all, I am sure they will do their best and no matter the results, I want them to know I am very proud of them, they are WINNERS and the most important thing in life is to fully enjoy the trip, the travel, the experiences, the moments till the end, because the end is only a moment. The trip is longer and you must enjoy it. So, for all my students at FEAA Craiova that will attend your contest: "Enjoy the contest, have fun, smile a lot, hug your team mates, listen some music and think of Santa Claus☺" Simformer Business Cup 2016 is a VIP party, so let’s party!
Thank you, my dear students, for making me so happy! You are great kids!
Thank you very much, Minvydas and I also want to address my thanks to Adelina Jensen who presented me this opportunity.