Interview Veronica Maier, Lecturer, Technical University of Cluj-Napoca, Romania.
Keywords: Entrepreneurial education, entrepreneurial mindset, student entrepreneurs, networking, Cluj-Napoca.
How did you first become interested in entrepreneurship and the entrepreneurial mindset?
As far as I can remember, I was always fascinated by the courage of people deciding to take the path of entrepreneurship. The moment, though, that brought me closer to understanding what entrepreneurship really means was during my PhD studies, where I decided to choose as my research topic corporate entrepreneurship. Choosing this topic was a nourishment for my mind and it made me want to learn more, interact with people, and analyze the entrepreneurial ecosystem from different countries.
The desire to know and learn different things about entrepreneurship helped me, during my doctoral studies, to gain the opportunity to obtain a research mobility of 6 months at the University of Vienna, Austria, where I got the chance to analyze the Austrian entrepreneurial ecosystem. During the year 2018, for a period of 4 months, I was lucky enough to gain a Fulbright Scholarship at the Ain Center for Entrepreneurship, University of Rochester, where I managed to understand how important it actually is to develop the entrepreneurial mindset. So, I can say that my desire to pursue this topic of entrepreneurship is only increasing in time, as I believe, that even having an entrepreneurial mindset, without necessarily having to be an entrepreneur, helps you see the world with different eyes.
How do you get students, especially those from technical subjects, to see entrepreneurship as something that is relevant to them?
I think the most important thing for students is to see that their ideas can become reality. The best way to make them understand how entrepreneurship might be an opportunity for them is through real life examples. So, in order to do so, I invite entrepreneurs, if possible, even former students, to talk to them about what it means to choose the pathway of entrepreneurship and how this can be an opportunity for them. Hearing the stories of former students has a bigger impact on them because this is the moment they realize that if someone like them manages to succeed then anything is possible.
The biggest hurdle, though, that we need to overcome is the fear of failure, and that comes hand in hand with the fear of disappointment. Romanians as a population have a fear of failure and this is due to our historical background. So, the hardest part is to make students perceive failure as a learning opportunity and a stepping stone for their further development. This is the most difficult part because it has to do with a change of mindset and this change isn’t happening overnight.
"We have a strong entrepreneurial community in Cluj-Napoca. There are a lot of organizations supporting entrepreneurship. ” Veronica Maier.
Cluj-Napoca City, Romania
Picture Credit: Ghiță Bizău on Pixabay
You are also involved in the Entrepreneurial Student Society at your university and were recently also involved in a project to help students with the transition from studying to employment (including entrepreneurship.) What are the lessons about the best ways to help students?
The first thing was to introduce students to entrepreneurship and show them that this is also a career path that they can choose. Sometimes students are confused because they have an idea but they do not know how they can turn it into a product/ service, so our role is to show them the steps they have to follow. All the things they have to think about before launching something on the market, from the way of presenting your product/ service, the problem it responds to on the market, the value you bring to the customers, what differentiates you from competitors and the financial aspects of the business.
Another thing that I find important to mention is that you have to adapt to the students’ knowledge, because a lot of the times we have students that are at different levels of understanding entrepreneurship. Some of them are at the beginning and some of them have already made some steps towards starting their business. So, in order to best be able to help them, you have to adapt to these differences.
Finally, I believe that something that should not be left out in the conversation about entrepreneurship is the importance of networking. Students need to know how important networking is in their entrepreneurial development, because networking can provide entrepreneurs with valuable resources, support and opportunities that can help them succeed. In order to show the students, how valuable having a network is, we have some entrepreneurs in residence at our Entrepreneurial Student Society, which are from different domains of activity and that are willing to help the students with any questions they might have.
You are involved in the Association for Entrepreneurial Education (AEE) in Romania. What does the association aim to achieve?
Together with other Romanian professors (from all around the country) that had the opportunity to benefit of the support of the Romanian American Foundation and had the chance to benefit of a Fulbright scholarship at the Ain Center for Entrepreneurship, University of Rochester we decided to create an association so we can share what we have learned abroad and change the way entrepreneurship is perceived in Romania.
So the goals of AEE are to:
You are involved in a discussion group that brings together people from universities to share ideas about entrepreneurship. What topics does the group discuss?
I am involved in an informal discussion group in Cluj-Napoca that brings together people from different universities in Cluj-Napoca but also the Regional Development Agency, City Hall representatives, Cluster representatives, Incubator and Accelerator representatives. The purpose of our meetings is to learn from one another, see what initiatives there are at the local level and how we can help each other out and work together. The main objective of our discussion is to further develop and strengthen the entrepreneurial ecosystem.
Is there a strong entrepreneurial community in Cluj? Are there opportunities, like competitions, that enable people to get involved in the community?
We have a strong entrepreneurial community in Cluj-Napoca that is in a continuous development. There are a lot of opportunities and organizations supporting entrepreneurship such as:
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