Friday, 14 October 2011

Project Management in Greece

Sonja, Sami, Toni and I got selected to join the LLP Erasmus intensive project management course IP PROMECON in Larissa, Greece.
Of course we were excited to travel to Greece with just for 80 euros (expenses paid by students) for two weeks just when the rainy and cold weather would have started in here Finland. But we acknowledged also that it wouldn’t be only sun, beaches and cold drinks because we had done some interviews with students who had been there on previous year. They said that there was going to be some simulation about logistics and other workshops so we knew how to prepare ourselves for this upcoming trip.
After we got to the airport of Athens, we met our new friends from Austria, Portugal and Denmark. We shook hands and noticed that there were quite many guys and no girls except one from Austria. “Is this going to be a course only with men and engineers?” I thought to myself.
Luckily this thought was false because after the arrival day we met the other students from Bulgaria, Germany and Greece, and they had some girls and non-engineering guys, too. We got our room from the campus of T.E.I. of Larissa, and the weather was great as we expected.
Sonja, Toni and Sami
On the first day, we got familiar with our new environment and friends. The campus was ok and the people were a quite nice bunch. On the second day, we got divided into multinational groups and were given assignments for projects which would help Larissa’s environment. Our job was to plan the projects, and my group’s mission was to renovate old tracks and build some new ones. We started with discussing the goals for our project. After that we used some models to build an organizational chart, shaped different environments and broke down the work for easier task handling.
It was pretty interesting to see how the group got into work. Michael, an Austrian guy, became the leader of our group (which he never admitted) because he had some work experience and best oral English skills. Others were throwing in some ideas and thoughts about how the project should be done.
During the next week, the groups were mixed up a bit, and our next job was to play a logistical simulation game. The main thing was to run a factory which produced bicycles and to sell bikes.
My group didn’t change that much but we lost our leader, Michael. We didn’t still lose our hope because Alexandra, who was maybe a little quiet during the first week, started to show some leadership skills and she seemed to know what to do. It was exciting to see the transformation.
The simulation included five periods and there were a total of eight groups competing against each other. The main parameter how they measured our success was how much profit we got. I think the simulation added some great competition to the course. Our group was the leader until third period but after that we did a huge mistake with quantities of sold items. Our profits dropped dramatically and there wasn’t any chance to win anymore.
Before summing up the whole course I want to mention a few things about our free time in Larissa.  During the weeks, we usually went to the center of Larissa to see the city because there was a free bus ride. Sometimes we stayed at the campus to spend an evening there chatting with other students. The highlight was the first weekend when we went to the beaches of Neio Pori just about 30 minutes by train from Larissa. There we played beach volley, ate in restaurants, swam in the sea and sun bathed. It was really awesome. The main tourist season had just ended and there were no tourists except us and the weather was still great.
Local food in a local restaurant
All-in-all the trip to Greece was an eye-opener. We learned new things about other cultures and something also about project management, although there weren’t that many surprises. The course was maybe targeted more to engineers but I think we Proacademians were a nice refreshment to the engineers’ world of numbers.
Text and photos: Ilpo Ryynänen, 4th-year student in Business Information Systems

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