Written on 20 April 2015.
EDHEC Business School
Marketing Professor Guergana Guintcheva took time recently to answer questions as part of the EDHEC Profile, a recurring Proust-style interview that spotlights innovative and dynamic members of the EDHEC Business School team.
What is your personal motto?
I have several, but the one I use most at EDHEC is: “There is a solution for any problem. If there is no solution, there is no problem”. This is what I try to drive home with my students. It is important to stay focused on the solution and not on the problem.
How long have you worked at EDHEC? How has the school changed?
I joined EDHEC in 2002. The school has changed a lot since I arrived. During my first years here, I remember feeling slightly embarrassed about being Bulgarian. At that time, international professors were definitely in the minority. Today, foreign professors are the majority. I have seen the same shift with the student body. My classes today are 50% international, with students coming from dozens of different countries.
Did you always want to work in academia?
Not at all! My dream was to be a theatrical stage designer. I did a long preparation to enter the School of Beaux Arts in Bulgaria, but I was also lucky enough to be accepted at the University of Montpellier in Management Studies. I decided to go to the University of Montpellier and this is where I met my academic “angel”, Philippe Aurier, who became my PhD thesis advisor. I got into academic work a bit by accident, but I love what I do.
Is there something you can’t live without?
My two homelands: Bulgaria and France; my colleagues and friends; my students; and of course, my family.
What are you reading?
I love epic fantasy novels. At the moment, I am reading Games of Thrones by George R.R. Martin, but my favourite book is The Sword of Truth by Terry Goodkind. I like watching how characters in Games of Thrones change over time. For example, Jamie Lannister, a very negative character at the beginning of the saga, slowly evolves into a more emotionally nuanced and even kinder character. I appreciate this character development because I think it reflects the way people really behave. No one is perfect and we all make bad decisions, but we also learn and change as a result.
What is your favourite journey?
I am not sure I build expectations before a journey. I prefer to give way to improvisation and unexpected discovery. Therefore, my favourite journey is the unplanned one. I love Italy and that would be my favourite destination.
You often invite marketing professionals into your classroom. What was an important lesson you learned recently? Who gave it?
I recently took a group of MSc in Marketing Management students to the French headquarters of Unilever, one of the corporate sponsors of this programme along with Carrefour and SEB. During our visit, we had the chance to meet Bauke Rouwers, CEO of Unilever France, who talked about the company’s compressed aerosol cans. This is a good example of responsible marketing in that Unilever developed the compressed aerosol technology but kept it patent-free so that it could be used by anyone, even competitors. I thought this was a very positive learning moment for our students.
What is the ideal student?
One that is “unplugged,” committed to learning, and open to challenges.
You spent your childhood in Bulgaria. How has this experience shaped who you are today?
I was born in Bulgaria and I lived there the first 20 years of my life, during the Communist era. Therefore, I lived the first 20 years of my life without brands or brand names! And now, I teach marketing! I would say that my brandless experience taught me that we can live happily without marketing. It is this truth that gives me a more critical view of marketing issues. Maybe because of my Bulgarian experience, I am against manipulative marketing, but I do stand up for socially responsible marketing, not only for the planet but also for an ethical attitude towards consumers. The Unilever example I mentioned is a good illustration of that.
Why are you proud to work at EDHEC?
I am proud of my connection to EDHEC because it has a Balkan character, just like me. I find that this school is rebellious, in a good way, and that it is always seeking new challenges and ways to succeed. There is no middle ground at EDHEC – success is the ultimate goal.