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Hundreds of students and professional mentors compete in the ERPsim competition

Mock business, real job offers

CMU student and alum siblings among those sparring in annual ERPsim competition

Contact: Ari Harris

​An intense sibling rivalry unfolded at Central Michigan University last week. The battleground: the German cereal market.

Hayley Zajdel is a senior studying business information systems. Her older brother, Jared Zajdel, is a 2014 CMU graduate who majored in information systems with an ERP concentration. And at this year's ERPsim invitational competition on Feb. 15 at McGuirk Arena, they played against one another.

ERP is short for enterprise resource planning. The ERPsim competition mimics real-life business challenges in real time using the SAP software (short for systems, applications and products in data processing) that many companies use for enterprise management. More than 200 students and 50 mentors representing 37 companies participated in this year's event.

There's more at stake than a winner's trophy at ERPsim. In addition to plaques and scholarships for members of the top teams, many students leave the competition with offers of employment.

CMU students have access to yearlong career planning and readiness programs through the university's career services office. Many of the ERPsim participants prepared for the day by participating in resume writing clinics and mock interviews.


Siblings Hayley and Jared Zajdel played against one another in this year's ERPsim competition.

Jared participated in CMU's first ERPsim competition and now is an SAP developer at General Motors.

"In the second year of ERPSim, I was on the GM team after accepting a full-time position a few months prior," he said. "I tried to recruit Hayley to the GM team, but she had just accepted a job with Dow. We are both extremely competitive in nature and love nothing more than winning," Jared said.

After receiving the Dow Chemical SAP Award of Excellence earlier this year, Hayley accepted a full-time job offer with the company beginning in May. She chose to serve as the student leader for one of Dow's teams at the simulation.

"I didn't care who took first place, I just wanted to beat my brother's team," Hayley said.

Winner takes the prize

For the participating employers, ERPsim is an opportunity to look for new talent. Several companies, like Dow, Consumers Energy and Auto-Owners Insurance, attend the event every year.

The day following the event, most participating companies hosted recruitment tables at the Alpha Kappa Psi career fair. Many, like Blue Cross Blue Shield of Michigan, had made offers for internships and jobs on the floor Thursday during the event.


Joe Cronkright, a 2006 graduate from the information systems program and a mentor for Hayley's team, said the simulation is almost like an intensive job interview.
"I get to watch these individuals working on problems in real time together. People can tell you in an interview that they work well together on a team, but I can watch how they actually behave in a stressful situation," he said.

A foot in the door for a dream job

For junior Savannah Fullmer, the simulation was a chance to get a foot in the door with her dream employer.

"I have always wanted to work for Harley-Davidson, ever since I was a little kid and my dad picked me up from school on his motorcycle on special days," she said.

Fullmer, who is double majoring in marketing and information systems, served as the social media liaison for team Harley-Davidson as a sophomore and was able to translate her participation into an internship this summer. She'll head to Milwaukee, Wisconsin, to intern in the company's IT department later this year.

Who built the better breakfast?

This year's simulation required teams to build business plans for fictional cereal companies.

Two CMU alumni currently working at Dow mentored Hayley's team through months of preparation: Cronkright and Adil Kazi, who received his master's degree in information systems with a concentration in SAP in 2013.

It's Cronkright's sixth year as a mentor and Kazi's third, but this was their first experience with the cereal simulation.

"Usually I can provide some insight from previous games, but this year I was learning right along with the team," Cronkright said.

 The student teams selected their products and then managed manufacturing, distribution and marketing in multiple German markets.

And it all happened fast. Each session of the game was played in 20-minute increments, with each minute representing one full day. Adaptations to their plans had to happen in seconds.

"I remember every moment of my ERPsim competitions as a student. I was in that seat and remember feeling like a deer in the headlights," Kazi said. "The competition gets stressful. I feel like part of my job here is to remind them to relax, enjoy the moment and have fun."

And the winner is….

At the closing awards ceremony, a team representing Sage Group business solutions took home the top prize. Hayley was able to beat her brother, coming in fourth place with her Dow team compared with the ninth place awarded to his GM team.

The rivalry was put to rest, at least until next year. Hayley already plans to take down Jared's team again next year, hopefully in a new role as an alumni mentor.

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