Vitaly Markelov: 7 days of a year

November 2011, material is prepared by Vera Dolzhenkova and published in the corporate Gas Vector Newspaper, Issue 89, Gazprom Transgaz Tomsk

2011 was crucial for Vitaly Markelov, Director General of Gazprom Transgaz Tomsk (in December, 2011 Vitaly Markelov was appointed Deputy Chairman of the Gazprom Management Committee). This man dedicated 25 years of his life to the sector development. Estimating his professional activity, he recalled that not a long time ago Gazprom was concentrated on the central regions of Russia. Today the company expands eastward at a rapid pace, constructing the system for gas production, transportation and supply in Eastern Siberia and Far East, considering possible export to China and Asia-Pacific countries. We have seen Vitaly Markelov in a different light after seven days spent with him in Eastern Russia, where Gazprom Transgaz Tomsk currently implements grandiose projects and creating normal living conditions in certain Russian territories.

Monday

The helicopter hasn’t even landed in Kargask, but Anatoly Rozhkov, head of the local administration, had already mapped out a route for the Gazprom Transgaz Tomsk delegation: nursery school, boarding school, school… these objects in the company’s presence area are special for Vitaly Markelov. He is sincerely sure that children are everything for us. The children were busy eating oatmeal when we arrived. Mr. Markelov censoriously examined the game room and paused in the kitchen.

The company’s social policy aimed at creating the conditions for a healthy nation education. What is the basis of health? Certainly, proper education. Once the company paid serious attention to this issue by taking under wing all the school canteens within the company’s activity area and equipping them so that some restaurants could envy. Now the company is engaged in kindergartens’ kitchens equipment.

We all come from childhood… Vitaly Markelov’s childhood was special. He assumes that he was brought up by both the kindergarten and the street. More accurately – by those who were nearby. Neighbors, friends, fellow villagers. But most of all his granny Masha and his sister Sveta. His mother was a chief accountant, respectful member of the village community, and his father was a tractor operator, spending all his time at work, they always were busy. But Vitaly didn’t feel lonely. His sister taught him to read very early. Being a four-years-old, he used to take his brother’s kitbag, stuff it with his schoolbooks and reported his granny Masha: “I’m going to school.” After walking around the house he used to sit on logs, then come home “after lessons”. Later, at school he used to die of boredom while his classmates were repeating childish poems… He used to look forward to the end of lessons and ran to his kindergarten to read “Buratino” to children.

Tuesday

Kamchatka was all purple and white. It seemed that rosebay and camomiles ran wild. On the way to Automated Gas Distribution Station No.1 I start to freak out: bikers, rollers, runners were everywhere. Where does this road lead? To the facility that was defined by the president as “important for the Kamchatka economy” in the last year? Or to the stadium? The locals explained that Gazprom Transgaz Tomsk had a serious approach to its facilities construction. If it is a road, it has to be of the highest quality. By constructing this road the gas workers unwittingly granted Kamchatka a full-scale sports venue.

At 6 o’clock in the morning a cavalcade of 6 off-roaders set forward along the pipeline route. Vitaly Markelov constantly stopped the cars. Numerous gas pipeline crossings of dozens of rivers, bridges, industrial sites. He has to see everything with his own eyes, to touch with his own hands. He paused near stockpiled paving slabs. He examined carefully the address of the producer. He scraped concrete with finger nails. Remained pleased. Mr. Markelov pounce to everything: to walls color of the base under construction, to dale quality, to bridge pillars on the Srende-Vorovskaya River… The company striving to work under international standards needs everything to be on the highest level – personnel, technologies, materials. He monitors carefully every production chain.

Wednesday

Sobolevo is an important place for Gazprom Transgaz Tomsk. Vitaly Markelov gives special consideration to rotation camps’ equipment. The company has chosen a safe policy – to organize rotation villages in the already habitable areas with some infrastructure. Every portacabin has a TV and a microwave oven. Sobolevo leaves an impression of a huge anthill where everyone is busy. Mr. Markelov inspected every corner of the industrial site, garages, storages, living boxes… And he suddenly asked: “How many people are working here today? 400? Are there enough brides for everyone in the village?” The executives, tensed until this moment, started to smile. It is a good sign if the director general jokes. That means everything is more or less fine. Though he practically rejects undertones. Being a maximalist in everything, Vitaly Markelov always strains every sinew and forces everyone into living in the same pace. The inhuman ability to work hard was inherited from his parents. They spent all their time at work and the family had the whole set of farm animals: a cow, sheep, chickens. He had to watch for the piglet. Bring water. Cut some hay. “No problem!” Vitaly Markelov used to answer.

Thursday

What can I tell you about Sakhalin? The weather is ok… It is raining. Dirt. And mud-locked roads. Only heaven knows how our Transgaz workers survive here. On the way from Nogliki to the Val settlement, my head has nearly flown off. Here another rotation village of gasmen is being constructed for the Sakhalin – Khabarovsk – Vladivostok gas pipeline operation. By the way, it is one of the most important facilities for the Russian economy. The construction site here couldn’t be more powerful. The paces are overwhelming. As early as yesterday there was only bare tundra here and today there is a modern town.

Mr. Markelov surprised us again. Every now and then he asked Elena Shchekina, Director of Gazprom Torg Tomsk, inspecting the bothersome sector of the branches’ canteens, what is the situation with the gasmen nutrition, is she satisfied with another canteen project, has she ordered the equipment, what is the situation with the personnel?

Friday

The creators like Vitaly Markelov always chose the partners who are as untiring and programmed for tireless activity as himself. His team is a real crew of associates, which he considers the most professional one in Gazprom. Vitaly Markelov tries to talk personally to every applicant, when it comes to the central office personnel. Sometimes it happens that the specialist has no drawbacks – education, experience, recommendations. But Vitaly Markelov talks to him or her face to face and the applicant leaves. Disagreed on approach to life. His views are simple: full commitment to work, professionalism and decency. Though, it is hard to see potential professionalism in a young applicant. But the management of Gazprom Transgaz Tomsk has a keen scent for such people – daring, decisive. Once he became Branch Office Director at the age of 27.

Saturday

We flew from Vladivostok to Khabarovsk by helicopters. “By pipe”. It means we were winding like the most clever hair – Mr. Markelov’s command was watching their facilities through cabin windows. We landed in a field. Turns out that construction will start here soon, but the Director General needs to examine the site. Very much will depend on it later. He is particularly fond of such moments. When you have an empty sheet of paper in front of you, the idea has just appeared and you still have to make a step to start its implementation.

Though it is always pleasant to watch the results of your work. Recently Vitaly Markelov’s father has celebrated his 75th anniversary. The whole family reunited in Mordovia to celebrate the anniversary. He visited his school with his son and daughter, showed them the apple orchard. The one he planted with his classmates thirty years ago. The orchard was in full bloom. We visited the library. The same librarian Masha, though with white hair. The same books. Vitaly was Masha’s favorite, he had read everything. He wandered around the bookcases, looking over the old volumes. This one, about Ivan Kozhedub, pilot and three-time hero, has been read and reread by him. The memory is a special instrument for Mr. Markelov and he shares it with his children with care. Both grandfathers of Vitaly Markelov died during the Great Patriotic War. All that he has left of them are the letters and photos. The Victory Day is a special holiday for him. In his youth he created a vocal-instrumental ensemble, they appeared on the stage on the 9th of May. Vitaly still remembers the sovkhoz (state owned farm) director’s handshake and his words: “Thank you guys! Your ‘Nightingales’ have touched us to the heart.”

Sunday

We spent in the air 34 hours this week. Markelov has been conversant with the sky since he was a child. His home village Novo-Mikhailovka was located near a pilot training airfield. All his childhood and youth Vitaly was woken by the roar of aircraft engines. He saw his future only in the sky. He finished school with a gold medal, so he could enter any university without exams. The district committee made a dead set at him, he was offered a quota place in Gorky Road-Transport Institute. Why not, if he drives a tractor, can assemble and disassemble a bike with his eyes closed, has a good handle on cars. But the guy turned out to be stubborn, “I want to the sky”… His mother even had to listen from the district committee official that she had brought up a recalcitrant son. And the recalcitrant son entered the aviation institute… There were 160 students in his course and he was 18th on the list. The first ones surprised everyone – instead of the skies they went to the Gas Industry Ministry. The young men already had families, so the housing problem was especially acute for them. The Gas Industry Ministry was offering interesting work and flats. When Vitaly Markelov’s turn has come the Gas Industry Ministry couldn’t afford any more workplaces and flats. But in the corridor he got accustomed with Yuri Lekchanov, an official of the Gas Industry Ministry. One thing led to another. A new compressor station was right under construction in Mordovia and Mr. Lekchanov liked that smart boy. Since then he was separated from the sky. Instead, he found his life’s work and has been doing it with great pleasure for 25 years.