Sergey Ivanov: Personal qualities

March 2011, the interview was taken by Vladislav Korneychuk
Published in the corporate Gazprom Magazine

Sergey Ivanov, Director General of Gazprom Dobycha Orenburg answers the questions of the corporate Gazprom Magazine.

Secret of success

Mr. Ivanov, why do you think it happens so that some people achieve success in life, others fail, and only about 5 per cent of all people really have everything they want?

To become a success, the first thing one needs is... a desire. It should not be confused with a wish, though. Everyone will say that they wish to be successful. But if you ask them what they have done for their own wellbeing, I think the most part of interviewees will probably have difficulties answering. You should be ready to act, then you will fulfill yourself and be a success. And, of course, to hit the target you should choose it: you should understand exactly what you want. Once a person understands this, he is on the first stair of his stairway to success.

Sergey Ivanov and Russian Federation President Dmitry Medvedev

Sergey Ivanov and Russian Federation President Dmitry Medvedev

So, it's that easy...

No, on the contrary. You should constantly occupy yourself with hard work. Colin Powell, former US Secretary of State said: “There are no secrets to success: don't waste time looking for them. It is the result of preparation, hard work, and learning from failure, loyalty to those for whom you work, and persistence.” One should look for the way of making their dream come true, everyone has their own, there are no general winning formulas. The best way is to find something you're fond of and then dedicate your life to it. Then work will become a pleasure. The fact that outstanding things are created by people keen on their work is banal, if you pardon me.

What should young people do to bring meaning to their life, to become its master and not waste their time?

It's very important that any young man starting to build his life should have good mentors, wise older companions. In Ancient Greece a boy going to school was always accompanied by a slave carrying his school bag. This slave was called “a pedagogue”. Today, in Russia all grown-ups who care about destinies of their children and grandchildren should willfully position themselves as pedagogues. The school bag of spirituality and morality of next generations, that will build the future of Russia, is still in our hands. Even though everybody are responsible for their life, deeds and decisions themselves. Becoming a master of one's own destiny is primarily in the interests of young people themselves.

Inner voice

Does intuition play an important role in your life?

I think every person has a power of intuition from birth. But then, growing up, you try to stick to the voice of reason, to rationalize, build the strings of logic and draw conclusions based on analysis. That's why not many people prefer intuition while making decisions, most of them rely on it when there's no other way out, saying: “By guess and by God.” And it often happens that intuition really helps find the right way and avoid trouble. In the meantime, even an intuitive outburst may in the course of life be dictated by the experience gained.

Do you think that even a top manager should listen to his inner voice making a decision?

The modern life is quite dynamic. The processes that take place in politics, economics, everyday life often merely do not give us a single minute for reflection. More and more often circumstances force you to make important decisions on a tight schedule. And in stress conditions people are often apt to forget everything they have learned and make decisions instinctively. It may be the sixth sense that shows you the right solution. You may admit that analyzing mistakes we've made, we often remember that we actually did know the right decision.

Booster compressor station No.3, Gazprom Dobycha Orenburg

Booster compressor station No.3, Gazprom Dobycha Orenburg

A spectacular example is a famous quiz show where the preference is often given not to the first and the right answer, but to those that occur later, as a result of the experts' brainstorming...

The first thought is quite often the most correct one. But we are surprised at how simple the decision we came up with is: we try to reason, analyze, we start going through possible variants, we ask our colleagues and friends for wise advice. To some extent, we even try to adjust our decision to the 'answer' drowning in doubts... It's necessary to listen to yourself and seize your first thought.

Manager's qualities

In general, what kind of person should one be to successfully manage a large business?

The strength of power is in its authority, in mutual confidence between managers and employees. What kind of person should one be to successfully manage employees and a business? I'm absolutely sure – one should think about his people. A good manager takes care of his employees, in the first place, and, moreover, he knows how to motivate and convince them in the expedience of effective labor.

I think any manager's personal qualities are of primary importance because they serve as a basis on which a manager's general competency rests. Every top manager daily builds up and creates his personality. Such qualities as decency, honesty, decidability and capability to see things in the long view seem important to me. Once the day ends – sit down and think of what you should by all means do tomorrow so that people wouldn't feel nostalgia for the past, but happiness for the present and hope for the future.

A look back

Mr. Ivanov, looking back at the long way, today, on the threshold of your 60th anniversary, what do you remember above all?

I value everything I've had in my life and it is difficult for me to split the events of my life into important and not so important ones. Victories, failures, happiness, disappointment... Time often judges not in the same way people do. Of course, successes encouraged me and gave me new strength. But failures also left their marks: I drew morals from them. Every event, regardless of its importance, is a building block of destiny. I was disciplined by the course of my life. I started with a blue-collar job in the town of Salavat and was hardened by military service. Entering Ufa Petroleum University, from where I later graduated with distinction, became a crucial moment in my life. I think it was intuition that led me there. But getting a diploma with honors became my objective, which I had been following for five years. That's why any manager needs both intuition and consistency of thoughts.

Surely, work on the Sakhalin Island was not quite a minor period of your life...

Not only have I read Chekhov to learn about penal servitude there, but I've been to those places myself. They create a gloomy impression. I'd like to note that writing about northern Sakhalin, Chekhov said that it was unfit for human life. And I lived there, in the town of Okha, for eight years. I was working with people whom they usually call 'personalities' – Chief Geologist Vladimir Getman, Gas Production Directorate Head Monsieur Martin and Sakhalinmorneftegazprom Director Nikolai Zarudny. I often remember them with gratitude, my older companions who taught me a lot at that period of life. Sakhalin taught me to be responsible and make prompt decisions, it exercised decisiveness and courage in me, because the conditions there were extreme. In winter we were sometimes trapped at a facility for weeks, because we were buried in snow. Sometimes, there was zero visibility during snowstorms! I had to go before the tractor and show the way...

Luckily, you had a chance to live and work in a milder climate, too...

I worked on the shelf of the Black Sea and the Sea of Azov. I took part in constructing of the Glebovskoye underground gas storage facility (45 kilometers from Yevpatoria). Later on, I headed the Ministry of Fuel and Energy of the Autonomous Republic of Crimea. I dedicated much time to the development of alternative energy sources: to installation of windmills, creation of mini-hydropower plants... It's a crime to belch smoke at the resort site by burning fuel oil and coal. I also had a chance to work in Vietnam. At first, I headed an offshore stationary platform, and later I managed the production and engineering division of the Russian-Vietnamese Vietsovpetro joint venture.

If we take the Bashkir town of Salavat as a starting point in your career, then your move to Orenburg completes a kind of an oval on the geographical map.

That's true. On the map it is an oval, but in real life it is more of a spiral. Here I have a wonderful possibility to apply my experience and knowledge, which I have gained in the previous years. Our team has achieved remarkable successes in all the spheres of activity in the recent seven years: production decline has been stopped, the helium plant has been reconstructed, the gas processing plant is being retrofitted at the moment. By the way, I am trying to set up conditions for creating successful people...

Dispatch room of helium plant, Gazprom Dobycha Orenburg

Dispatch room of helium plant, Gazprom Dobycha Orenburg

It's not only official activity you realize yourself in, is it?

No, it's not. I'm a Professor at the Orenburg Branch of Gubkin Russian State University. I teach there to the extent possible. A considerable number of students are practitioners from our company. It's very interesting to teach them. It's also a kind of a feedback channel. I get to learn the demands, interests and attitudes of the young. Work in the Legislative Assembly of the Orenburg Region takes up a lot of time and energy. But it is also necessary. The influence of the city-forming enterprise should be felt everywhere.

Source of knowledge

What books could you name among those which influenced you most? Do you have favorite fictitious heroes, historical characters? Do you read books on philosophy, religion, history, individual self-improvement, esoteric literature, memoirs?

Our generation grew up on books. Though in my youth books were not so abundant as they are today. But we were library-goers, both in school and university years. Now there is no problem in buying this or that book. But there is another problem: children and youth prefer computers to books. It's very sad. A book can't be replaced by anything. I think it is the most complete data carrier, that makes you think, analyze, feel... A man of today just has to read. A book sets a man on his legs, forms a personality. With its help, a man develops his inner world. I read professional literature a lot, I always find time for it. I like historical literature very much. A nation that doesn't know its history has no future.

Mr. Ivanov, how do you spend your free time?
Sergey Ivanov in game

Sergey Ivanov in game

I feel a dramatic lack of it. But when I pick a time for rest at last, I do sport. I get pleasure from downhill skiing, I take part in Spartakiada Games on swimming, volleyball, shooting sports, trapshooting and pistolry. In the open season I like to go hunting. If I get a chance to go fishing, it becomes the time of self-reflection and meditation. If only three or four more hours could be added to a day...