By Serge Cukierman, published on February 27th, 2018, modified on September 17th, 2018
I have been the first general manager of Total Vostok, I arrived in Moscow in 2006 and Total Vostok was born in 2008. This couldn’t t have happened without first having a pioneer spirit to build, confidence, solidarity and mutual respect of the team, as well as good relationship with upstream. In that respect Total Vostok is a good illustration of Total’s values leading to success.
Prior to joining the group, I was a specialist in composite materials and helicopters. My first experience in the 90ies for the group was as an expat in Russia to consolidate/create technical relationships with Russian partners, mainly in Exploration Production.
As a second step and before joining Refining and Marketing in 2001, I spent some years in chemistry as Zone Manager and BU Manager. My carrier was mostly driven by business developments and value creation. 2006 was the time to decide to go back to Russia with the goal of setting up an Affiliate, the future Total Vostok and to take the position of General Manager of the affiliate.
At that time 3 people represented the downstream part of the group for the ex-Soviet Union. When I arrived in January we were 4 and everything was to build. Probably the most exciting part of the job, though not the biggest amongst former ones.
We built a team of 50 people in 4 years that delivered results, growth, multi-product activities and a leader in terms of profitability: Total Vostok. The affiliate has of course gone further these last years, with around 100 people today.
If I can quote a funny story, I remember having good fun with the boss of EP at that time, as well as Business meetings on regular bases. To remind you the context, at that time there was a gigantic project with Gazprom called Stockman. My colleague had been asked to participate to an event with a top manager of Gazprom and was so puzzled to have a personal invitation to Sauna that he refused. I read of his face that he was shocked and reluctant. I just pushed him a bit and I insisted that he should go and he did. The fact that he was invited was the sign he broke the usual barrier of pure business and was in the circle of the happy few. During that period, he also participated to a lot of other projects that counts for “Russian spirit” such as musical events, sign of good understanding of local content. Culture and diversity is also part of the capacity to maintain sustainable business. Understanding people is the additional step to the success. I was quite happy looking at his face when he said OK.
Should I remember two things, it would be the reliability of the business in this country despite crisis like in 2009 when we kept on growing. People kept the business growing and diversifying. In Russia we have still cards up our sleeves.
Following this great experience, I changed my position special fluid’s development and innovation director was my next position. This path has driven me all over the world to work within different cultures, and also in Russia.
What I would retain is that there are so many things to do and challenges to face, that despite our size or thanks to it, we can still achieve creation and build innovative and challenging projects. I think we can be even more engaged in this path than we are. I believe that our values are part of the success. I also believe that to share enthusiasm means to share common goals and proudness of people. It makes the community feel as a group. Yes I believe we have to share our experience.