RUSSIALINK TRANSCRIPT: “[Putin at] Meeting with finalists of the Leaders of Russia national management competition” – KremlinRu

Map of Russia and Russian Flag adapted from images at state.gov

(Kremlin.ru – February 12, 2018)

Vladimir Putin met with the finalists of the national management competition, Leaders of Russia.

President of Russia Vladimir Putin: Good afternoon.

I am glad to see you all here, welcome. I know the competition was quite a marathon. I was surprised. Perhaps, Mr Kiriyenko already told you. Surprisingly, instead of the 12,000 to 15,000 applicants we expected, almost 200,000 people entered the competition. But most surprisingly, among the participants there were people who are already quite successful and well established. People with doctoral degrees, very advanced in their career.

It must have been said many times before but this competition is not so much about climbing the career ladder as it is about creating opportunities for further growth. However, I think that the competition will not go unnoticed by those looking for interesting and promising people for their organisations in both the public and private sector.

As I understand, there are already plans for many of you. Many have already received offers from our colleagues.

At any rate, I am happy you are here. Congratulations on your results. I wish you the best of luck in the future.

I hope you will tell me about the competition and your experience, perhaps suggest some improvements. I think this is not a one-off event.

Please, feel free.

Pavel Sorokin: Mr President, thank you very much.

Before I introduce myself, I would like to thank you for this initiative, for this chance for many people to believe in themselves, prove themselves and see other participants.

My name is Pavel Sorokin. I am currently head of the Analytical Centre at the Ministry of Energy. For all my life, when I was a child, I lived and went to school abroad. And I always knew that I wanted to go back, to my homeland.

Vladimir Putin: Where did you live?

Pavel Sorokin: In Cyprus, for 11 years. I went to the school at the embassy and to the English school at the same time. There I watched how international relations are built and I saw very often how my compatriots lost connection with Russia. It formed my view on life; I realised I want to come back here and I do not want it to happen again.

I returned in 2001, entered and then graduated from the Plekhanov Academy; then I began gaining experience. During my entire career, I had worked at large financial companies, first in audit and then at international investment banks (Morgan Stanley) focusing on oil and gas.

At some stage two and a half years ago, Alexander Novak [Energy Minister] offered me the opportunity to create and head the Analytical Centre at the Ministry of Energy, which would work with a wide range of issues and provide independent expertise. To tell the truth, at that time I realised that, first, I do not have enough skill to propose something useful. Not just come there and say “I work for the state, I am so good,” but actually do something useful and combine my expertise and skills.

Two and a half years ago we created this centre, we hired a lot of young and talented people and now we have a rather wide range of responsibilities, whatever the boss says, from simultaneous interpretation if needed, to work with state companies’ boards and international negotiations.

A large project we have been working on recently is the agreement to limit production between Russia and OPEC countries. It was a landmark deal. I would like to thank you, because it would have been impossible without your support.

Why was it so interesting and encouraging and what has it shown? Russia has consolidated a lot of countries around it. We have shown we can stabilise the market through collective action, which means acting in the economic space, and also create a base for future cooperation. There are 24 countries, everyone has similar problems: we all want to diversify our economies and to expand our range. At the same time, we all understand that alone we may not have the market capacity or we may have other problems; we all depend on developed counties in technology and certain sectors. If we join our efforts on this base, Russia will serve as consolidator not only on the oil market, but also in the technology and economic spheres. This work is very interesting, it really gives me some sense, the feeling of moving forward, and it can become the foundation for future projects.

I wanted to say that when you work at an organisation, when you have achieved something and have some regalia, you may lose your edge; but when you come to such a competition, you realise you always have someone to learn from, someone better than you, including the mentors, who were represented very well – very interesting people – and competitors: I was very lucky with my team in the semi-finals and in the final: they are very talented people from all regions of Russia. You can see a spark in their eyes; you can see these people want to work hard. If they are given a chance, they can bring this spark to the state or any organisations they will work at.

This is why it was a unique experience; it allows other people to look at the mentors or other competitors for an example; it is an example for us of what you can do if you do not limit yourself and you go beyond what you think you’re capable of.

Vladimir Putin: To become consolidators in other spheres, we have to become a significant element of some platform.

Why were we so effective here? First, we have managed to reach an agreement with other foreign partners. Second, we have managed to consolidate the position of oil producers inside Russia. Third, and the most important, many things depend on our position. This is why we can hardly consolidate anything if we do not mean anything in any sphere. This is why, of course, we have to work on increasing our share, in high-tech sectors of the economy first of all, and after that we will be able to repeat our success in other fields as well.

I did not know you we working on t hat.

Pavel Sorokin: Very actively.

Vladimir Putin: Thank you very much. Have you been working at the Ministry for long?

Pavel Sorokin: For two and a half years. But we have been working on this deal since the very beginning, when we went to Qatar for the first time in February 2016.

Vladimir Putin: Two and a half years?

Pavel Sorokin: Yes.

Vladimir Putin: It is time to promote you.

Pavel Sorokin: I hope so. (Laughter.) Thank you.

Vladimir Putin: I am sure Mr Novak will look into it. Thank you very much.

Pavel Sorokin: Thank you.

Veronika Prishchepa: Good afternoon.

I am Veronika Prishchepa, a quality management consultant.

I am representing the Moscow Region. However, thanks to my beloved husband – he is a serviceman – I had the opportunity to live in Novosibirsk and Vladivostok. That is, I had the chance to become intimately familiar, not just as a tourist, with different natural environments and people, which was an amazing experience.

Vladimir Putin: What cities did you live in during this time?

Veronika Prishchepa: Novosibirsk, Yekaterinburg and Vladivostok. As my husband jokes, “The only place that is left is our unit in Kaliningrad.”

Vladimir Putin: Where did you like it best?

Veronika Prishchepa: I lived in Novosibirsk for 20 years and thought that there was nothing more beautiful than Siberia. When we moved to Vladivostok, I just flung my hands up and said, “That’s it. I give up.” The nature is amazing there.

Vladimir Putin: Yes, it is true.

Veronika Prishchepa: You know, my story is simple and millions of women can relate to it. A year ago, a miracle happened – I had a son.

Vladimir Putin: Congratulations.

Veronika Prishchepa: Thank you. I took maternity leave and plunged into the things that motherhood has to offer. However, after a while, I caught myself thinking that I want to be useful not only in my own little world, but do more beyond its confines, and do something really good and necessary.

At the same time, I started doubting myself as a professional. I started thinking of myself as a rusting vehicle that has not been driven for a while and has become absolutely useless. Inevitably, such thoughts come to your mind.

Then my friends told me about this competition. I went to their website, and the first thing that caught my eye was that I could get an expert assessment of my professional competencies.

My first thought about this competition was that if I enter, I will be able to draw a road map for myself which will help me rebound and get back to my career. I knew I would be able to identify my shortcomings and things that I will need to make up for. The organisers said they would immediately come back with comments and identify areas that I will need to read up on. I thought it was good for me. During the competition – obviously, since I am here – I discovered another amazing miracle which is, if you try hard and apply yourself in this competition, you can do more than get back into the workforce after maternity leave. You can achieve something much grander. Don’t laugh.

Mr Mishustin [Head of the Federal Taxation Service] offered to take part in one interesting project. By any measure, without this competition I would not have had such an opportunity. So, I would like to thank you on behalf of all young mothers.

I would like to make a small point. When I joined the competition, I was interested in hearing success stories. For some reason this format – sharing success stories – is not widespread in this country. But why not come to schools and universities and write books about yourself – how you have become what you are, no matter what area. People in this country do not share success stories. Meanwhile, during the semi-finals and finals of this competition there were many interesting governors. They were amazing, they were like real people and gave simple answers, not like politicians who try to give tentative answers. I understood them and this was pleasant. The people around me were also at a very high level. “How did you come to occupy this position?” “Why did you come here?” These were success stories by real people – very interesting and useful.

Vladimir Putin: What about the first part? Do you have time for your son?

Veronika Prishchepa: I just finished my one-year paid leaveafter childbirth, and now I plan to go to work. I am hoping I will find what I need. This is a complicated question.

Vladimir Putin: And what did you do before?

Veronika Prishchepa: Corporate consulting on quality management – mostly industrial and food companies – and also schools. I introduced ISO, HACCP and GMP into these companies, I hope that eventually I will manage to find or approach a balance between personal and professional interests.

Vladimir Putin: Of course, one should not lose skills at the professional level. This is exactly why we will have a whole programme on day nurseries. It will allow young mothers to join productive activities as soon as possible so as not to lose their professional qualifications.

Veronika Prishchepa: This is very important.

Vladimir Putin: But, honestly, it is quite a surprise for us to hear what you said – that this is playing such a role for young women in your position. We did not hope for that, so it was all the more gratifying to hear. I wish you success! Go ahead please.

Yevgeny Pokushalov: Mr President, good afternoon.

Yevgeny Pokushalov, Novosibirsk, the National Medical Research Centre.

I am very happy to meet with you again. Just six months ago you presented to me a national award in science and technology at the Kremlin.

Vladimir Putin: I remember it clearly.

Yevgeny Pokushalov: So, I am very happy to have this opportunity.

What can I say? For example, they always asked during this competition: “Why do you do this? You are a surgeon with a good practice, you are a scientist and you have achieved a lot.”

Vladimir Putin: Do you hold a doctorate?

Yevgeny Pokushalov: Yes, I do, I am a professor and a member of the Russian Academy of Sciences.

Vladimir Putin: How old are you?

Yevgeny Pokushalov: I am 43 years old.

Vladimir Putin: When have you had time for all this? (Laughter).

Yevgeny Pokushalov: I did not do it on purpose. I mean I worked, I did research and I introduced innovations, and it came to me. It wasn’t my goal.

Vladimir Putin: You are still a young man, and to tell the truth, very successful.

Yevgeny Pokushalov: In fact, I happened to be at the right place right after graduation. I was interested in science even when I was a student. I studied cardiac surgery and it was easy for me to continue.

Vladimir Putin: It is a lot of work, in fact.

Yevgeny Pokushalov: Yes, it is true.

I am always asked: “Why are you taking part in this competition?” I say that these are very important things. My job is to perform surgery on people, but also to create new technology and introduce it. I can tell you for sure that success in this depends not only on a genius team but also on the right management. This is where success lies.

Many scientists (researchers in Russia do not think about this) believe this is our main problem why these processes do not work very well or effectively. This is why it was so important for me to take part in this competition, to understand for myself what my strong and weak points are. I needed someone to assess me, to see if I needed to adjust anything.

The second point I want to make is mentors. I believe it is great to work with mentors. This is probably important for everyone here because it is a unique experience for us. All of our mentors are very bright people with enormous expertise. We can use this experience, probably for a very long time. We can use it immediately in our work, and this is huge.

And the third thing. I can say I enjoyed this competition a lot, because I was surrounded by very bright and talented people all the time, and when such talented people, especially from different areas, gather together, it always means new ideas.

I can tell you, sincerely, it was for real, that the past three days our team at the competition discussed issues of quantum mechanics during the breaks between assignments, and we talked about things like the effects of quantum mechanics being constructively used in equipment and in instrument engineering even though those effects can be interpreted in different ways. And we also touched on the fact that nobody knows how these effects would work in medicine and what impact quantum mechanics might have on biological systems. It appears that this is an area we can work on, and it could turn into a road for new technologies in medicine. So, this was conceptualizing in the process of the competition, and it could be followed up on.

I for one received tremendous satisfaction, and I would just like to thank you for the opportunity. I think what I acquired will give me and my team a great boost. I believe we will show our best in future.

Vladimir Putin: I am surprised that people, in this case this particular person, with such a high level of training and the professional level he has achieved, not only entered the competition but also found it interesting. It is unexpected. A person like you could have been an expert there. What’s your job now?

Yevgeny Pokushalov: I worked my way up starting with hospital attendant. Now I hold the position of deputy director for research at the Meshalkin National Medical Research Centre

Vladimir Putin: Is it a specialised clinic?

Yevgeny Pokushalov: Yes, it is the country’s leading heart surgery centre.

Vladimir Putin: Do you work with the centres in Moscow? Do you cooperate with Moscow centres?

Yevgeny Pokushalov: Yes, of course. Our partner is the Bakulev Institute, the closest partner in the area.

Vladimir Putin: Are you deputy director?

Yevgeny Pokushalov: Yes, I am.

Vladimir Putin: Do you have a family?

Yevgeny Pokushalov: Yes, I have three children.

Vladimir Putin: Did you grow up in Novosibirsk?

Yevgeny Pokushalov: No, I was born, went to school and got my university degree and internship in Tomsk. And in 2002 my director Alexander Karaskov invited me to work at the centre. I never dreamt of such opportunities at the time but he gave me a great chance. I went there and said I could introduce a technique in heart surgery that was not being used at the clinic at the time. He gave me a chance to try it, and I succeeded.

I was able to do this, and we have achieved great results in 15 years. Our activities are known well beyond Russia. They are in the practical recommendations for heart doctors and heart surgeons in the United States, Canada, Europe and Russia. We have started putting these scientific studies into practice, and they have been accepted at the world level because it is an important matter.

Vladimir Putin: Thank you. Good luck to you.

Yevgeny Pokushalov: Thank you.

Oleg Zhdaneyev: Good afternoon. My name is Oleg Zhdaneyev. I was born in Abakan, a small Siberian town in southern Khakassia.

Vladimir Putin: You were born in Abakan?

Oleg Zhdaneyev: Yes.

Vladimir Putin: Why is it a small town? It is the administrative centre of Khakassia.

Oleg Zhdaneyev: Compared to Moscow, where I am now, it is, of course, a small town.

I come from the oil and gas industry. After 12 years of working abroad – Norway, France, and the United States – I returned home to Russia to become one step closer to my dream.

Vladimir Putin: What did you do?

Oleg Zhdaneyev: I worked both at research institutes and in the field. As an oilman, I went to sea and worked on developing innovative equipment in Norway, such as underwater mining units. In the United States, I focused on developing innovative types of reservoir fluid chemical analysis. That is, the nomenclature was fairly wide.

Vladimir Putin: That is, you dealt with offshore drilling?

Oleg Zhdaneyev: Yes, it included drilling offshore, as well as developing innovative physical and chemical methods of analysis, innovative equipment, which is now used practically worldwide, and new methods for drilling and exploration.

Vladimir Putin: What company did you work for?

Oleg Zhdaneyev: Schlumberger. Two years ago, I returned to Russia to try to make a contribution so the Russian engineering industry is not looked down on, but instead becomes exemplary for the rest of the world.

Vladimir Putin: The things that you worked on are precisely what is missing in our country.

Oleg Zhdaneyev: I am trying to share my experience and knowledge with seven plants in this region.

Vladimir Putin: Where do you work now?

Oleg Zhdaneyev: I continue at Schlumberger.

Vladimir Putin: Here in Russia?

Oleg Zhdaneyev: Yes, in Russia. I am trying to share my experience and knowledge with the seven plants here in Russia. The construction of an eighth plant in the Lipetsk Region is nearing completion. The plant is unique not only for Russia, but for the rest of the world. That is a high-precision casting plant with over 70 percent of fully automated operations.

Vladimir Putin: You want to take over one of our drilling companies.

Oleg Zhdaneyev: There are rumours.

Vladimir Putin: Not rumours, but concrete talks that have been underway for a long time now.

Oleg Zhdaneyev: I am working for the production unit, that is…

Vladimir Putin: You did not do anything in this area.

Oleg Zhdaneyev: My job is to make sure that this equipment is manufactured in Russia by Russians at Russian plants. More than that, it is good that it enjoys high demand, and we are now shipping it internationally, including to the Middle East, the United States and China. We ended up developing a very good export-oriented product.

For me, this competition is an opportunity to meet interesting people with whom we can quickly realise the dream of a Russian advanced engineering industry. Since my current job is fairly specific, I wanted mentors to help me learn and see how I can be more useful to the country, how to transfer all that knowledge so that it brings the greatest benefit to our Motherland.

Vladimir Putin: What is your position in the company?

Oleg Zhdaneyev: I lead a department for the production and development of oil and gas equipment in Russia and Central Asia. That is, I answer directly to the [company’s] president.

Vladimir Putin: Interesting. This is really very interesting and important. Good luck to you.

Oleg Zhdaneyev: Thank you.

Olga Ugleva: My name is Olga Ugleva, 31 years old, I am from Chelyabinsk, married with two children. I currently work as head of the Ministry of Energy’s regional organisation. This is a new area for me, I have been working there for several months only. Before that, I worked in banking, starting from specialist to deputy director in our region. I got my current job through a contest, too. It was the regional personnel programme of the Chelyabinsk administration. And it so happened that on my first day my boss, Deputy Governor Ruslan Gattarov, says: “There is a contest, Leaders of Russia, and you should enter it. I think it’s a good idea.” That was on November 6, I think, the last day to submit an application.

Vladimir Putin: So, your boss told you to do this?

Olga Ugleva: No, in fact, I wanted to say that I have been entering various competitions since I was a child, including the Presidential Prize in 2009; our governor, Pyotr Sumin, awarded me with it when I was a student.

I took part in the contest with pleasure. I did it together with my husband. It turned out that we were the only ones who made it to the final.

Vladimir Putin: And what does your husband do?

Olga Ugleva: He has worked in transport, construction and sales, and now he has his own small business: repairs machinery and equipment and works with Bashneft and other large clients, including the Ust-Katav Carriage Works. Now he went to our children, and I am still here.

What did we want to get out of the competition? First of all, to assess our level. Because I understand what I am worth as a banker, but I wanted to see how I measure up in other areas.

The second important thing for me was to learn how to tackle more large-scale challenges, because working in a bank means working in a highly structured system with clear functions and clear tasks, especially in foreign banks where I mostly worked (it is very precise there), and now I had to choose the area of activity and solve project tasks.

In this part of the competition, we had a very useful case when we had to propose solutions for demographic challenges Russia is facing now. Here I was lucky to work with Viktor Zubkov [Gazprom Board Chairman], he was our mentor and supervisor at this time, and Vladimir Yakushev [Governor of the Tyumen Region] and get their expert assessment of my proposals on how to increase productivity and how to change our education system. Increasing productivity is very important for us as an industrial region.

When I joined the Ministry of Economic Development, I saw that we still do not take part in the priority programme to improve labour productivity, though the Sverdlovsk Region and Tyumen have already joined it. Now my goal will be to get on the list of pilot regions.

Education is a familiar topic to me. I used to work as a teacher, now I work with youngsters, recent graduates with the aim of forming a team. What would I like to achieve? I don’t want young people who start working in any area to hear from their employers, “Forget everything you were taught at university. We’ll show you how to work.”

Through working with our mentors, we made the huge discovery that they are normal people, just like us, who are willing to work hard. Mr Zubkov, Mr Yakushev and I have already discussed further steps and reached some agreements. I believe that we will really achieve a system of employers cooperating with universities, working arm in arm.

Vladimir Putin: Yes, they are practical people, with a lot of experience, they understand what needs to be done, it is true. I understand.

Thank you very much.

Fedor Sheberstov: My name is Fedor. I am also one of the established participants, and one of the oldest. I am 48 and I have six children. The eldest lives in Novosibirsk and works on quantum effects in medical science.

I went to the Moscow Institute of Physics and Technology. It was at the turn of the 1990s, when it was impossible to make a living off science, so I started a consulting business. I can tell you that my company can compete with the experts in this competition. I can also say for certain that this is not for show. I passed through all the stages myself, the structure of the exercises was familiar to me, but still, everything was very useful, it was a great opportunity to look at myself from the outside.

Why am I here? Over the last three years I have been working on a charity project called Teacher for Russia. You may have heard about us. What we do is ask graduates of the best universities, who didn’t necessarily go to university to become a teacher, to teach for two years. We help them with grants, we train them. We believe that they are talented people, very much like those present here, but they are still idealistic. They are not in it for the money and they can change a lot in education.

The motto of our project is to help every child unlock their potential. There are many good things going on now regarding education for the gifted, the elite. Your beautiful Sirius Centre that welcomed us, and our teachers visit it. But ordinary schools also need a lot of attention, and our people are doing this.

My plan succeeded, I have managed to speak with many people. A photo with me standing next to you, I am sure, would also help the project.

Vladimir Putin: I hope so.

Fedor Sheberstov: It is true. Because school is full of inertia and very obedient.

And secondly. We met with Mr Trutnev (Deputy Prime Minister – Presidential Plenipotentiary Envoy to the Far Eastern Federal District), he now calls on us to deal with social issues, to explore…

Vladimir Putin: In the Far East?

Fedor Sheberstov: Yes, in fact. A huge country. I am giving it serious consideration.

Thank you.

Vladimir Putin: Thank you. You spoke so briefly, interestingly.

Unfortunately, I haven’t heard about your project.

Fedor Sheberstov: Meet the teachers. They are magicians.

Vladimir Putin: The project is certainly excellently organised and well thought-out. I didn’t even know there were people doing this.

Fedor Sheberstov: Run by enthusiasm – five regions and 50 schools have been involved even though we have been operating for just two years. And another important thing – one of the exercises included a visit to a school, i.e., each participant had a demonstration lesson. And surprisingly, the majority of those I spoke to (you can ask our colleagues) said this was their greatest impression at the competition. Not “fighting” with big bosses but speaking before children. These are the right leaders that have gathered here.

Vladimir Putin: You mentioned Sirius. We will set up a school there because it lacks a school. We will set up a good regular school.

Fedor Sheberstov: Sirius is a powerhouse.

Vladimir Putin: Yes, it seems like it is a success.

Fedor Sheberstov: Yes.

Vladimir Putin: And you can go to Mr Trutnev, there are a lot of things to do there.

Fedor Sheberstov: You can see what he is doing.

Vladimir Putin: Yes, he is a quick and sharp man.

Fedor Sheberstov: Yes, things are reliable with him.

Vladimir Putin: Absolutely.

Sergei Ludin: Good afternoon, Mr President. I am Sergei Ludin from Pavlovo, a small town in the Nizhny Novgorod Region. You should know it, for it is where the popular PAZ buses are manufactured. My beloved wife and I have three sons. I will go and tell her that we need to catch up with Fedor. Maybe we will have a daughter.

Vladimir Putin: Do not be in such a hurry; you should get home first. (Laughter)

Sergei Ludin: She must start getting ready.

I began my career as an economist in Nizhny Novgorod. I now work at the Moscow Investment Company, managing an asset portfolio worth some 60 billion rubles. We have created a very strong team on this market.

Vladimir Putin: Who owns this investment company?

Sergei Ludin: EVRAZ, Abramov and Frolov.

Vladimir Putin: Very good. Respectable.

Sergei Ludin: Yes, very respectable. I think we have put together a good team. We are managing assets very well: they are growing and will continue to grow. But you are never satisfied and want to move forward. This competition primarily offered us an opportunity to look around to see what we can do next, how else we can serve society and realise our potential.

For example, we talked with [Economic Development Minister] Maxim Oreshkin about what can be improved in the ministry’s operation and how to do this. We have agreed that I would submit my proposals on using our experience of managing private assets for managing state assets. It concerns market trends.

Vladimir Putin: How old are you?

Sergei Ludin: 36.

Vladimir Putin: So, you speak the same language as Oreshkin.

Sergei Ludin: Yes, I do. He asked me: “Why did you choose me?” I said: “Mr Oreshkin, you are young and forward-looking.” He said: “The same as you.” This is how our dialogue began. We will see what comes of it, but I will certainly submit my proposals.

I also had an amazing experience, which Fedor has mentioned – an open lesson at School No. 59 in Sochi. You know, I was terrified, but in the end, I really enjoyed it and got huge satisfaction from it. I even phoned my wife to tell her, “If I ever get tired of business, and if they have no need for me in the Government, I will become a teacher.” That is what we have agreed on. And Fedor has offered me a course.

And one more thing. Mr President, I would like to thank you, the competition organisers and participants, as well as the tutors of the 200,000 applicants for this competition. I believe that this competition has given a powerful impetus to development for everyone, regardless of results and regardless of who made it to the top 100 and who did not.

As for what can be improved or changed, I believe that everything has been done at such a high level that the first task is to keep up this level.

And second, the idea of this competition could be applied at the regional level, for example. We must not lose this experience; we must apply it at other levels.

Vladimir Putin: You said the idea should be applied at other levels. If we apply it at the regional level, we must ensure that it is a very high regional level.

Sergei Ludin: Of course.

Vladimir Putin: We can certainly do this. I am 100 percent sure. Why not? There will be no invitations to the Far East at this level, but there will definitely be other interesting proposals. Thank you.

Andrei Zimenkov: Mr President, my name is Andrei Zimenkov. I was born and grew up in Leningrad, then St Petersburg. Now I live and work in Moscow. For many, this story sounds familiar.

Vladimir Putin: Coincidence.

Andrei Zimenkov: It is a familiar story. There may be certain coincidences. But this is not the only one.

Like many of my friends here, I went abroad to gain some professional experience. I also completed my business education abroad. But eight years ago, I made an informed choice to return to Russia, because I wanted to realise my potential in my home country. I work at Rostelecom. I am involved in transforming our business now. As our chief, Mr Oseyevsky, says, I am steering the impressive aircraft carrier of our business to face the client. I would even call it an icebreaker, maybe. It is better to face the client, I guess.

Vladimir Putin: What do you do at Rostelecom?

Andrei Zimenkov: I am responsible for the development of the corporate and government segment.

Vladimir Putin: Where do you think a company like Rostelecom should move from here? What should it transform into? What should be the focus of its future work?

Andrei Zimenkov: I think Rostelecom has a unique chance not just to invest or participate in building a digital economy in Russia, but a real opportunity to be the driver of this transformation and building the digital economy. Because Rostelecom has a unique resource – its infrastructure and its people.

By the way, there were five people from Rostelecom among the finalists. And three winners. Three out of five is very good. I am really proud of our company.

Vladimir Putin: You are absolutely right. Of course. This is true.

Andrei Zimenkov: Why enter the competition? Well, primarily I wanted to get a measure of myself, like many others here, to see what I am worth. I mean, I maybe had some success at the company, but on a national scale, so to speak, I know now there is still room to grow. I will work on this.

My second objective was to change perspective, to look away from the business operation problems I work on every day, and think about what I can do for the country as a whole.

Vladimir Putin: What is your qualification?

Andrei Zimenkov: I am an engineer. I studied engineering in St Petersburg.

Vladimir Putin: Which university?

Andrei Zimenkov: St Petersburg Electrotechnical University.

Vladimir Putin: Excellent.

Andrei Zimenkov: Yes. After that I continued my education in business administration. My engineering degree allows me to understand high technology but I am searching for ways this technology could take the workload off the state, companies and people.

This competition gave me plenty of ideas and even revelations. I never doubted that there are a great number of talented managers in all regions across the country. I personally have strong connections with the regions. Tomorrow I am flying to Samara, then Ufa and Yekaterinburg, and this is my plan for this week alone. I meet many talented young people. But I was truly fascinated by the level of civil servants and public administrators widely represented in the competition, not only as mentors and workshop instructors but also as participants. They are extremely competent people.

I would like to say thank you particularly for the young governors. The competition organisers invited them to teach a workshop. I was so impressed with the seven governors, some still acting governors, that on my scale they are definitely competing with German Gref’s ‘blockbuster’ talk on the technology of the future.

Vladimir Putin: Yes, they are very competent guys, very sharp, with a lot of practical experience.

Andrei Zimenkov: It was impossible to miss. For me personally it became a revelation and seriously enhanced the prestige of public service. I must say I saw a new side of public administrators. They turned their new, human faces to me, if I may say so.

The idea I took away from the competition and that I will promote in my company is its format, which can be easily transferred to large state corporations and large companies. Somebody will perhaps use this approach in regional government bodies because it is in great demand and the methodology is ready: just take it and use it and you will get a strong and professional talent pool. This is what I am definitely going to do. I also got a few ideas on the digital economy which I will promote at Rostelecom.

Vladimir Putin: Good luck. You have a very interesting and promising job. As for what you said about the company, I think this is roughly how it should be developing and moving forward. Some segments are lacking and they should be added.

Andrei Zimenkov: We are working on this, Mr President.

Kirill Babayev: Mr President, my name is Kirill Babayev, and I was lucky to have worked simultaneously in two fields: international business and research. I was responsible for the international communications of major Russian companies and protected Russian business interests abroad for many years, and I simultaneously worked in fundamental research. I even hold a doctorate degree.

Vladimir Putin: How did you protect our business?

Kirill Babayev: I developed ties with state agencies in connection with various transactions and investment projects of major Russian companies. I worked on nearly all continents.

Vladimir Putin: Abroad?

Kirill Babayev: Yes, I worked in Asia, Africa, the CIS, in Europe and America, that is, nearly everywhere.

First Deputy Chief of Staff of the Presidential Executive Office Sergei Kiriyenko: Are you a doctor of philology?

Kirill Babayev: Yes, and I also worked in fundamental research, so I have a unique combination of experience in both business and research. This is what I can offer my country, my society and you.

I have a dream. I want to create an efficient up-to-date system of research management in Russia, to enhance the efficiency of research and to place it at the service of the state and its priority development goals. Most importantly, I want to enhance the prestige of Russian science abroad, so that people there will know more about us and request the results of our research, and so that we will gain advantages from this research diplomacy, which is so important now. This is why I took part in the competition. I think everyone here will agree that winning is very good, but you can really feel like a winner only when you have proved in deed that you can do something for your country. We have received a kind of down payment at this competition.

In itself, this competition is a step forward in our supplementary education, along with the 1 million rubles – thank you very much for it – which we are to invest in learning something new, improving our competencies and advancing to the state level. This is exactly what I intend to do.

Sergei Kiriyenko: They say you speak six languages?

Kirill Babayev: No, I speak 12 languages. That’s how life has turned out for me.

Vladimir Putin: This is great.

I would like to highlight two things. You said we must work to enhance the prestige of our science abroad, but at the beginning you said that the main goal is to enhance the efficiency of research in the country. Enhancing the efficiency of research at home is, of course, more important than our prestige abroad.

Kirill Babayev: Yes, of course.

Vladimir Putin: But we also want the world to know about us. They do know, and this is important, to a degree, but what we do at home is more important. They will know more about us if we organise effective research in the country.

The Academy [of Sciences] is undergoing transformations, which is why this is very important. It is really important.

Did you discuss this issue with anyone during the competition?

Kirill Babayev: I have chosen tutors.

Vladimir Putin: Who are they?

Kirill Babayev: I have met with Mr Mau [Vladimir Mau, Rector of the Russian Presidential Academy of National Economy and Public Administration or RANEPA]. I was really impressed by our meeting. Mr Mau told me that he was impressed by the possibilities we had discussed. I am waiting for replies from the other tutors. One of them is Rector of the Higher School of Economics Yaroslav Kuzminov. I would like to receive expertise and the opportunity to implement my ideas in this area.

Vladimir Putin: So, you expect them to provide additional material?

Kirill Babayev: Yes.

Vladimir Putin: In this case, I suggest that you demand, not wait for what you want, because they are busy people.

Kirill Babayev: I will.

Vladimir Putin: You do it, or else you will wait till doomsday.

Kirill Babayev: Thank you. I think they will move faster now.

Vladimir Putin: This is exactly what I wanted.

Nikita Kulikov: Mr President, good afternoon.

My name is Nikita Kulikov, I am from a remote region. I was born, grew up and went to school in the city of Tyumen.

I happened to find a job at Sberbank right after university; I have worked 10 years there. During the last four years, I have been in charge of corporate business. This means my team, which has not changed for the last four years, the main staff, we work with legal entities, developing our business together with legal entities, which includes lending, payroll programmes as well as other products.

I entered the competition probably because it was some kind of a challenge for me; I primarily wanted to see where we stand in comparison with others across the country, compared with other corporations, officials, business leaders. So, I tried and I saw that we are good.

You know, I even had to rethink some things during the competition, and now I have this dilemma: is it worth continuing my development at Sberbank, or, perhaps, I should choose a new path for myself, some new challenge, a new idea? I really hope that the mentor who chooses me will help me in this way.

Vladimir Putin: And who is your mentor?

Nikita Kulikov: According to the rules, we could choose at least ten people, but I chose 12. My first choices are Mr Sobyanin, Mr Lavrov, Mr Vekselberg and Mr Kiriyenko – that’s four. If it’s one of them, I will be very happy, but any name will make me happy in any case.

I think that this work will not be in vain. Why is it important? I believe that in the 21st century, it is possible and even, maybe, it is best to move as a team. I have a very good team of professionals that works with me. If it works out, and we have a preliminary go-ahead, I would like to spend the one million not on my own training, but on training for my team so that we could take a course together. If the guys want to move on with me, I would, of course, be very happy about it, and we would do something together. So, I wanted to thank you for the competition and for this opportunity.

In general, this competition aroused an unreal enthusiasm. It was a place where you find yourself among people who are in your league, intellectually, or even much higher, and this makes you understand sharply where your place is, and realise that there are people worth taking for a model. It’s very nice and really interesting.

I wanted to say two things. First. I agree that the 20-minute lesson at school was probably the most interesting and inspiring task. Only in front of children does one realise – not in front of tough business executives – how difficult it is to inspire children and how, it turns out, they need your competence, your experience of choosing a career path, for example, where you can just say one word, but for them, it is a whole story. They kept us for another 30-40 minutes after the 20-minute lesson, still firing questions at us. It was very nice and really interesting. Thank you for this.

Teamwork demonstrated that many ideas are born at the crossroads of public service, banking and business. We came up with several ideas on employment and what banking products could be developed in cooperation with the government so that ordinary customers could finance their employment and perhaps someday in the future the unemployment issue would be at least partially resolved. Why not? I will come back with these proposals and we will discuss them with my colleagues in the region and the head office.

Once again, thank you very much.

Vladimir Putin: Can you simply explain what your team does? The team you will share your million with.

Nikita Kulikov: They are my guys.

Vladimir Putin: Are they all Sberbank workers?

Nikita Kulikov: Yes.

Vladimir Putin: Mr Gref will go crazy if we take half of his people away from him.

Nikita Kulikov: I think I am talking mostly about my ‘one level down,’ as we call it, that is, my subordinate managers. There are only five of them. I would like to share the million with them and order a training course. These guys are professionals in financing developer projects, agriculture as well as industrial production. This is what we finance. There are also people responsible for the so-called transaction business, everything that has to do with online transactions with legal entities such as credit card payments or company payroll plans. Every employee is responsible for a specific area.

Vladimir Putin: You know, of course there must be more exciting things to do but Sberbank also has plenty of challenges. You just mentioned a whole range of areas. One of them is e-commerce. Sberbank is largely involved in it. This bank is one of our most progressive companies dealing with e-commerce. We need our own platforms. I do not want to name the companies that want to enter our market because it will be all over the media. The result may be unpredictable. But there are such companies. Some of the best, leading companies. We need to take a closer look at the interests of the Russian economy as well as Russian customers. We need to either adopt foreign platforms or develop our own. Perhaps something simple but with the potential to grow. This is one of the ideas. By the way, as I said, Sberbank has done a great deal in this area. But you know about Sberbank’s ecosystem.

Nikita Kulikov: Yes.

Vladimir Putin: It was in very lengthy negotiations with Alibaba.

Nikita Kulikov: Yes.

Vladimir Putin: Good luck.

To be continued.