"Benefiting both sides"

Straight to the top

A great way to develop expertise, explore new openings and establish useful contacts

Whenever Markus Szirmay (48) travels to Russia on business, his suitcase always contains the contact details of many company managers and state officials with influential positions in Russian industry. Szirmay is a qualified engineer and heads the business development team at Piller Industrieventilatoren, an SME based in Lower Saxony. The fact that he is so well connected is not least down to the German-Russian Presidents’ Programme (also known as the Manager Training Programme), a training initiative run by the Deutsche Gesellschaft für internationale Zusammenarbeit (GIZ) GmbH.

The programme allows managerial staff from Germany to spend two weeks at different business centres in Russia. Over the course of this tour, they will stop off at a dozen companies and associations and learn at first hand how Russians do business. Sometimes, this involves getting their hands dirty. Szirmay and the other members of his group from Germany had to don protective clothing and a helmet to visit a coal mine near the West Siberian city of Kemerovo. Despite his experience as an engineer, even Szirmay was impressed by the size of the conveyor systems.

The German group prepared for the tour by attending a number of seminars over several days. This involved getting to grips with a good deal of technical information and familiarising themselves with Russian culture. ‘It was the best training course I’ve ever had, a real door-opener,’ says Szirmay. ‘There is no way I would ever have got access to the senior management levels of leading companies or to top local officials on my own.’ What’s more, his company only had to cover the flight to Novosibirsk. All the rest, including the seminars, accommodation, food, interpreters and local transport were paid for by the Russian Government.

Given the generous funding and resources available from the Russian Government, it is surprising that more German managers don’t take advantage of the opportunity, especially since the chances of being selected are so high. Of the 28 applications for this year’s tour of businesses in Western Siberia, 23 were approved. Another training course in October in the southern Russian city of Samara attracted 25 applicants. According to GIZ, most of these were accepted.

© Ulrike Heitze. This text is an excerpt from the article ‘Nicht kleckern, sondern klotzen’, which appeared in the ‘Tagesspiegel’ newspaper on 25 September 2012.