Markus Szirmay, German business development manager in Sibiria

Markus Szirmay, business development manager from Germany

Markus Szirmay’s job as a business development manager with Piller Industrial Fans involves exploring new markets. GIZ’s training programme for managers, run on behalf of the German Federal Ministry of Economics and Technology, could have been tailor-made for him. Titled ‘Fit for business in Russia’, it’s already taken over 300 German managers to Russia to make valuable business contacts locally. Markus Szirmay is enthusiastic about the prospect of doing good business in Russia.

How have you benefitted from the continuing training programme for managers?
I really feel I’ve got to know the famous ‘Russian soul’; I’ve learned a lot about Russian culture and the mind-set – and the business culture, of course. Anyone who deals with the Russian market at first hand soon discovers how difficult it is to get an appointment in a Russian company: you can wait up to a month for all the necessary permits and paperwork. Meeting senior managers from top Russian companies is something I’d never have been able to do without this programme.

What’s been your most difficult experience in Russia?
There are two things you need to remember in Russia: ‘be flexible’ and ‘expect the unexpected’! I can still remember learning that the hard way: it was on one of my first independent business trips, and I was stuck outside a hotel in the Urals in the middle of the night, exhausted and shivering in a thin business suit in temperatures of minus 15. The hotel didn’t want to let me in because I didn’t have a regional authority permit. I did eventually manage to find a warm bed for the night, though!

The journey on the Trans-Siberian Railway is extremely long. What do you always carry in your hand luggage?
As well as the usual essentials, such as a toothbrush and a razor, I’d always take a compass, a dictionary, a torch and a penknife. Going on the Trans-Siberian is still a bit of an adventure: you never know if the train will break down in the middle of the Siberian forest and the passengers will have to hack their way through.

What did you want to be when you grew up?
I was always interested in aeroplanes and I wanted to be a test pilot. Planes are actually continuous flow machines, just like fans and compressors, so you could say I came pretty close to fulfilling my dream in the job I do now.

What would you do if you won the lottery?
I’d fulfil another dream and buy a stake in my company. I really believe in our products, and we have a well-deserved reputation as the market leader in many industrial sectors. I’d also give part of the money to an orphanage in Romania.

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    Networking is crucial to doing business: programme events have enabled Markus Szirmay to build up an impressive collection of business cards. Photos: Tristan Vostry
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    Szirmay, an engineer, took part in the Russian-German ‘President’s programme’; the Russian government has invited German managers to Russia since 2006.
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    Informal exchanges: trips organised by the continuing training programme involve managers from around the world, not just Germany.
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    Markus Szirmay is enthusiastic about his employer’s products: Piller, an SME based in the federal state of Lower Saxony, manufactures industrial fans and compressors.
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    Keeping an eye on the time: when you’re in Russia, every second counts in making business contacts.
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    The guest of the Siberian government: the programme of trips includes contacts with regional governments as well as with businesses.
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    Since he took part in the programme, Markus Szirmay has been working hard at learning Russian. But he still needs an interpreter’s support for his next appointment.
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    Szirmay has always had a keen interest in technology, so it’s a bonus to be able to admire the latest developments in a cross-cultural setting.
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    ‘I’ve found Russians to be friendly and hospitable,’ says Szirmay. He particularly admires their achievements in heavy industry.
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    Nothing beats a convivial evening with potential new business partners – Szirmay knows that the Russian culture is based on contacts and relationships.
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    Homeward bound? Szirmay’s trips mean new business and an opportunity to enjoy cross-cultural challenges, but he misses his daughters waiting at home.