Aligning the Stars of Present and Future
- Dec. 10 2014 00:00
The nexus of present and future business is to be found in education, especially where it focuses on the skills of startups and entrepreneurship. Andrei Sharonov is Dean of The Moscow School of Management SKOLKOVO and he was also a contender for The Moscow Times Person of the Year award in 2013.
Would you say the SKOLKOVO project is mainly academic focused or commercially focused?
SKOLKOVO Foundation and Skoltech are separate legs compared to Moscow School of Management SKOLKOVO but in the long run we see it as a very good ecosystem. I have faith in the idea of Russia's Silicon Valley and I see potential for great synergy in the midterm future. Coming back to the SKOLKOVO Business School, definitely we are not a commercial project. However, we must consider our business performance as we operate within sensitive financial constraints and we are not publicly funded. We are privately born and have a brilliant bunch of founders with strong positions within the Russian business elite.
SKOLKOVO Business School is not about profit but about development, about creating a new business environment in Russia where entrepreneurs and managers can find tools for their personal and professional growth and for communication with local and federal authorities. The chairman of our supervisory board is the Russian Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev who was involved in the project from the very start. Mr Medvedev believes strongly in this project and he supports us in terms of his attention, his personal involvement, and through meetings with our students and our faculty.
The core idea of SKOLKOVO Business School is to create an epicenter of expertise for individual, corporate, regional and country development. That is why our biggest focus is corporate educational programs that are based not just on theoretical knowledge but on unique solutions to help companies reach their strategic goals.
It sounds like it has parallels with some of the corporate universities.
There is a difference. We act as a business partner and help our clients to realize their strategies through a unique environment encouraging managers to broaden their horizons. We give participants an opportunity to take a fresh look at their business, to realize their potential, and to prepare for challenging new tasks. Corporate universities usually work with huge numbers of people. We are targeting leadership teams at the helm of the strategic business lines of the company.
We construct each corporate program individually: faculty, experts, subjects, cases and guest speakers are chosen according to the most relevant issues facing the company.
What use do you make of outside resources, for example international companies with expertise in cargo or logistics?
In the business school we attract three categories of experts who work with the students. The first is professors from the top tier western business schools like INSEAD, Wharton, and so on. The second category is practitioners: people without any formal academic title but with a long background in a particular area, ready to share their knowledge. The third category is international and Russian corporations, leaders in their areas and we have launched several joint projects with them. One of the brightest examples of such cooperation is our chair in project management, sponsored by Schlumberger and headed by professor Jean-Marc Soucy who has 30 years' experience with BP and personally runs many projects on the ground.
To which parts of the Russian economy do you pay most attention?
We have been operating for eight years and have experience of cooperating with different companies and sectors: oil and gas, companies like BP, Lukoil, Transneft; metals and mining, where the biggest example is Evraz; we are working with Avtodor, the state corporation in transportation; in the banking sector, in electricity, with the National Grid companies and many others.
Given your experience with the Moscow administration, where you were Deputy Mayor for Economic Policy, what do you think of development of city public officers?
It is one of our strategic goals. Several years ago we had initial experience with Arkhangelskaya oblast, both the administration and the Northern (Arctic) Federal University. You know that the federal government pays a lot of attention to developing the Russian regions and there is a huge need for training programs for public administration and project leaders in those regions. We had a yearlong program with the Moscow's Department of Science, Industrial Policy and Entrepreneurship, which works with small and midsize enterprises (SMEs). This year we also successfully conducted the training program, titled Managing Innovation Projects, for Moscow officials responsible for innovation and industry, who had to find 'smart' and effective solutions introducing innovation into daily urban reality.
What is the key skill that you are trying to promote in the industrial realm and also in the administrative functions?
I mentioned this key word "change", within companies, within the personality, in industry, to change the region and to change the country. It is not about providing knowledge. It is about creating teams having concrete skills, an entrepreneurial approach and pro-active attitude, able to manage change and becoming change leaders.
Do you have any area in which you want to increase ties with international companies, universities and organizations in order to share Russian experience?
If you are talking about special joint ventures or partner universities we do not have such a partner but we cooperate with a bunch of world's top universities in terms of faculty, academic exchange and sourcing as it is our 'must' to provide top class professors for all our educational programs and that is what we do on a continuing basis.
How man alumni do you have now and what is your ambition?
We have 10,000 attendees of all our programs but for our certificated international business education programs MBA and Executive MBA as well as our SKOLKOVO Original programs (Practicum for Directors, Startup Academy, Open programs) we have about 700 alumni. They are all active, successful people and one of the liveliest and strongest business communities in Russia.