— Where did you go to university and work before coming to Sberbank, and what do you do here?
— I graduated from the department of systems analysis at the Moscow Engineering and Physics Institute. Before that, I worked in consulting for more than three years — I developed the database for VimpelCom. At Sberbank I first worked as an analyst on master data management – developing a system to manage data. The system is an aggregator of client data from various sources and combines information about credit, cards and insurance, etc. in one place.
Then I was invited to work on the system for the platform to develop the retail business. That’s the neighbouring module. All the systems that provide and use data must be switched onto this platform and become a single back end, so that data exchange can work as quickly as possible by a single identifier using new technology. For the client, the front end should also become unified so that he doesn’t have to travel far to get his card renewed, for example.
From the start, my analytical work tilted toward management. A manager would set me tasks and get them back completed. It’s hard but interesting. The bank is like an elephant, as Herman Gref once said. There are great numbers of interconnections and you have to take them all into account, evaluate them properly and communicate appropriately.
— What is your work day like?
— I’m an early bird, so I like to get to work about 9 a.m. when there are still parking places. Not everyone does this. Our office culture is quite democratic. T-shirts and jeans are the norm. HR periodically sends around recommendations on how to dress, what casual and smart casual are, and what shoes to wear — and we try to follow them.
Before everyone else shows up and starts making noise in meetings or discussions, I can read the email that came the previous evening, see what meetings are scheduled, and think about what I have to get done. The most important thing is the ability to set priorities based on where your team is heading, the goals of the holder of the product that is the main thing we’re working on.
Then I usually have meetings. Since we use Agile, the team gets together, and we discuss who did what in the last period, what people are planning to work on today, what problems have come up, and how to help. In other words, we synchronize. Then there are meetings on various subjects with colleagues from other teams or with our boss. In the middle of the day I carve out some time for lunch, but our lunches often turn into discussions connected to work.
After lunch I work at my computer or discuss something with colleagues one-on-one. This all happens simply and transparently in our office. My planner keeps me from forgetting something; I keep an electronic calendar. In addition to the calendar I use reminders. I write down things that must be done as soon as possible. At Sberbank we don’t have 8-hour days when we sit and quietly do our work.
— What are the people who work at Sberbank like?
— Young, very interested and knowledgeable about technology. They go through internships in joint programs run by Sberbank and educational institutions. Before their job interview, they have already studied the market and know what company they want to join and what they’ll do there. They really question the HR people to get all the details about projects and begin to prepare for their next interview, which is with their immediate boss. Even if they haven’t studied a subject at university, they try to solve problems to raise their skills. This is a really good practice. I also really like the way they think. They try to immediately figure out the interrelationships: what the IT group does and how it’s connected with business. They ask the right questions. They are concerned about their futures. At the same time, they need to understand that Sberbank is developing in the context of long-term changes. If you want to see instant results, you have to consider if you’d be wasting your time and the time of others if you come here to work.
— What’s the most interesting thing for you about work?
— I like the fact that I can combine what I learned at university with the experience of working with a great variety of people. I’m always developing my hard skills and soft skills. Today I might spend the whole day sitting in front of my laptop, checking a presentation, working on reports, or working with Excel tables. And then tomorrow I’ll be at meetings. I know that the result of my work and the work of neighboring teams reaches the client, and I see positive experience. Periodically just about my whole team goes to the local Sberbank branch office as clients. We take a ticket for our turn, get feedback from the people doing the operations, and ask the branch manager questions. Some things can only be seen when you are in personal contact with the person and the product that you’ve made.
— Could you give an example of a product?
— “Client coding” — mapping clients by what the bank knows about them. For example, that the client gets his salary through the bank, that he has four children and a dog he loves, that he lives in Strogino and usually shops at Dixi. These clients are grouped together. Based on this information, the bank knows how to communicate with them appropriately and doesn’t send them the wrong kinds of offers. They send the right advertisements and appeal to client loyalty. We are client-oriented, so we gather together everything we know about the client and process it in various ways.
— Do you make use of in-house courses and other opportunities to study?
— I use the Sberbank Corporate Library a lot. Herman Gref says that he tries to read at least one book a week and puts the most useful ones in the library. We also have access to them as e-books, and a lot of the books come in audiobook form. I really love to listen to books, which also helps improve my listening comprehension. At meetings, you often have to really listen to what the other person is saying so you can make decisions and consider how to reply to what he said. When there are two sides that want different things, I often have to look for compromises. That’s part of my work.
We also have an app called Success Factors which lets you take a variety of in-house courses. I even take them when I’m on vacation and realize that I’m bored and can’t just lie on the beach any more. The last course I took in person was on delegating tasks to colleagues. We don’t have bosses, and tasks are given to several teams, to do inside one team or inside a subdivision. At a certain point, employees are taught how to set tasks appropriately. You shouldn’t say, “Vasya, do this”, without specifying the task and time frame, and without being sure that Vasya understood and is qualified to do it. It’s important to formulate the work order so that the person can do it and bring a good result to the team.
Before the end of the year I plan to take some other courses, mostly soft skills like conflict management. In the last seven years I’ve gotten sufficient knowledge and experience in my specialty. But there are lots of courses at Sberbank in subjects like SQL, Oracle and so on. They are conducted at a space in Perovo and at the Corporate University in the village of Anosino.
The Corporate University is a wonderful place. They usually hold long-term training programs, which are quite expensive but paid for by the bank. The cost covers not only the course but meals, accommodations and the fitness and sports center.
— Are you encouraged to do sports at Sberbank?
— Very much so. At the office on Kutuzovsky Prospekt there is a sports hall where a lot of my colleagues go to work out. You can work out with a trainer, or run on the treadmill, or take yoga classes.
But I do my own workouts. When I was at university, I started aikido in a form that was called real aikido. I did it for several years, then took a break from it for a while, and last year I went back to it with the same trainer. The trainer is responsible for 90 percent of the joy of the classes and success. I immediately felt like I had more strength and energy for work as well as other activities. In June I went to a aikido meet in the Krasnodar region. I qualified for another belt, this time a blue belt. My coworkers followed me on social media and supported me. That’s really nice. And during the summer I had a short-term membership at World Class Fitness Clubs. I try to keep in shape so that I won’t have any muscle loss for the next season, since there are no training sessions during the summer.
— What are your hobbies?
— I make ceramics with Japanese polymer clay. I take a class with a Russian teacher who learned the art from Japanese masters. On the weekends I work with her, and I do prep work at home. I finished the first course — floral — and received a diploma from Japan. The next course is in modeling, that is, making animals, sculptures, houses. You can’t just follow directions and make them. You have to feel the composition and carve it out of the clay. I plan to take a second floral course where we’ll learn how to make large compositions — bridal bouquets, wall decorations, wreaths and so on. I want to be certified as a teacher so that I can have a second profession.