Rafik Rakhimov: "A challenge is needed for growth. Humanity has achieved a great deal on Earth and it's high time to conquer space"
STEP LOGIC opened a branch in Kazan in 2007. Back then the branch office only had three employees. Today, the Kazan office takes up an entire floor in one of the biggest business-centres in Kazan and offers network and system integration services to public and private companies not only in the Republic of Tatarstan but also in the Privolzhye and Siberian federal districts. The Kazan branch has implemented hundreds of projects including the deployment and maintenance of a multi-service data transmission network for Tattelecom PJSC, CCTV systems for the 2013 World Universiade and the World Aquatics Championships in 2015. The branch office now plans to hire more staff and expand its market share. Executive Director Rafik Rakhimov is confident the branch is ready for new challenges.
- Mr. Rakhimov, what are information technologies used for in business?
- Today, information technologies are the nervous system of any organisation. You can hardly imagine working in any industry without access to the information systems of your company from anywhere in the world these days. However, in addition to ensuring the proper functioning of a company, IT tools also enable businesses to achieve more global results.
We have customers in a broad range of industries, including telecommunications, oil and gas, financial and production companies. Despite the differences between them, they all essentially have the same goals: improve business efficiency and corporate governance, reduce costs, boost profits. IT tools can and must be used to help achieve these goals and companies should make full use of them. Take workplace automation for example, or assembly line robotics or artificial intelligence: these new tools transform the traditional business processes beyond all recognition.
Another important function of IT is to make the business more mobile and more flexible. One important fact of life today is that the business environment and the economic conjuncture as a whole are constantly evolving and changing very fast. There have been lots of companies that have had to close up shop after failing to adequately respond to changing circumstances. We are a system integrator, so we make every effort to help our clients better respond to changes in the external environment and reorganise their processes in a way that will deliver maximum efficiency in the current context.
- What IT solutions and services does the Kazan branch of STEP LOGIC offer?
- The Kazan branch was opened as a STEP LOGIC regional competencies centre. We offer all the same services as the head office. These include data storage and processing, network and engineering infrastructure, information security, standardised communications, tech support and maintenance of information systems as well as IT consultancy, audit and outsourcing. In addition, STEP LOGIC also offers a number of innovative products including industrial Internet of Things solutions.
Our mission is to improve business efficiency through high quality innovative IT solutions and services. We help companies build all the production and business processes they need, offering them a comprehensive set of services to help them build the information and communication systems, in other words, integrated solutions, we offer a comprehensive solutions to specific business needs. Our employees fully immerse themselves in the problems of our clients and when necessary they can actually help customers find out what the problem is and select the product (sometimes from among hundreds of alternatives) that is the best fit for achieving the result the customer wants. STEP LOGIC is a multi-vendor integrator. We have got more than 300 technology partners and our staff has all the necessary certificates from Russian and global manufactures as confirmation of their competence.
- Who's the main consumer of IT services in the Republic of Tatarstan?
- The Republic of Tatarstan is one of the progressive regions in Russia. All sectors of the economy are growing fast here: manufacturing, fuel and energy, finance, telecommunications, etc. And we have successfully implemented projects in practically every one of them. By the way, we have built an IP-MPLS network and two service centres for Tattelecom PJSC, IT and telecommunications systems for Kastamonu and Hayat Kimya manufacturing companies etc.
The local tourism industry also generates a lot of demand for IT solutions. About 3 million tourists visit our city every year. Event based tourism has been driving growth in this segment. In recent years, Kazan has been hosting one major cultural event after another. The biggest events have been various sports tournaments and STEP LOGIC has been in the thick of it, offering tech support to make sure everything went without a hitch. We built CCTV systems for the 2013 World Universiade and the World Aquatics Championship in 2015. During the Confederations Cup and the 2018 FIFA World Cup, STEP LOGIC deployed a temporary network infrastructure for the FIFA.
We have got solid expertise when it comes to various cultural and sports events: we know how to build the requisite IT landscape, we know how information systems work, we have got good partners to help us deploy solutions. We are ready to offer IT services for major events of any scale and complexity.
- You have been Executive Director of the Kazan branch for 10 years. Prior to that you held management positions at other companies. Do you have a recipe for successful management?
- The way I see it it's actually quite simple. A good manager must know how to plan and coordinate the operations of a company as well as how to assess risks and resources. And they must also always remember that the most important capital in any company are its people.
We have recently updated our values. And it all looked good: we wrote about professionalism, team work and the like. But something was lacking still. We spent a week trying to figure it out and then it dawned on us that we never mentioned people.
If a person works for our company we must respect them, understand their personality, respect their world-view, convictions, the ways they express themselves regardless of how different those might be from how most other people do it. In our company, we value the personal space of our employees and respect their right to privacy.
It seems obvious but the thing is that a lot of organisations and their managers disregard these simple principles. Nobody must infringe on or limit the rights of their employees. Being Executive Director of the branch I'm going to make every effort to prevent this from ever happening.
We have got very good employee retention. I think that to a large extent this is a result of the very good and friendly environment we have in our office. It often happens that when a company gets bigger it loses this personal family-like vibe in the office. Fortunately, we have managed to keep this vibe to this day and we are always ready to welcome new recruits who have potential and enthusiasm.
- A lot of industries are facing acute shortages of human resources today. On the other hand, graduates complain they can't get a job in the area of their expertise due to lack of experience. What's the position of the STEP LOGIC Kazan branch on it?
- Well, the thing is that companies need to grow professionals, and the companies must be ready for it. It's also important that candidates understand what they want to do and what they want to achieve.
We have got a special adaptation programme for all new hires regardless of whether or not they have any experience. The basic idea is we offer them training and require that they closely cooperate with their manager and ample opportunities for professional growth. In the Kazan branch, the launch pad for new hires with a technical background is the tech support department. It is our boot camp where they get their basic training, pass exams and choose the field they want to specialise in. And so far this approach has been quite successful. A lot of our best talents took this route, including our chief technical officer Stanislav Darchinov.
- Companies today pay special attention to corporate culture. How does the STEP LOGIC branch take on that?
- We have a lot of traditions and they all appeared practically on the very first day the branch was set up. We celebrate all holidays and birthdays, we take part in quests and go on trips to the country. On Communications Day, we invariably have a corporate party somewhere out of city: the 7th of May is sacred for us because the majority of our senior staff has background in communications while a lot of our key customers are telecommunications companies.
In the past 3-4 years, we have really got into sports and healthy living. Our employees do triathlon, play football on Tuesdays, go cycling. Sport as a business: here team spirit is important as well as effective individual work and willpower.
- You mentioned that the STEP LOGIC branch has good employee retention. What's your secret?
- Companies need to create all the conditions for employees to, first, gain new knowledge, second, apply that knowledge, and third, see the results of their work. People won't stick around even if you offer them very competitive pay if they are bored. This is especially true about the younger generations Y and Z specialists. What's important to them is purpose, self-improvement and job satisfaction, in other words, they are not just interested in money they want self-fulfilment. As a company we understand the importance of professional continuity and we are willing to give people every opportunity for growth.
The Kazan branch of STEP LOGIC has been actively implementing annual training and development plan for every employee. And our staff takes part not only in your run of the mill training seminars and webinars. We organise regular team building events and team coaching sessions for them.
And, most importantly, we can offer them lots and lots of very interesting and fulfilling work. Major innovative projects can really mobilise people. In projects like that people really have to push the envelope of their skills and abilities, they always have to come up with something new. There can be no growth without a challenge. Humanity has achieved a lot on Earth it's now time to conquer space.
Source: Realnoe Vremya