2019 Best EMBAs: Vladimir Golubyatnikov, INSEAD

Vladimir Golubyatnikov

INSEAD / Tsinghua University

“An outgoing and execution-oriented person that people can rely on, consistently youngest among peers.”

Age: 31

Hometown: Amsterdam, The Netherlands

Family Members: Anastasia Kuskova, spouse

Fun fact about yourself: My last name is a nightmare to pronounce for non-Russian speakers, so when I moved to Europe, I had to learn the NATO alphabet to spell my last name over the phone.

Undergraduate School and Degree:

Novosibirsk State University (Russia), Bachelor of Management

National Research University – Higher School of Economics (Russia), Master of Economics

Where are you currently working? Eurasian Resources Group, Group Head of Investment Planning

Extracurricular Activities, Community Work and Leadership Roles: I have recently started a series of online articles to share my business school experience, spread the word about TIEMBA, and inspire others to pursue an executive MBA.

I am also a mentor in the mentoring programme of my graduate school in Russia. This is a fantastic opportunity to give back to the university community and help undergraduate students find their career paths.

In today’s demanding business environment, people often need a support system to thrive. Understanding this, I founded and chaired Social Committee in my previous company, which was created to improve working conditions of the consulting staff. We managed to negotiate an improved insurance package with the company’s senior management and implemented a new, much more result-oriented performance review procedure.

I have always been enthusiastic about sports. I played in the ultimate frisbee team of my graduate school. Later on, together with fellow alumni, we co-founded ‘The Heat’ ultimate frisbee sports team. It was an exciting time, as we got to play a role in popularizing this relatively new sport in Russia.

I am also deeply passionate about coffee. In my early twenties, I qualified as a professional barista and became a vice-champion in my native town in Russia. Since then, coffee is a big part of my life, I have professional espresso equipment at home and treat myself and my wife with great coffee every morning.

Which academic or extracurricular achievement are you most proud of during business school? In the first study module of the program, our class did a TechMark business simulation, which divides the class into five ‘companies’ and lets them compete in a virtual industry. As the CEO of this virtual company, I managed to lead my team to a successful outcome in the TechMark world. I am particularly proud of this achievement because I stepped out of my comfort zone. Despite having no prior general management experience, I managed to lead a diverse team of then-unfamiliar high performing people to a good result in a high-pressure environment.

What achievement are you most proud of in your professional career? I am most proud of the results I have achieved over the last five years in my current role with ERG – an international diversified metals and mining group with ca. $5 billion annual revenues. Since I joined the company in 2014, I have implemented a major step change in the capital investments management system for ca. $700 million annual capital expenditure portfolio. Specifically, I have built investment planning and evaluation function from scratch, gathered and trained the team, developed process regulations, implemented new governance system, and managed reviews of capital projects – all these functions were virtually nonexistent in the company when I joined. My efforts helped the management to ensure controlled capital spending and informed investment decision making.

This achievement makes me proud for two reasons. First, it was a major challenge for me: I was leading a much bigger team than ever before. I had to work with more experienced people and I was in a constant learning mode, working in a relatively new field. Second, I had to not only exercise my professional knowledge and skills but also practice change management, as implementing new approach to capital investments required changing long-standing practices in the company.

Who was your favorite MBA professor?

My absolute favorite professor is Charles Galunic of INSEAD, who taught Organizational Behavior in the second module of TIEMBA. He possessed deep expertise, flawlessly delivered course content, facilitated insightful class discussions, and kept us fully engaged during the whole week of the course. Most importantly, he practiced what he preached by creating an open culture in class and projecting leadership values that he was talking about.

What was your favorite MBA course and what was the biggest insight you gained about business from it? My favorite MBA course was Strategic Talent Management – the topic that is very hard to master based on pure theory and that you can fully appreciate once you have faced a leadership challenge – that’s why I believe it’s so important in an executive MBA context. It is also particularly useful for me because it helped me address issues that motivated me to pursue an EMBA degree in the first place.

In the world where value of companies is increasingly driven by intangible assets, the ability to leverage talent to achieve performance is the competitive advantage of a leader. The topic of talent management is a very powerful lever that can make all the difference for a company. And building the right culture is key to achieve a company’s strategy, as demonstrated by the CEOs who managed successful transformations, such as Louis Gerstner of IBM or Satya Nadella of Microsoft.

Why did you choose this executive MBA program?

I wanted the program to give me a combination of global business insights and an opportunity to build a network in China. China is the key region on the map of almost any industry. To be a competitive global leader, one must understand how to do business there. It is very relevant for my company and my role too, as ERG has a strong interest in China – in terms of both current project portfolio and future growth opportunities. That’s why TIEMBA is a perfect choice for me.

What did you enjoy most about business school in general? An opportunity to reinterpret your work and life experience in an attempt to transform yourself into a better person and a better leader and, on top of that, have fun and make new friends along the way.

What is the biggest lesson you gained during your MBA and how did you apply it at work?

One of the biggest lessons for me was the approach to managing organizational change – something that I learned in the Organizational Behavior course.

I have recently launched a transformation program aimed at improving the performance of the capital investment management system in my company that also includes organizational restructuring. I am using the change management approach that I learned during my MBA to design and steer this program. It is very useful in understanding stakeholder groups and informal networks within the organization and using this knowledge to design the right engagement mechanisms and change roadmaps.

Give us a story during your time as an executive MBA on how you were able to juggle work, family, and education? I am used to managing multiple priorities in life from the early days of my career – I pursued my master’s degree when I was already working full-time. I understood that the executive MBA would be a much bigger time management and prioritization challenge, but I was ready for it.

For example, my then-fiancée and I had our wedding scheduled on a date that fell in between my study modules. There was a lot of preparation work, as we wanted the wedding and the honeymoon to be the moment of our lives. At the same time, I had to manage the team at work and continue to keep up with tight TIEMBA study schedule.

I managed to free up some time by preparing my team in advance and giving more authority to them, so they could operate more independently while I was dedicating more time to family and studies. I also managed to fulfill all the study requirements for TIEMBA by carving out the time for readings and calls in the honeymoon suite. My wife was incredibly understanding and supportive in this journey.

The wedding and honeymoon were a blast and we return to these memories as the happiest moments of our lives. Work performance was not compromised and many members of my team grew during this time developing greater sense of ownership. My TIEMBA studies are also going great and I am very happy with the progress, although I have to use every free moment to study and get accustomed to sleeping a little less.

What advice would you give to a student looking to enter an executive MBA program? Go for it but know what you want to achieve (e.g. network, relocation, career shift, academic knowledge, etc.). Choose the program with the best fit for your individual purpose, and be prepared to live on a super tight schedule.

What is the biggest myth about going back to school? I heard opinions that after university education and years of work experience there is not much to learn in an executive MBA.

That notion was proven totally wrong by my business school experience. Both the academic content and the class discussion contributed a lot to my learning experience. Many topics were familiar to me. Still, discussing them with people with diverse experiences and views made me think about these topics in a different, more holistic fashion.

What was your biggest regret in business school? I don’t have any regrets with regards to the business school, as much as I choose not to regret anything in life. Some things were different from my expectations, but it is still a valuable part of the learning. 

Which MBA classmate do you most admire? I admire Natalie Chan, who is a sustainability professional and an entrepreneur. She is extremely motivated by the purpose to drive positive change in the society of Hong Kong and she is really passionate about what she does. She joined TIEMBA shortly after starting her own sustainability consulting firm and had to cope with massive workload doing her executive MBA while pushing hard to take her start-up off the ground. Almost a year into the TIEMBA journey, I can see how this challenge helped her grow personally and professionally.

“I knew I wanted to go to business school when…I faced an emotional crisis caused by a combination of broadening job duties and my suboptimal micromanaging style. I realized that trying to control every detail is no longer sustainable, as it compromised my team’s development needs and my personal well-being. I needed to get an external perspective and to dedicate more effort to developing myself as a leader.”

What is your ultimate long-term professional goal? I strive to develop a business that will solve a sustainability issue in a profitable way.

In one sentence, how would you like your peers to remember you?A trustworthy person with highest ethical and professional standards.

What are the top two items on your bucket list?

Open a coffee bar

Travel to all UNESCO World Heritage Sites

What made Vladimir such an invaluable addition to the class of 2019?

“Fortunately we do not use last names to call upon participants during class discussions, or else Vladimir (Golubyatnikov) would have suffered. Vladimir is accomplished and polished for someone so young (in management) but what is so refreshing about him is that he remains open and curious. I think an under-appreciated trait of (long-term) successful leaders is humility, the capacity to tug on your assumptions, unravel and test them, update and move on, a continuous cycle of learning. I think Vladimir will do well down this road. He was a pleasure to have in class and valuable to his classmates.”

Charlie Galunic

Professor of Organisational Behaviour

The Aviva Chaired Professor of Leadership and Responsibility


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