OLGA ANSBERG: “WE KEEP THE RIGHT COURSE”
According to the Deloitte research center every fifth company in Russia is leaded by woman. However, there are industries where women are rarely found in leadership positions. One of them is the maritime industry, traditional male world with strict rules of the game, but there is an exception to every rule. Olga Ansberg has been the head of Port Logistik LLC, the only operator of the Vyborg seaport, for four years now. The choice of the “maritime” profession was not accidental, already from the fourth university year Olga worked in a shipping company as an assistant in the export-import department, and six months later she headed the operational department, which she recalls as a “school of life”, after which nothing is scary. Olga Ansberg took over the management of the port without hesitation. It was under her leadership that one of the country’s oldest ports received a new impetus for development: in the first half of the year, the port’s cargo turnover increased by 51%, its infrastructure was modernized, they diversified the cargo base, and in the near future the port will be able to receive passenger ships all year round. Olga Ansberg shared with «Russian Business Guide» her successful experience in management of a large enterprise in the maritime industry.
– Everything related to the sea is traditionally considered a purely masculine business in our country. How did it happen that you became the head of Port Logistik LLC?
– This is perhaps the most frequently asked question. However, I cannot agree that the sea is a purely masculine business. It’s just that the traditional model of the structure of society did not give women the opportunity to occupy leadership positions for a very long time. However, the situation is changing. Once, in a very heated debate about the characteristics of male and female management, I compared the male business world with an old vine, which needs to be “grafted” with a new shoot – a female management model in order to preserve the quality of the grapes. So, women’s competence and accuracy have always been in demand in our industry. It was just that these professionals often did not have the opportunity to break through the traditional foundations, which included the stereotype that a man should be in charge of the port. I have been in this industry since the fourth year of St. Petersburg State University, I have been progressively moving up the career ladder and I think that now I am in my place and in suo anno, at the right moment. The seaport of Vyborg is a small, but very interesting and multitasking port, all my experience comes in handy here every day, and this work stimulates me to constantly improve my qualifications.
– Journalists call you “the captain in the skirt.” How would you define your own management style? In general, in your opinion, are there any peculiarities in management principles, depending on who is in charge: a man or a woman?
– Of course, there is difference. However, I will not tire of repeating that there are no male or female professions – there are people who are competent or incompetent. Everything else is secondary. Of course, a woman has a greater degree of empathy, shows less aggression, of course, if she does not try to copy the so-called male authoritarian management style. Her main path is creation, careful, progressive and accurate. Let the psychologists tell you the rest.
– What is the most difficult part of your job? In general, is it possible to somehow combine such work with the vital interests of an ordinary person: family, self-development, creativity, hobbies? By the way, tell us what are your hobbies, if, of course, there is time for it.
– If you do not procrastinate and organize your working hours, then you can combine work and personal life without harm to each of these activities quite well. The main thing is to be able to abstract from work issues at home, and vice versa.
My main hobbies are equestrian sports, books, travel and learning foreign languages. And of course, I do not forget about close people, without whose support it would be difficult to be a happy person and be in harmony with myself.
When it comes to difficulties at work, the most stressful situation for me is the discovery of deception on the part of an employee and the loss of trust in such a person. My main requirement for the team is not to lie, no matter how serious the offense may be. Systematic misleading me leads to the fact that the employee loses confidence and is excluded from the team.
– When you came to work at the port, what were your goals? What have you achieved? And what has not come out of the plan yet?
– The port requires serious modernization and development of the transshipment area, transition to a modern automated control system, replacement of crane facilities, restoration and repair of real estate objects. Unfortunately, due to the pandemic, we lost two years of passenger navigation, with which we had serious plans for international cooperation and the development of sea tourism. For four years, a lot has already been done and prepared for further steps. We were delayed a little by the situation in the economy of 2020, when we had to slow down many projects due to objective circumstances, but this year we returned to normal and progressive development.
– Among other things, Port Logistik took on the difficult task of reconstructing the Vyborg bakery. What does this project mean to you?
– Initially, we planned to make this complex a multifunctional center with a museum, an entertainment sector and a business center. However, this was before the pandemic. After we saw the possible risks accompanying such objects when introducing a lockdown, the concept was revised. After a while, we will present it to the public. Now we will proceed to emergency measures preceding the restoration. Let’s hope that soon the creation of Erkki Huttunen will become a decoration of the city again. In a new, really useful status for the region.
– Let’s move on to the port business. What are the main performance indicators of Port Logistik LLC now, what production and financial results do you plan to achieve next year?
– In 2018, the port reached record volumes of transshipment. Next year we plan to reach this figure again – 2 million tons – and fix it at the routine level. These figures may seem ridiculous to some of our colleagues, but it should be remembered that we handle small vessels, the average volume of a typical shipload for our port is 5,000 tons. Therefore, industry professionals will be able to understand how hard it is to achieve such an indicator with five cargo berths.
– How is the range of transshipment cargo changing? I wonder what impact the pandemic has had on shipping.
– The first serious diversification of the range of handled cargo was carried out in 2019, when we replaced the sharply falling volume of coal with more marginal cargo. In 2020, the main problem was the lockdown and shutdown of enterprises in Europe. Our main consumers are located there, and the demand for export goods traditionally sent through our port has dropped significantly. Well, the lack of passenger traffic was also a serious disappointment for us.
– Who are the main business partners of Port Logistik LLC in Russia and abroad now, how do you expand partnerships?
– It should be noted that our relationships with partners are quite stable and we are working on retention. After the repair of three additional berths, we will probably expand our ties, although we already understand that, most likely, we will simply provide our existing partners with the opportunity to increase turnover through our port. We are especially proud of the launch of a joint project with Terminal LLC for transshipment of non-hazardous liquid bulk cargo.
– The project of cross-border Russian-Finnish cooperation VIP&Ko stands out among the latest projects of the port. Please tell us more about it. It originated three years ago, in what state is it now?
– Within the framework of this project, together with our partners – the Finnish strategic development agency Cursor Oy and the Passenger Port of St.Petersburg Morskoy Fasad – we are developing a project to connect Kotka, Vyborg and St. Petersburg by a sea tourist route. Each of the partners has its own role and function, and Port Logistik, with the help of the grant funds, will modernize the passenger terminal in the Vyborg port in order to make the reception of passenger ships comfortable and safe, as well as to simply make this area modern and beautiful so that the sea gates of Vyborg will not only provide a comfortable border crossing, but also has an aesthetic appearance. And work on the project does not stop even now, when sea tourism is practically closed. The project is already being implemented, and in the very near future it will be possible to see its results. We have very competent and professional partners, and thanks to this cooperation, sea tourism in the region cannot fail to reach a new, higher level. The implementation of the project will allow not only to attract an additional flow of tourists, but also to provide new directions for work for tour operators, guides and other workers in the tourist services sector, as well as present this border region on the international arena as an attractive destination for sea tourism.
– What were the main difficulties you had to overcome on the way to implement VIP&Ko?
– The longest process was the approval of the tech task for equipping the premises of the seaport with state bodies, as well as the expectation of new sanitary requirements for equipping the passenger terminal, related to the impact of the pandemic. The project is being implemented with the money of a grant for a cross-border cooperation project, with co-financing from the own funds of Port Logistik LLC. The first part of the funding has already been allocated and is being used in accordance with the project schedule. In general, there were some hiccups, again they were associated with restrictions on COVID-19, but now we have already reached a relatively straight finish.
– Vyborg port is an enterprise with a 500-year history. What do you see it in 10 years? Is there a development plan for such a period or is it difficult to think so far now?
– 10 years is an average development perspective for the port. There is already a perfect picture – the repaired berths No. 11, 12 and 13 accept ships for loading bulk cargo. Cargo berths No. 6-10 operate in an environmentally friendly closed conveyor transshipment mode, which does not cause discomfort to residents of adjacent houses. The crane equipment park has been completely renewed. Passenger berths receive passenger ships all year round. 90% of production operations are automated, the entire document flow has been transferred to electronic form (I hope that by this time government agencies will also completely switch to paperless technologies).