HMT’s project manager Vadim Biryukov studied political science at the VU University in Amsterdam where he focused on the role oil & gas companies have in relationship to sustainability. After his graduation he worked for several international companies throughout Europe. Two years ago Vadim made an unexpected career move, one he still enjoys every day. We visited Vadim at the Dutch head office of HMT and asked him about his journey so far.
Why did you decide to go for a technical career?
For many years I have been interested in the industrial sector, but it was never my intention to pursue a technical career. During my studies I focused on the role of oil & gas companies from the perspective of social sciences. After my graduation I worked for a sustainability focused NGO in Amsterdam and then for a consultancy firm in Moscow. Based on my studies you would have expected my career to be more socially oriented, but as time went on it evolved towards a technical role.
Could you tell us something about your current job?
Currently I am a project manager at HMT. At HMT we develop and manufacture emission reduction devices for storage tanks, such as floating roofs and seals. HMT is a prominent company in the field of sustainable tank systems worldwide. We take measurements and calculate emissions to determine the best types of equipment for a specific project. The most complicated calculations and designs are handled by our dedicated engineering team. HMT’s management gives me a lot of freedom to carry out my job. For example by giving me the highest level of authority to make decisions and that responsibility I take very seriously.
What are your main responsibilities?
As a project manager my work starts before the actual production and installation phase of a tank project. Basically it is my job to make sure the project is on spec, on time and within budget. I negotiate contracts with clients, control the financial details and plan the manufacturing of the equipment. Once the manufacturing is finished I coordinate that our tank products have the rights documents for customs. Once it has arrived to its final destination, our team is also there to support the installation. Together with engineers we make sure the project gets delivered safely and according to the highest industrial standards.‘’It wasn’t a planned move, but Stratt+ convinced me that it would be a successful match’’
How internationally focused is your job?
Actually all of my projects happen to be abroad. On average I travel twice a month. My focus is on the Russian speaking markets. We have many clients around the Caspian sea, which is a very oil-rich area. Also I work in Scandinavian markets such as Denmark, Sweden and Norway. Currently we are finishing a project in Kazakhstan where we supply the floating roof and seal for a large storage tank. The site is located on an isolated area, which makes it difficult to mobilize an entire team. Our supervisors have to audit the project and make sure the equipment is installed properly. To ensure the project is on track I am in contact with the local team almost daily.
How have you developed as a professional over the past two years?
When I started the job I was not 100% sure I had enough technical knowledge. Besides that, I was on the shy side when it came to client meetings. Nowadays I am a frequent visitor of trade shows, talking to sales managers about our tank products. I also mentor new project managers when they start at HMT. Everybody has different perspectives and by coaching others I also develop myself. Explaining things to colleagues is a good exercise. Together you can discover improvements in the current processes. Due to my broad range of responsibilities I developed myself significantly in a short period of time at HMT.
What is the most rewarding aspect of your job?
We operate in an industry in which the slightest error could have large consequences. Imagine a small piece of tank equipment failing, it might not cost a lot financially but it could take the tank out of service. Every day a tank cannot be utilized results in missed opportunities. For months we work with the entire team on large and challenging projects in different countries. Seeing those projects being delivered successfully to the client makes me extremely proud. On a personal level I am very happy that I keep developing my technical and managerial skills, but also that I am able to work with a highly motivated technical team.
How did Stratt+ help you make this career move?
Two years ago HMT was looking for a Russian speaking project manager. They asked Stratt+ to search for a suitable candidate and through their network they approached me. I would never have applied for a role as a technical project manager myself, but Stratt+ really made me believe in it. Laura Schemkes, account manager at Stratt+, explained all the job details and she gave me a strong feeling of certainty. She saw opportunities for a match that would be beneficial to both employer and employee. The application process was smooth overall. In the span of two weeks, including three interviews, I could start my new job! All the support Stratt+ gave me during this process meant a lot to me and I even got a cake in my first workweek. We still have contact, and a simple thing such as a short WhatsApp message demonstrates the personal attention Stratt+ has for its people. It was an unexpected career move, but one I don’t regret.
What are your goals for the future?
In the short term I would like to get broader knowledge of all the products of HMT. In the long term I think it is a natural route for every project manager to grow either into operations or sales. I definitely want to stay more on the client side, rather than going into production or engineering. It is great to establish strong relationships with clients and to be in control of the project results.
What advice would you give to project managers?
Don’t be afraid, just go for opportunities that cross your path. There are no limitations, only dreams that you can strive for. In the Netherlands they say: ‘If you don’t shoot, you will always miss’. That is exactly what inspires me. Despite my doubts I made the decision to challenge myself and to go for this role. In hindsight I can say that it really paid off.
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