ICT Leading Managers: Armenians as a Global Nation should Use Competitive Advantages to Get Niches Opening under Pandemic Crisis, or an employee is the highest value and many more…

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In The Noyan Tapan Highlights issue # 1287 we’ve informed our Reader on “The Unprecedented Challenges of our Times”, the next webinar by “At the Crossroads” Discussion Platform (dedicated to Armenia and Armenians’ future in the 21st century) with the following speakers – leading reps of ICT industry Hovik Musayelyan, Director of “Synopsys Armenia” (Moderator), Armen Baldryan, CEO of “Unicomp” CJSC and Ralph C. Yirikian, Viva-MTS Founding General Manager. 

As it was said, during the webinar, the fol- lowing issues were discussed:

  • What is happening to the world today?
  • Transformation of education – how to train specialists in the current situation?
  • What new opportunities will appear in the IT and telecommunications sector?
  • What lessons should we learn from the epidemic?
  • What image of an Armenian business- man has developed in Armenia today, does the society sympathize with successful people?
  • What do we mean by “a small country – a global nation”?

Due to some reasons, we’ve experienced a delay with publication of this very topi- cal script…Yes, namely a script (and not a general report, observation, analysis etc) as we’d like not to miss a thing and to convey the atmosphere of that active and lively discussion on vitally important issues…

  1. What is happening to the world today?

Hovik Musayelyan: …This unprecedented situation has changed, one can say, the world order, and in the opinion of many and many this is the most serious world crisis after WWII. In fact, the global economy has collapsed.

If yet a month or two ago we were more or less optimistic in our forecast on the end of this crisis, i.e. it will be over in a couple of month, now it’s obvious that it will be much longer, and so we have to learn how to live under pandemic, to work, and to unite our effort to overcome it ASAP. The fact that two EU member countries Italy and Spain assaulted heavily by COVID-19 declared they did not feel them- selves fully-fledged EU members as they were “left alone” for fighting pandemic (as the European Union, as it was found, had no enough sufficient means and system to stop it), is an evidence of the pandemic’ being extremely serious, and the losses will be the huge ones…

Ralph Yirikian: I think it provided with opportunity to get new experience, especially in sense of more frequent and active online work regime, and  make  changes in our mind both in personal or business terms; notably, before current pandemic, there were companies going to work in online regime more actively, and one of them was Viva-MTS, but we could not even imagine its real scale, so it has become an opportunity to get lessons, and why not – to improve our work and to make it more efficient.

Both SMS and larger businesses should think how to work with the higher efficiency in online regime, for example, to create Virtual Desktop Infrastructure Platforms that would allow to work with no visiting office, i.e. from your home, garage, from the forest etc. Current crisis gave us a chance to attach importance both to technology as well as the trust to each other.

Armen Baldryan: Indeed, we are in crisis now, however it gives new opportunities… Look: it is for 15-20 years we all speak about giving a strong impetus to our economy via wider use of technology, and several steps have been done, but for me personally speed of those steps is not sufficient. Now it is the right time to increase the pace as we see that those companies that have been using technology widely before this COVID19 pandemic, definitely will overcome current crisis with minimal losses.

And there is a clear message to companies and the Government indeed: there is no alternative to economy digitalization. From another side, new niches in the world market of technological solutions will open soon, and we the Armenian companies must find our niches.

At the same time, I cannot imagine business and our work in general with no man-to-man contacts, so I believe that combination of technology and human contacts will give good results.

  1. Transformation of education – how to train specialists in the current situation?

 Hovik Musayelyan: It seems to me that in current situation education is on the fore- front, it is becoming more and more crucial in economy…Today online education is fashionable…And it is time to work out new curricula combining the so-called classic education and online.

And here universities could have losses as the big number of organizations can offer better curicula…My friends, what do you think on this issue?

Ralph Yirikian: Mr Musayelyan, would you please to tell that our companies (Viva-MTS and Synopsys Armenia, plus Unicomp) belong to that firms which considers their investment in education as social responsibility as we do believe that it is a cathalyst that will allow to have better generations… And also please tell about our joint educational programs both implemented already and those that are in process?

Hovik Musayelyan: Yes, together we did a lot of educational programs!…From the very first days of the State of Emergency was declared, we in Synopsys Armenia switched off our education to on- line regime – lessons, lab work, and now – diplomas, exams. Notably, it is a quite long time we have been using online education, in particular, based on various educational products developed under leadership of Professor Vazgen Melikian, Director of Synopsys Armenia Educational Dept. And I agree with you, Mr Yirikian that our corporate responsibility approaches to education are right and our companies success is reasoned mainly by this fact.

Armen Baldryan: …Many years we have been speaking about use of technology in education, but have been receiving often opinions that education is conservative, and so that technology could even endanger the education…

However, in this couple of months, in terms of technology use in education it has been done much more than in previous ten years…But here we have had several problems such as, for instance, accessibility to PC, others….And if we will not resolve problems very soon, definitely, in case of

– God forbid !! – second wave of pandemic we will have greater problems…This is a great message to all of us – companies, universities, Govt., parents. And we have to be ready to overcome all the difficulties, and have very good results after the pandemia is over…

  1. What new opportunities will appear in the IT and telecommunications sector?

Hovik Musayelyan: …Well, we’ve just talked on education… As to business, let me tell smth: Although in IT it is a widespread thing that this or that specialist works online from his/her home, but, if someone would say us yet a couple of months ago that most of 1,000 employees-strong staff of Synopsys Armenia will work in such a regime, most prob- ably we would consider it a kind of disaster, really…

But !! – surprisingly, within these two months since State of Emergency was declared, our Company has had no losses. So it is a precedent.

Ralph Yirikian: I talked about this issue in the very beginning of the discussion, but now I’ll add something. When our company was transforming from (just) telecom services operator to a digital services provider, we, already then, have started to digitalize various platforms both inner, for the Company’s needs, and external ones, solutions, applications etc – for clients. Otherwise, already then we in fact prepared our subscribers to use various platforms we offer with no limit – be it social ones, and the recent – Skype, ZOOM, and new ones will come soon. So the clients can work effectively with not necessary coming to their workplaces. And, if there is a mutual trust between manager and this or another employee, the 100% job can be done. And, I’ll tell you more: local companies should start turning from the so-called vertical structure of management to horizontal one. People should learn how to work in groups, then group-to-group contacts, plus online individually etc. BUT! At least for us Viva-MTS, the big- gest capital is our Employee him/herself, or, as we say – member of Viva-MTS family, so rising of efficiency and speed of work does NOT mean, not at all that we should cut number of workplaces, i.e. fire people…

Besides it companies should think to cut their expenses in this or that sphere. I might point out (proudly-edit.) that within the current pandemic NO workplace was cut in Viva-MTS, vice versa – we have got new employees, salaries were paid with NO cuts and delays, no matter some of my colleagues have been from home or even not working at all (!!! – edit.), and this is the only way to strengthen furthermore mutual trust.

Hovik Musayelyan: I absolutely agree with you Mr Yirikian. We Synopsys Armenia too, in these hard times fired no employee, and even hired new ones, salaries were paid with no cuts and delays, and this will be kept how long the quarantine is on. Yes, it is wrong approach to cut workplaces/ people now, and you are right when speaking about restructuration of expenses… Armen Baldryan: In our Company, Uni- comp, situation is in fact the same with you two. You know, one of our best clients asked me: how can I be confident that my employee who is at own home, is working sitting at the PC, and not, for instance, laying in the bed?

The answer is very clear: are you absolutely sure that employee working hard when sitting in your office??

The question here is in mutual trust be- tween employer and employee. In general, I think ICT companies should have no big losses as they were ready for online work regime…But we have seen that other branches of our economy were not ready for the work in current situation.

What I will advise them is a kind of work- places “transformation”, i.e. hiring of specialists who are able work effectively in such a situations, and also non-stop trainings. And it is obvious now already that approaches to employees, their skills, even to entities’ structure will change, and we all– the businesses, employers and employees plus the Govt. should work together with no delay.

Hovik Musayelyan: Mr Baldryan, I agree with you in that sense if we could evaluate current situation in right way, we have success.

  1. And the next issue of our talks, – “What lessons should we learn from the epidemic?” is logically coming out from the above mentioned.

And it seems we talked about those lessons discussing previous questions. However, I want to stress some points.

First, I agree with Mr Baldryan that ICT sphere have had no serious losses within this period, vice versa, some companies have had profit…So I think people/youngsters’ motivation to become ICT specialists that was pretty high in the recent decades, is now increasing even more. And already today I receive calls from parents who ask me about universities with good ICT education.

And, indeed, number of those who would like to become doctor will increase drastically as well as we see how prestige of this profession rocketed ‘cause of their heroic job fighting pandemia. Taking advantage of this occasion, I would like to say the great “thank you!” to our doctors!

Ralph Yirikian: I share what you’ve just said, and I “liked” when you were speaking…)))

Armen Baldryan: Just one more thing – we should be self-isolated but act together.

  1. What image of an Armenian businessman has developed in Armenia today, does the society sympathize with successful people?

 

Hovik Musayelyan: The question is an all-encompassing and very important as public perception of businessmen, charity, successful people in Armenia differs.

…Within decades we have been hearing from the people that if a man is building castles, has numerous businesses, is rich etc. it means that he necessary gained those money in a not fair, legal way…So it has been a cliché…

So, let’s try to make clear this socially important issue…

…A wise man said a long ago: that man is a poor who has nothing but money…

Rich men in the Armenian (and not only) history were Alexander Mantashev (Mantashyants), Galoust Gyulbenkyan, Aramyants, Kirkorian, others who were the REAL, great benefactors and philanthropists for the Nation who were doing their all good deeds with no PR…And today we have such successful people, i.e. “richmen” who are their worthy inheritors…Guys, we all three are members of the Board of the Union of Manufacturers and Businessmen of Armenia (UMBA, President Arsen V. Ghazaryan for who Mantashyants has been a role model businessman and who initiated paying tribute to him at the state level – the RA Govt erected the Benefactor’s monument at the Abovyan str. in Yerevan, and 3 March that is Mantashyants’ birthday was officially proclaimed as the Businessman Day ), and we know such people among us…

So here you are a classical example: Mr Ralph C. Yirikian, Founding General Man- ager of Viva-MTS who brought to Armenia very notion of Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) and has been teaching the local businessmen this very important “subject” for the years in row, generating numerous social programs aimed at strengthening our country’s economy, assistance to the various social groups and many more…

Ralph Yirikian: …I do not like much to speak about myself, you all know it, and when we’ll gather around a cup of tea, I’ll “push” you, dear Hovik (smiles)…In reality, the very first steps to success begin in the family and at school.

Due to the combination of spiritual-moral, linguistic, historical, and cultural education, an inner world is shaped in a kid and a teenager, an image and thereafter a goal. Indeed, a person, first of all, must desire and have the will to overcome all possible and impossible obstacles and hardships, again –to “climb mountains”, mostly with- out help, and, importantly – to “catch” opportunities that opens or leads to uneasy road to SUCCESS..

And…While a person on this road to success, SHOULD NOT be an egoist, should remain humble, should think about the own family, about the close circle, about the Country, about the Flag (showing back to the Armenian Tricolor waving proudly at the roof of Yirikian’s home), the identity! And ONLY when a person can bring together all this, then that person could be considered a successful one.

Mr Musayelyan, you’ve just touched upon social investment, yes, this is also a very important component of a REAL success, – in case of companies it is CSR, but when a person who is, especially, inside such a company wants to make smth good for the SOCIETY, should do it in a SILENT way, with no ads. And the combination of these two forms a new, the highest kind of social investment in the name of the whole country.

Hovik Musayelyan: …I have to stress here two moments.

First: A couple of years ago GM of a well-known large company said me smth like the following: Oh, every day we see at TV screen that VivaCell-MTS did this, or that…Probably they are doing it for their own PR…Ok, I told him, but let me ask you: why others are not doing the same,  as you said, for their own PR, ah??! And why you yourself don’t go to your boss and do not offer to do the same – for your “company’s PR”?? ‘Cause you realize very well that how it is difficult to convince the owners, especially the foreign ones (as in Viva-MTS case) to

approve CSR budget! In spite of all the attempts from Mr Yirikian to interrupt him, Dr Musayelyan continued:

…Few years we the Armenian business reps including all three of us were coming back from Artsakh…When we stopped near Dadivank Monastery, a pearl of the Armenian ancient architecture, accidentally we found out that beautiful frescos resto- ration (that were almost erased by Azeris before liberation of Artsakh in 1992-94 Patriotic War) and several chapels around the Monastery was sponsored from own pocket by…who d’you think?? Mr Ralph Yirikian…And we his friends even had no idea about it!

And the same I can say about Mr Baldryan…

Armen Baldryan:…Mr Musayelyan, can we return to the main question??

…Armenia is a small country, we all live in narrow neighborhoods, and almost everyone knows how this or that person gains money: doing well in school, studying in university, learning more and more, and after that working hard, or, softly speaking, breaking the law. And so, the attitude is de- served one in the most of cases…

It is we the business people who should care about what do people think about us. Here the problem is also in the mental-   ity of people: some thirty years ago we’ve started our transition from Soviet stereo- types to the new reality, but as we see the process is not completed: if a person, be- sides getting the so-called official salary has had also another profit, – no matter it was gained due to hard work, he/she could be considered even a kind of “criminal”, and, alas, fragments of such an old mentality remain…I think the transparency is the core thing here…

Hovik Musayelyan:…Sometime some people ask me about average salary in IT sphere, and, getting the answer, they are almost shouting: wow!!, i.e. “the poor others”, not thinking just for while that an IT specialist should study in fact the whole life to reach such a salary level. And I agree with PM Pashinyan that we must become a country where people receive high salary, i.e. technologically developed state. Only then mentality of people on “the poor/the rich” will change.

6, What do we mean by “a small country – a global nation”?

 

Hovik Musayelyan:…Look, how many huge empires sunk into oblivion, how many civilizations disappeared, but we the Armenians survived in spite of all really indescribable hardships, wars, genocides, keeping our really unique genetical code, our identity.

…We are a small country of 3 mln population, and 7 mln Armenians living abroad.

Have we aspirations to become a global nation? I think yes, as we can be interesting for the world first of all with our solutions of the complicated technological problems, mathematical modelling, and we have a lot of to offer in terms of AI, artificial intelligence that is a very popular direction in today’s world…

Ralph Yirikian: Yes, undoubtedly, we are a global nation with our rich history, culture, our Kingdoms, our being the first nation that adopted Christianity as the state religion, and many more…There is no a country in the world where the Armenian trace could not be found.

Yes, absolutely!

Armen Baldryan: Look, within centuries, prominent Armenians living abroad their Homeland, have been striving, first of all, to be helpful to countries of their residence, let’s say, in global scale, and only then – to the Land of Ancestors…And I think it is right approach, as when you are referring Armenia, let’s say, from a global point of view, you are able to be useful for our country much more when your “starting point” is Armenia. So, in these terms Armenians are definitely a global nation.

Let me tell you a short story. By a virtue of my job, I am a frequent traveler. And once, when I was hosted by GM of an internationally-recognized company, this gentleman shown me collection of souvenirs brought from numerous countries. To my surprise and pleasure, I’ve seen there a lot of Armenian souvenirs from all over the world though he never visited Armenia…This story is a one more evidence of the Armenians’ being a global nation.

Indeed, this is a matter of pride, but for me it is the highest responsibility, first of all. Hovik Musayelyan:…Well, dear Armen, your story reminded me a similar one happened in 2010…When the first ever Laureate of the Armenian State Award for Outstanding Contribution to Humanity through IT (GIT Award), Intel Retired Chief Dr Craig Barrett was in Armenia to receive the Award personally, he told us that when he (having Jewish origins) visited Jerusalem, he noticed that the most of souvenirs there were the Armenian ones…

(Editor’s note. The Highlights and this author have been covering GIT Awarding since its very establishment till present).

But let’s touch upon our “negative features” as well.…Sometimes we the Armenians are a kind of arrogant, especially when referring to our past Millenia-old history, culture, heritage and our Genius…Then, a natural question arises: why Armenia is not in the list of developed countries or close to them?? …In my opinion, the most important “mean” for that is to unite and to put to the table of the world our Nation’s competitive advantages portfolio packed as befits those very Heritage and the Genius…

And then the time for some questions from the audience has come…

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