Sergey Martynchuk, General Manager of CISCO Ukraine, shared with LDaily story of his success, told us about the peculiarities of doing business during the global pandemic, about work of the company’s representative office in Ukraine, and his own business philosophy.
LDaily: You started your career at CISCO Ukraine in 2007 and became the Head of the Representative Office in 2019. Could you please tell us your success story?
S.Martynchuk: As a General Manager, I am responsible for several countries – Ukraine, Georgia, Armenia, Moldova and Belarus, and at the same time I am head of the representative office in Ukraine.
I started as a Department Head and was responsible for part of the business in Ukraine, the so-called midmarket. I led a small team that grew and developed during all this time. As I took on more and more responsibilities, it became more interesting to focus on certain areas and aspects of the office that could affect the overall outcome. That is why this is not a fairy tale about Cinderella who became a princess overnight. It is a story of hard work and natural, evolutionary growth, but not some dramatic change. When I was appointed as a General Manager, nothing supernatural happened. I just continued to do my job, within the same geography and together with my old team. We became an official company to easier interact with the market.
LDaily: What was the head office’s goal when you started your work at this position?
S.Martynchuk: There are clear expectations of the head office from any regional office. First, it is about fulfilling the company’s expectations for growth at the moment and in the future. Business growth is the main mission of the company, so my task is to find all sorts of tools and sources for the expansion. We are already widely represented in the market. We work with a great variety of companies, we operate with large numbers, and so ensuring growth is far beyond simply winning the competition with some other equipment manufacturer. To grow, we need to help in the market creation. So, one of my main tasks is to help digitize our customers and the whole country. The more business is digitized, the bigger the market will become.
LDaily: Who are your customers?
S.Martynchuk: If you consider the top 100 companies, I think more than 90% of them will be our customers. We have a large assortment: equipment, products, services, software, so it is difficult to find a company that does not use at least some of what I have just mentioned.
LDaily: What business philosophy have you introduced as a General Manager?
S.Martynchuk: As you could already understand, at the time of my appointment, I could not tell the team that everything we have done before is wrong, so now we have to try another way. After all, I have put a huge effort into what was created before. At the same time, it was necessary to bring a new breath. One of the things that bothered me personally came to my mind. I really wanted to talk to my colleagues in the office and find a common understanding of “Why?” Why do we go to the office, work, do more than expected or required? After all, our office employs super specialists who are 150-200% dedicated to the work. I wanted to talk about what drives all of us, makes us get up in the morning and be the same inspired every year.
As a result, we had a long discussion and ended with an insightful workshop that revealed this “why” for the Ukrainian office. In one sentence, it sounds like “We make Ukraine comfortable, attractive and safe.” We do this by approaching the digital age for our customers together with our partners.
Interestingly, the understanding of “why” was not defined by the head office. It was not something we wrote on the wall just because it looks good. By the way, we wrote it on T-shirts that happy colleagues wear now in the office.
We held active discussions not only about every word in this phrase but even conjunctions! 🙂 All this really resonates in our hearts, as if you look at business in terms of making the country more comfortable, attractive and safer, you start better treat the work and the desired result.
LDaily: How many people work in the Kyiv office and throughout Ukraine?
S.Martynchuk: Up to 100 people work in our office. Also, we have several offices in Ukraine.
LDaily: In what other cities do you have representative offices?
S.Martynchuk: Formally, our offices are located in Kyiv and Kharkiv. The Kyiv office is engaged in sales and development, while the office in Kharkiv is responsible exclusively for development and R&D.
LDaily: How do you motivate your employees? How do you help them not face burnout?
S.Martynchuk: Monetary ways of motivation work only in the short term, no matter what salary you offer to an employee or what wonderful office conditions you create – coffee machines, football or tennis board games, etc. People become truly motivated when realizing that they do something significant, contribute to changing the world around them, notice their impact on the market, business, their families and the future. If there is such a feeling, one can hardly burn out.
As the head of the office, I need to set the right priorities and make sure that people do not burn out at work. Long-term success and constant high performance only depend on how fully you share the company’s vision and how much your personal goals coincide with what you do.
LDaily: What changes have taken place in CISCO Ukraine during 2021? What has this year been like for your company?
S.Martynchuk: As presidents like to say in their New Year’s speeches, this year has been difficult. It is clear that it is so because of 2019. I can’t state that 2021 is already a post-COVID reality, as it has not yet come. We have come through periodic lockdowns and lived with fears about new strains. There is a global supply chain crisis, as well as a semiconductor crisis that is also affecting our business.
Still, what does not kill us makes us stronger. We have really become stronger this year. We do plenty of things we have not done before, we work in completely new areas, markets and niches. In general, we focused on software this year. In 2021, out of the total revenue of $49.8 billion, the software turnover is $15 billion, which means a 7% growth. These are serious numbers and Cisco is no longer a hardware company.
The company has made several interesting acquisitions, in particular, Slido. The product is already integrated into Cisco Webex, which allows you to conduct interactive surveys, giving users incentives to take an active part during online meetings.
We have advanced in several areas, including cybersecurity. Due to the coronavirus, cybersecurity and hybrid work are two of the most important trends in recent years. They are interconnected. Many offices operate in semi-remote and fully remote modes, and all issues related to hybrid work are still relevant. CISCO offers all the tools for enabling employees to work from home efficiently and safely.
LDaily: In your opinion, what are the peculiarities of digitizing the Ukrainian economy, unlike the rest of the world?
S.Martynchuk: I do not consider the Ukrainian economy radically different from the rest of the world. When it comes to digitizing, it is crucial to understand possible mistakes, such as the differences between digital transformation and automation. Digital transformation, for example, is the creation of new products, services, business models with the help of digital technology. These are radical changes compared to how the company has been operating before. As for automation, let’s take a look at an example – document management used to be a clear process and we just made it digital. For most companies, this is also a major step, but nothing new emerges. The company may be a little more efficient but it will remain the same for the market, with the same products and services.
Besides, what users often see – a certain level of software – is the tip of the iceberg. It is like the roof of a house that stands on a properly designed foundation. However, if the company’s infrastructure does not meet the planned load – roughly speaking, the roof is critically heavier than the walls and foundation can withstand – the structure may collapse someday. When creating some software, you need to understand how users will access it, where data centers will be, how you will ensure data protection, etc.
In this sense, CISCO works at all levels – both at the level of basic infrastructure (we provide connectivity and cybersecurity solutions for data centers), and at the software level. With our solutions, for example, AppDynamics, the customer understands how well the software works, whether there are any problems that may lead to financial losses.
LDaily: To what extent is the Ukrainian economy digitized now, compared to Europe or America? What are achievements and failures?
S.Martynchuk: The Ministry of Digital Transformation has done a great job. These are significant changes. When digitizing the state, you are going against the flow and established approaches, interfering with the system. You face enormous resistance.
Projects of the Ministry of Digital Transformation are a good indicator of what can happen in a country where digitalization is one of the top priorities. Many things will be done further, still, we can be proud of the developments of recent years, for example, a digital passport.
CDTOs (Chief Digital Transformation Officers) in government agencies, ministries, regions and cities are handling key tasks. Their work is crucial for profound and irreversible change. I mean that «DIIA application» can be stopped tomorrow, the program will become inaccessible, and the country will return to the former conditions dramatically quickly. It is crucial to support the current “icebreaker” – digitalization – with changes in each specific government agency and the work of CDTOs, first of all, building the secure IT infrastructure, which I mentioned earlier – such a “Great IT construction.”
LDaily: What solutions and services of CISCO Ukraine are the most promising?
S.Martynchuk: Probably, I will not be surprised if I say that no modern company can imagine its work without a reliable connection between its branches, partners and employees. I mean telecommunication – namely network. At the same time, the requirements for the network infrastructure transform under the influence of such trends as transition to cloud services, information security, etc. This results in the need to upgrade existing ones or build new modern software-defined infrastructures for office, distributed and data-center infrastructures (these are solutions such as SD-WAN, SD-LAN, ACI).
Digitalization of services provided by the state and various companies to citizens and employees, as well as digitalization of technological processes are an incentive to develop approaches and implement solutions to ensure cybersecurity. This vector remains a priority for us.
Lastly, these are our collaboration solutions. Cisco WebEx allows many customers to organize employees’ work regardless of their location. It provides a set of services for video conferencing, online meetings, collaboration and online events such as seminars and conferences.
LDaily: What are the company’s plans for the near future? Are there any investments planned in the Ukrainian market?
S.Martynchuk: Investments in the Ukrainian market are not only planned but attracted every year. Our office in Ukraine is constantly growing. Investments (financial and human resources) and the company’s attention to the country are increasing. Ukraine occupies an important place on the CISCO map in the short and even more so in the long run.
We are still putting effort into becoming an integral part and the leader in digitalization. CISCO in Ukraine actively cooperates with both corporate customers and higher education institutions through our network academies. We invest a lot in educating people in the market. There are more than 400 network academies in Ukraine, from which thousands of students graduate every year. We hold authorized CISCO courses. Also, we interact with the startup ecosystem, support entrepreneurship in universities and businesses, as young people are the first engine of digitalization. They are digital natives. Coming into business, they will bring new needs and aspirations. Businesses will have no choice but to respond. We are collaborating with the public sector and truly want to change Ukraine and make it comfortable, attractive and safe.