St Petersburg Times
By Angelina Davydova
Special to the St Petersburg Times
Photo by Alexander Belenky / SPT
Stephen Gardner is the commercial director at PeterStar, one of the leading telecommunications companies operating in northwestern Russia. Gardner has more than 10 years in the telecommunications business and can certainly compare experiences. He has worked in the U.S., the UK, Moscow, and now St. Petersburg.
His first post was at Cable & Wireless, followed by one at the company's affiliate in St. Petersburg, Baltic Communications. After staying in the city for two years, he was transferred to PeterStar and left for London to work for PeterStar's parent company. Later, he moved to Vienna to work for Metro-media International Group, one of the company's major shareholders. After the group was restructured, he returned to St. Petersburg to work for PeterStar again.
When Gardner first came to St. Petersburg, PeterStar was a very small company. "There was the process of taking a small company and making it large, and I was part of the integral management team," he said. "As a commercial director, I was guiding a lot in terms of customer acquisitions. Up until this year, PeterStar had all of its growth solely from customer acquisitions, building up our customer base. It's only during the last year that we've acquired several companies - BCL, Comset, Pskov Telecom," Gardner said.
PeterStar is 11 years old now and has almost $71 million in revenues. It has invested approximately $150 million in to its network over the years. PeterStar owns over 2,000 kilometers of digital network and has a 70 percent market share of the business telephone market among alternative operators in the city.
Gardner said that in St. Petersburg, there are forces that kick-start your career. "You're immediately put in a position that would have taken you a long time to reach in any other corporate environment, such as in the U.S. for example."
"Earlier on it gives you access to a lot of greater experience and it gives you significant exposure to different businesses and different business people."
"Being a telecom executive, I probably would not have had the chance to have dinner with the chairman of Hewlett Packard, the 11th largest company in the world," Gardner said. "Because of the intense focus on the business environment, as an expat you have a greater exposure in terms of having a voice in working over business issues and helping the business community here. That can happen through AmCham [the American Chamber of Commerce] or other business associations."
"Being an expat over here will really help to accelerate your career."
While working at Metromedia, Gardner would often travel to Moscow to run the company's sales and marketing operations. He noticed a significant difference between the business environments in the two Russian cities.
"Although there are greater opportunities and a quicker career path in Moscow, in St. Petersburg, depending on the industry, you can also develop a really successful business," Gardner said.
"Living in St. Petersburg and working for a telecommunications operator, I feel as if I were in the center of the world. I live here with my family - my wife and a 15-month-old son. And I feel that I face the same career opportunities and challenges that I would face if I were in Moscow."
Talking about St. Petersburg's future and development outlook, Gardner says that the software, intellectual platform and IT sides are very strong components of the city's development.
"The tourism sector has significant opportunities as well, and I don't only mean hotels and restaurants, but also the service sector, which is still very much in its infancy," he said. "Those are probably the two areas that I'd look toward."
Among other opportunities Gardner sees for the city are the planned completion of the ring road, the development of the cultural and financial sectors, and growth potential in the real estate sector.
Gardner also highlighted the developing of the canals and water taxis as considerable changes for the city's future.
He believes that living in St. Petersburg has two more advantages. "City congestion is not that great, so there's almost no traffic jams. And parking is not a problem at all, yet. I can park my car within 20 meters of my apartment."
And he could not be happier about it.
News source: sptimes.ru
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