Russian companies’ boards have vacant seats for expats

Working in Russia may add some extra points to an expat's CV, with the country now offering more opportunities for foreign senior managers. Higher salaries and better incentives packages are some advantages for those working in Russia, but it can have its

The first wave of expat employees came to Russia in the 1990s to take part in the massive changes washing over the Russian economy as it moved towards capitalism from the centrally-planned Soviet era. But this fell away after the economic collapse of the late 1990s, and the demand for expats has only recently started to boom again.

This time, however, there is a difference. It is not all types of professionals that are required but predominantly senior managers. The demand for these grew 20% in 2006, according to Penny Lane personnel agency.

“Currently there’s a second wave of expat employees coming to work to Russia. Domestic companies invite them to undertake specific tasks. They are especially needed in marketing, consulting and banking sectors,” says Elena Egorova, a Penny Lane expert.

Local middle management has developed, with an increased focus on business skills in the educational sector. And further improvement has come from the significant number of Russians who now study abroad or gain experience working in the international corporate sector.

With the ongoing growth of Russia’s economy, the demand for expats in top management is still growing. Unlike in the past, they are currently needed more for specific skills rather than general skills – particularly where these relate to re-branding, restructuring or bringing companies to the market in Russia’s IPO boom

I came here because I was bored during the work that I was doing in other countries. In more developed markets you do small pieces of work and here we are able to do big holistic projects.

Michael Ruckman,
Presidentof Senteo

There are a number of advantages to working in Russia for the new wave of expatriates, with high salaries, plus comprehensive housing and medical benefits, but a significant factor is the range of experiences to be gained in Russia which cannot be found elsewhere.

“You can be much more creative and much more innovative with what you do. Things that you wouldn’t be able to do in the Western Europe – here you  can still do them. So if you are the kind of person who is entrepreneurial, who wants to do new things and develop fast and see things happen very fast – this is the place to come,” claims Cristina Sau, Senteo client service director.

There are some downsides and things which can be annoying for many expatriates, including day-to-day Russian bureaucracy, medical testing requirements, and the difficulty in navigating Russia’s complex visa system – both for themselves and for friends they may wish to invite. But with Russia becoming more integrated into the global economy, more are taking the plunge, and senior Russian management is benefiting from their preparedness to do so.