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HSE and GDF Suez Partnership: Results of the First Academic Year

HSE’s International Institute of Administration and Business (IIAB) is selecting students for the Master in European Business (MEB) programme. The programme is being carried out with the cooperation of several international companies. The head of the Russian division of French gas company Gaz de France (GDF) Suez, Albert Grigoryan, describes the format of the project.

— As a member of the IIAB’s Expert and Supervisory Council, how does the company GDF Suez impact student learning? What segment is the company responsible for, for example, and does it conduct master classes or consultations?

— GDF Suez’s Moscow office has been working with the HSE since September 2013. This partnership has developed in two directions: an interactive master class was organized in which I shared my own experience with students in negotiating long-term gas contracts with OJSC Gazprom and tried to explain in detail the tasks and methods of this particular mission. In addition, we supervised the work of two groups of students on a Company Project in Moscow during their first semester.

— What is a Company Project? How is it carried out on Russian soil?

— Our concept of a Company Project consists of determining the topic of a project that we ourselves have formulated inside our own company, at our office, and we tasked students with determining what research they needed to carry out on this topic; for example, studying the market of sectors that could potentially be of interest to our company. As a result, two groups of students worked on a Company Project last year and prepared preliminary analysis on a market in which our company is interested in positioning itself.

GDF Suez determined the topic for the Company Project and monitored how it was carried out throughout the entire project using regular meetings with students that were aimed at helping them better determine a research focus and method of presenting materials that would be of use to the company. In this way, the office devotes a fairly large amount of time to these student teams, which are able to adapt to the demands of a large energy company that has operated in Russia for more than 20 years.

Students must also clearly comprehend the topic about which they have only a superficial understanding. They must find and process a huge amount of data (sometimes purely technical data), identify certain problems and develop this topic, summarize key data and, most importantly, think in terms of business logic – this is very specific and practical.

This concerns very interesting experiences – both academic and practical – since in meeting the demands of the company, this collective work requires being immersed in the life of the company in order to understand its specific “know how” and its general strategy. This also requires delving into the economic sector being studied. Serious research is necessary to clearly understand the project’s objectives and the particular qualities of carrying out these objectives in a Russian context.

GDF Suez is an international company that is fully aware of the fact that diversity and wealth can go hand in hand. Students that are part of the MEB dual-degree programme between the HSE and ESCP Europe make up a unique and multicultural group, and the variety of different viewpoints aids in enriching analysis and understanding one other by working on a team and cooperating.

— What advantages or pluses do students gain from GDF Suez’s participation in their learning process?

— In their work, students receive a full picture of the energy market of Russia, as well as of the tasks that stand before this market. I will also remind you that GDF Suez is a very integrated company. Our missions can be very diverse, just like our areas of specialization. They can gain real experience in working in the gas, electric and energy services sectors.

— Do the best students have the opportunity to intern at GDF Suez or receive a job at the company?

— Overall, the GDF Suez group invests in youth at all levels, and the purpose of our partnership with HSE fits well with this strategy – GDF Suez would like to stay with students right up to the hiring process, giving them the opportunity to encounter the demands of the working world and the simulating challenges of this field.

The Moscow office also enriches itself by interacting with students who work working on Company Projects based on the demands presented on the labor market. A close connection is established between the office and students in order for this initial work experience in the company to be useful and advantageous for both parties. The office in Moscow is the door to the GDF Suez group. Upon the completion of the Company Project, GDF Suez keeps track of students interested in future employment with the GDF Suez group in order to support their candidacy in various positions inside the company. If the company cannot offer students an internship during the Company Project, the experience nonetheless allows students to gain an enriching experience with the company and this contributes to students’ CVs.

— Why is GDF Suez interested in participating in educational projects?

— GDF Suez is a lively group that looks towards the future and ensures that 'change' is prepared. Company Project is an interesting project based on a ”win-win” logic. On one hand, this really allows students to better understand the group’s specialties, functions, needs, and values, as well as ways of interacting in a group. This helps transfer values and work methodology to students through learning while simultaneously identifying talents for the future. On the other hand, this allows students to gain experience inside of a large French company and understand its everyday life.

Company Project’s success if based on striking a balance between student initiative and creativity, as well as the methodological support from the company’s office. Students bring in their dynamism and desire to discover and learn. The office serves as the catalyst for this energy and mobilizes ideas so that these ideas can promote the company’s specific strategic objectives. With this, the company shares its experience with students, and also motivates them and provides them with skills.

At GDF Suez, we are convinced that youth can offer a great deal of ideas and energy, and in this sense, we really trust them.

The main thing is to communicate well, invest in these relations and have the ability to listen to one another.

In order to understand the working world, students must have both an academic and an applied education. Classes give the necessary theory for a good, general understanding of the objectives of various sectors. At the same time, companies provide a practical outlet for this knowledge, as well as direct contact with reality, which allows for the knowledge gained to be “sharpened.”

In its mission to guide students through the working world, GDF Suez stimulates exchanges between the academic world, the university world and enterprises. It is specifically in Russia that Company Project and master classes allow for experiences and contacts to be exchanged between the university and business; and this, in turn, allows students to better understand the energy sector, the business climate in Russia and the labor market as a whole.

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