Age not a barrier to success for Novaport deputy CEO in Russia

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Lean Into Aviation (3)“Don’t hurry to reply, but hurry to listen.” Aviation industry executive Anna Varshavskaya seems to subscribe to this Russian proverb. At just 31 years of age, she has ascended to the position of deputy CEO at Novaport, a regional airport investment company that runs eight Russian airports, and is eyeing further growth.

Influenced in her formative years by her father, a military pilot who flew Mi-8 helicopters, Varshavskaya felt that the closest she could come to obtaining his type of career would be to enter the field of aviation.

After graduating from university in Moscow, she accepted a job as a dispatcher at Sheremetyevo International Airport where she says she learned about European work principles from then COO Markus Klaushofer. Now CEO of Malta International Airport, Klaushofer says Varshavskaya was exemplary in her work, successfully attracting airlines to Sheremetyevo and effectively “handing all regulatory affairs with the relevant governmental officials as well”.

In 2010 Varshavskaya joined Novaport as commercial manager. “We implemented a European management style working with our stakeholders,” Varshavskaya told RGN at the recent Routes Silk Road conference in Tbilisi in Georgia. “We adopted this tradition from Markus [Klaushofer]…and it showed good results.”

Five years on, Novaport has added more airports and grown “fast at 28%”, notes Varshavskaya. The company manages airports in Novosibirsk, Tomsk, Barnaul, Chelyabinsk, Volgograd, Astrakhan, Chita, and Tyumen. With the exception of Barnaul, Novaport has a majority interest in all facilities.

Novaport boasts that it has improved airport architecture, traffic volume, and operating and financial activities at the airports it operates. Its goal over the next 15 years is to become the largest regional airport network in CIS in terms of number of airports and passenger traffic.

In order to achieve this, says Varshavskaya, Novaport “will continue to improve the existing airports and expand its network through new acquisitions”.

Varshavskaya’s  job is not without its challenges. Russia is currently caught up in a conundrum of sanctions and tough political times. Moreover, being a young woman in management in a male-dominated industry in Russia is no easy task.

However, Varshavskaya is realistic. She acknowledges that having a woman boss was a bit strange initially for the men around her, but, “My work shows. Once they realize you’re good, then respect follows. It’s a big benefit, as one can then move on.”

Varshavskaya grew up in Karelia, which is divided between the Russian Republic of Karelia, the Russian Leningrad Oblast, and Finland. “It looks like a European city and known for theaters,” she reminisces. But economic sanctions imposed on Russia have come with a heavy cost. “Mentally, it has been a bit draining.”

But she remains undaunted, and focused on her work at Novaport. Could she see herself as CEO someday? “I hope one day I will be one….”