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11:21 PM  April 2, 2020

Yakovlev: "TPU should proactively respond to changes"

© предоставлено пресс-службой ТПУYakovlev: TPU should proactively respond to changes

TOMSK, Apr 2 – RIA Tomsk, Elena Taylasheva. For five months that former top manager of Gazprom science Andrey Yakovlev has been the TPU first vice-rector, he is already used to saying "our university". What tasks attracted him to Tomsk, why universities and industry still can’t agree, and what kind of “temple” he wants to build, Yakovlev said in an interview with RIA Tomsk.

Tasks scale

- Andrey Alexandrovich, let's talk about you first. The masses only know that you moved to Tomsk Polytechnic University (TPU) from Gazprom Neft, where you developed innovative projects ...

- I am from Bashkiria, I was born near Ufa in an urban-type settlement. I graduated from school with a medal, won the "Applicant-1998" olympiad, so I could enter any university without exams. I chose Ufa State Aviation Technical University (USATU), the new faculty - natural science, opened jointly with the Institute of Mathematics of the Russian Academy of Sciences, where only 25 people were recruited (so I still had to pass exams).

I graduated with a specialty "Applied Mathematics and Computer Science", and defended thesis at the Institute of Mathematics in the specialty "Differential Equations".

Since it was at the junction of disciplines, after the defense the question arose: where to develop further? I decided to go to the Rosneft research and development institute, where the deputy general director for geology and development, doctor of physical and mathematical sciences Vitaliy Anvarovich Baikov was my head of department.

- How could a mathematician be useful for an oil industry?

- I thought that I would become a specialist in underground hydromechanics, because I knew the equations and thought that this was one of my strongest points. I came and said that I can, but they say to me: "Great, you'll be a geologist!".

I spent a lot of time to understand how to reproduce the geological structure of the reservoir, what are the mathematical methods. And in the end, I developed a spectral modeling method that proved to be good in practice and became the best innovative development of Rosneft in 2010. Many successful wells have been drilled; the method is still in use.

In 2013, I defended my doctoral thesis at the intersection of mathematics, physics and geology on the topic "Methods of mathematical modeling of inhomogeneous anisotropic media in statistical underground hydromechanics". In 2014, I was appointed Director of the Department of Innovative Technologies.

In 2015, I moved to St. Petersburg, to the Gazprom Neft scientific and technical center. I changed my activity from a task performer to their director and became responsible for the development of the technological direction of the company - first in the field of geology and development, then drilling, downhole mining, capital construction. The tasks were interesting. And no less interesting tasks are now here in Tomsk. 

© РИА Томск. Таисия Воронцова
Andrey Yakovlev, First Vice-Rector of TPU

Maneuverable ship

- What did you know about Tomsk Polytechnic working for Gazprom Neft?

- At the company, I, among other things, oversaw an innovative belt, thanks to which complex tasks are solved. In addition to Moscow Institute of Physics and Technology, Skoltech, institutes of the Russian Academy of Sciences, St. Petersburg State University, and Peter the Great St.Petersburg Polytechnic University, it included Tomsk Polytechnic University. Not to mention the fact that in my industry many TPU graduates occupy key positions.

- Who made you an offer to head the university?

- I do not think that this is the subject of discussion. But I can say why I agreed: I had a desire to solve problems that are significant for our country, the solution of which gives great value. This is the first and main thing that led me to the university, although I will not hide it: when I got the offer, many dissuaded me, believing that it was not easy to force such a large ship as a university to maneuver like a small boat.

- It is logical that you, as a person from industry, will establish close ties between the university and this industry. What do you think is missing now? Delegations of large corporations constantly travel to Tomsk, partnership agreements are signed, but no breakthrough has yet been seen ...

- It is not easy for the university to see itself from the outside. I looked at the university through the eyes of the university for ten years, while I myself worked at the USATU, while I taught there, as an employee of the Rosneft design institute and a senior researcher at the Institute of Mathematics of the Russian Academy of Sciences.

But after moving to St. Petersburg, I broke away from this environment. And although we worked closely with universities, opened joint research laboratories to solve various problems, I saw that the huge potential of universities was not revealed. Question: why? Probably because management does not understand what tasks the university faces, either does not want to understand, or understands, but in its own way.

So, let's say, when a business delegation arrives, what is the first thing the university asks for? "Tell me what kind of specialist you need - and we will train. Tell me what technology is needed - we are now working hard and will do it". But if the industry could say what technology would be needed in five years, it would have already been done! Our task - is to learn how to quickly and flexibly respond to changes in time, and not reactively, but proactively. 

© сайт Томского политехнического университета
Working meeting with TPU industrial partners - Gazprom Neft PJSC and Mubadala Petroleum (UAE)

Dream team

- In what time it is possible to expect for serious changes in university?

- In this question I hear: "After which moment it is necessary to give up and do not change anything further?". This will not happen. You must always change. At the same time, it is important to measure the alienable results that you can do in a year, two, five years. They should show the dynamics of movement. The university development strategy that we are currently working on will take this into account.

In addition to the mission, values, we, of course, will think about roles, and about powers, and about responsibility, and about motivation. All this must be done so that the university is very lively. Livelier than companies.

Well, at the moment it’s important for us to understand what stage we are at, and then take many important steps. And the first of them - is ensuring transparency of information flows, so that polytechnics make decisions in building the future university. Acting rector Viktor Dyomin and I visited our schools, talked with the team, and this is one of the things that many voiced - a request for openness.

- What does it mean?

- We need to build an open environment so that the whole team understands where we are going, and not just carry out the tasks that come down from above. It’s like in a parable: two people carry stones, one ask: “What are you doing?” - "I'm carrying the stones to the construction site". The other one is  asked: "What are you doing?" - "I'm building a temple".

This is a different approach to the formation of culture within the university. I want us to build this "temple" together, so that all polytechnics influence the "construction".

Yuri Petrovich Pokholkov, former TPU rector, was one of the first to support this approach and is currently the moderator of a comprehensive development program. In shaping the future, it is important to rely on experience and knowledge, lessons learned and best practices.

- Will it be necessary to fundamentally change the team?

- Not fundamentally. If personnel changes occur, then at the request of employees to try themselves elsewhere or because they do not share the values ​​that we see as necessary - mutual respect, responsibility, honesty, security.

Now there are a certain number of people from outside - from other industries, from other cities who move to Tomsk, to Tomsk Polytechnic University, because they are motivated by the ambitiousness of the tasks. But for the most part, these are internal university personnel - here we have many talented people with great potential.

In general, in my opinion, we are forming a good team, everyone is focused on the result. The transition to distance learning showed this - everyone worked very smoothly. 

© РИА Томск. Андрей Соколов
“People - are the strength of the university. There are strong traditions, for example, I really liked that each graduate receives a working specialty - “diploma” of operator, engineer. This distinguishes Tomsk Polytechnic, emphasizes its close relationship with production”, - says Andrey Yakovlev.

There are some areas that require changes within. In particular, disunity between the schools — the motivation contract was built like this, the tasks were set so, and as a result, people from the same subject area ended up in different schools, which does not allow to effectively generate knowledge, accumulate it, and transfer. Previously, this function was performed by the departments, but they were eliminated.

This problem will be solved, there are different options, different forms, we will test them. But it’s not like doing it in the entire university from the shoulder: a certain organizational unit will be highlighted, on which we will run the model. We need to look at all the uncertainties, risks, draw up corrective measures, and only then apply to the entire university.

To share risks

- Did you move your family to Tomsk?

- Of course, as soon as this became possible: I arrived in Tomsk in November, and in December, when the oldest child finished a school term, the whole family also moved.

- How many children do you have?

- Three. Three boys.

- Have you already got your hand in town? Have you found your favorite places?

- I have two key places - work and home. And also our stadium: I go skiing with my child (this has never been possible in St. Petersburg because of the weather), now I will move my bicycles - we will ride together, our favorite pastime!

- I heard that you give lecture to students. Is this such a way to relax?

- When my work was related to universities, I always gave lectures, I like it. And now, as soon as such an opportunity appeared, I immediately took advantage of it! However, only on Saturdays - there is no more time. I read to masters of the School of Natural Resources integrated approaches to the development of deposits. We analyze tasks that allow engineers to feel the physics of the process at their fingertips. 

© предоставлено пресс-службой ТПУ
First Vice-Rector of TPU Andrey Yakovlev at the lecture

But if to say that a lecture - is a rest, it will not be true. This is a lot of work. After all, you transmit knowledge, so you need to think about the format, volume, interesting form. Only then will they be of use. Lectures should also be given in order to understand the needs of youth. How do students want to receive information - remotely, in a modular education system? How do they see a personal track?

After all, a student - is a partner of the university (like a teacher, a researcher, and power, and industry). And what is a partnership? This is a long-term mutually beneficial cooperation with risk sharing. Choosing our university, a person hopes for this partnership, for the fact that he will receive the required knowledge here, and not just spend 4 or 6 years of his life. We must share the risks with him.

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