— What is it that brought you to Moscow?
— I was working at Siemens in Germany when I received an offer from EasternGraphics to open and head up their office in Moscow.
— What was it about you in particular that led them to make you that offer?
— They were looking for someone who could speak at least a little bit of Russian and who was prepared to work in Russia. I had been recommended to them.
— By whom?
— Mutual acquaintances. I agreed and, in March 2012, I arrived here in Moscow. A legal entity had to be set up, and contracts and work permits arranged.
— And you did all of this yourself?
— No, not all of it. I was assisted by a Russian legal firm, Jus Privatum, which has a branch in Germany. They worked with us under contract.
— How much time did it take to complete these formalities?
— Almost eight months. The problem is that for Russian and German lawyers, finding a common ground is difficult. Russia has its own legal system: the documents of incorporation, for example, are completely different. Germans are unfamiliar with it, and German lawyers come up against unexpected legal positions at every turn.
— What does EasternGraphics do?
— It develops visual configuration systems and innovative 3D planning programs. We have a representative office in Moscow offering our services to Russian companies. Really, the business started off with furniture. The customer would have a 3D model of an interior. They’d introduce pieces of furniture with a mouse, and then instantly receive a list of prices. As a rule, they are not your average customers, but professionals, dealers. They work with a professional version of our program. In all, over four years, the free version of the pCon.planner program was downloaded by 1.8m people in 189 different countries. Often we don’t even know what people are using our program for. But if any kind of large office project is launched in Moscow, they have probably used our software for it.
If any kind of large office project is launched in Moscow, they have probably used our software for it.
— How many people are there at the company?
— Four, at the moment, in Moscow, including myself, but worldwide there are about 120. In 2015, the company will have been going for 20 years.
— Do you have any competitors in Russia?
— There is a small Russian company which has been working in this market for over 10 years. But they are in a different sector, to a certain extent. Our clients are generally Russian companies producing furniture, and we give them the opportunity to reach a European level and thus offer their dealers and partners a higher quality of service.
— And how was it that you came to learn Russian?
— While I was still at school, I used to talk to Germans who had come back to Germany from Kazakhstan. They used to say a lot of interesting things about Russia. I became interested in Russian history: especially the time of Peter the Great. I liked Russian more than French, so I took it as my foreign language. I studied Russian at my school in Erfurt from the third form, and then at university in Ilmenau: it is a very small student town in the Thuringian Forest. At university, there was a cultural exchange programme with the city of Novocherkassk, and I went there for six months. I went back to Germany with some vivid impressions.
— Did Russia live up to your expectations?
— It was all so much better than I thought it would be. The German media, unfortunately, rarely has anything good to say about Russia. And clichés abound: about, for example, how you always have to be on the lookout with Russians, that they drink vodka all the time. In fact, people in Russia are uncommonly open and amiable. I especially like the fact that young Russians are not as materialistic as their counterparts in Germany. And that they don’t moan about how complicated their lives are.
I especially like the fact that young Russians are not as materialistic as their counterparts in Germany.
— Muscovites, it would seem, are very different from Novocherkassk people?
— Definitely. In Novocherkassk, I got to know what the “Russian soul” is all about. The Russian soul also exists in Moscow, but you only see it once you know what it is, and where to look for it. Moscow is a huge megalopolis just like other big Western cities.
— Have you ever been duped in Russia?
— In business: not ever! I was afraid of people promising to pay, but not doing so when I have been launching a project. I needn’t have worried. Everything is carried out very properly. True, the journey from a commercial proposal to concluding the contract is usually a long one. But, on the other hand, once a contract has been signed, the money sometimes can even be transferred the very same day.
— How did you go about finding a flat? How did you solve your domestic problems?
— I was helped out by people I know. In Moscow, the flat-hunting issue can be dealt with in a week. In Germany, it takes at least three months.
In Moscow, the flat-hunting issue can be dealt with in a week. In Germany, it takes at least three months.
— Do you like the food in Russia?
— Yes. But there are also Western products on sale which are virtually the same as those you find in Germany. Cheeses, and so forth.
— If it weren’t for work, where in Russia would you choose to live? Moscow or Novocherkassk?
— St. Petersburg. Novocherkassk is a lovely city, but it’s small and lacks infrastructure. Moscow is way too big for my liking.
— Do you have a car?
— I did have in Germany, but I don’t have one in Moscow. I’m scared to get behind the wheel here. I use public transport.
— Do drivers not keep to the rules?
— Yes, of course, but not like they do in Germany.
— Do you ride a bike?
— In Germany, of course. I used to cycle to work. But in Moscow it is just not feasible: the huge distances, and there are no facilities for cyclists. On the other hand, I do go running in Izmaylovsky Park. In the summer. But not in the winter. I love snow but I don’t ski. Only to make a snowman, maybe.
— There is the cliché that in Russia there is disorder whereas in Germany there is order.
— Yes, Germans are used to living strictly according to the rules. Left, right, left, right, up, down: they are completely helpless. Here, many of the rules are strange, some of them are even impossible, and so, in order to achieve their aims, people are creative in the way they interpret them. Russia is a country where people know how to be flexible in their behaviour. I like that. Although, if I keep to the rules in Germany, I can be sure that everything will be fine for me. In Russia, that is not always the case.
Here, many of the rules are strange, some of them are even impossible, and so, in order to achieve their aims, people are creative in the way they interpret them.
— Do they never forget anything, or get into a muddle?
— Anything is possible, but for things to go smoothly, you just have to control the process better.
— Sounds convincing. Is your background in management? Or in computers?
— Neither. I am a mechatronician. It’s the area where engineering and electronics meet.
— Was it this expertise which you used when you worked for Siemens?
— I designed machinery there for which I often built 3D models. Which is what then made me useful to EasternGraphics.
— How would you evaluate the level of Russian programmers and engineers?
— They have very good expertise. Even if it’s not the best in the world. Although, you can find a very good programmer in Russia for not too much money. In the West, programming is one of the most highly paid professions.
— Dominik is a fairly unusual name in Germany. It sounds like a French name.
— As a matter of fact, my name is stressed on the first syllable. But here, everybody says it in the French mode: it makes more sense to the Russian ear. That’s something I don’t mind.