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Executive and professional education

 

Uniper VP Alexander Aksenov (EMBA 2017) believes the Cambridge EMBA will help him to navigate the challenges facing the energy sector.

Windmills and Workers

The global energy sector is facing significant disruption from renewable energy. Wind and solar power is increasingly cost-effective for consumers, yet the challenge of reliable supply from these renewable sources remains.

Alexander Aksenov (EMBA 2017)

Alexander Aksenov (EMBA 2017) – VP of Strategy, Corporate Development and M&A at Uniper – recognises that companies need to adapt to the changing energy landscape, whilst ensuring that their management structures can enable employees to implement these changes and remain competitive.

“The entire energy sector is undergoing an unprecedented change. On the supply side, renewable energy sources are gaining importance, whilst demand exhibits a very different dynamic across global markets,” says Alexander. “I firmly believe that leadership and interpersonal skills will become increasingly important, as organisations require more flexibility to successfully navigate these challenges.”

A career in energy

Alexander is an evangelist for the energy sector, not just for what it provides, but for the career opportunities he has experienced personally. From humble beginnings in the Russian city of Perm, he moved to Moscow in the mid-noughties, where he initially struggled to find work despite being armed with a masters degree in Foreign Studies.

“For seven months, I was selling cookies at street markets across Moscow and bombarding companies with my résumé, looking for a position. By chance, I saw an opportunity to join the energy company OGK-4. Two hiring managers believed in me and gave me a chance.”

When OGK-4 was acquired by EON for nearly €5bn in 2007, Alexander moved from Moscow and joined EON in their Düsseldorf office. Over the next decade, Alexander developed his EON career with responsibilities in investor relations, ranking as one of Thomson Extel’s Top 10 investor relations professionals for the European utilities sector in 2012, before becoming the Head of Strategy for EON International Energy and later for the Global Commodities division. In 2016, EON spun out its power generation and commodities trading to a new company – Uniper – with Alexander becoming VP of Strategy, Corporate Development and M&A in 2017.

“Creating a new company out of EON posed considerable challenges for us”, explained Alexander. “What will be the new strategy? How sustainable is this business model? Is the company’s portfolio efficient?”

Responding to industry change

In his strategic role, Alexander not only recognises the challenges affecting Uniper as an energy company, but broader challenges facing energy supply and demand across the globe.

“As an increasingly global energy company, we need to clearly understand:

  • How we can ensure the security of Europe’s power supply, if sources like wind and solar power cannot be produced on demand
  • How we can manage the growing energy demands of emerging markets. How can we help them to apply the most advanced yet environmentally-friendly energy solutions?”

These questions are what drive me in my role. I want to turn these challenges into opportunities and create considerable, lasting benefits for the company and broader society too.”

Making a difference with an EMBA

Alexander believes that turning these challenges into opportunities requires a fuller understanding of leadership styles, professional development and how large organisations operate. He therefore decided to join Cambridge Judge Business School’s Executive MBA programme in September 2017.

“One of the main attractions of the Cambridge EMBA was the programme content, which covers leadership practices, Personal & Professional Development and modules such as Management Praxis and Organisational Behaviour.

“The programme has already enhanced my leadership skills and given me a deeper understanding of effective methods to manage organisations. One of our lecturers had said that unless we – as leaders – can take our employees with us on our journey, all our efforts would come to nothing.”

Alexander is one of 84 EMBA participants in the EMBA Class of 2017. One of the strengths he finds when working on the programme is the level of cultural and industry diversity amongst his peers.

“I find it extraordinary that my ability to learn is enhanced by my interactions with these high-calibre professionals that I work with, as well as the guest speakers that visit us. This gives significant added value to my experience.”