Serdar Karliyev: I like to challenge myself
Meet Serdar Karliyev, CEO of MET Ukraine – now based in Kiev, he is from Turkmenistan, has studied in Bulgaria and received his first job at MET Group in Hungary.
We believe you speak English, Russian and Hungarian. What is your mother tongue?
My mother tongue is the Turkmen language. I am from a country that used to be part of the Soviet Union, and people in ex-Soviet countries are usually bilingual, speaking Russian besides their native language. This is true in my case as well.
How important is this Turkmen identity to you?
My identity is important. I consider myself as Turkmen, which is the definition of who I am, my name, my family, everything. At the same time, I am someone who has lived in several foreign countries since the age of sixteen. Despite my proud identity, I am open to this international, cosmopolitan way of life.
You were the first non-Hungarian employee to join MET Group. How difficult was it to become integrated into the company?
I was hired back in 2010. MET was a rather small company at that time, with few more than twenty employees. I graduated from the American University in Bulgaria and this was my first job after university. I had several options after graduating, from pursuing a Masters in Finance in Japan to working for an investment bank in Moscow. Then I had the offer from MET Group. I had done an internship in Sofia for a private equity fund management firm, whose CEO knew and recommended me to the CEO of MET, Benjamin Lakatos. I thought that because of my background and origin, gaining experience in the oil and gas industry would be more valuable.
Though I am used to living abroad, moving to Hungary was challenging for two reasons. First, I had to move from a student to a working life – and second, the Hungarian language is really different. I listened and tried to understand, but then I gave up.
You have made quite a career inside MET Group, you are now the CEO of MET Ukraine. What are you most proud of in the Ukrainian market?
I moved to Kiev in November 2018 to head MET’s subsidiary here. I had already been working with Ukraine for some time before that, travelling to the country on a regular basis. I like to challenge myself, and this was a great opportunity to do that. There are more and more companies entering the Ukrainian market, so the competition is getting stronger. As for MET Group, Ukraine was one of the top revenue-generating markets in 2020. This is a profitable market, and we have an excellent team here, consisting of five colleagues who know how to solve problems. I am proud to say that we have established a well-functioning company that has gained recognition as an important player in the Ukrainian market.
You received the Excellence Award in 2016 and – after completing ten years of employment at MET – the Loyalty Award in 2020. Where do you see yourself in 10 years’ time?
I would still like to work with Ukraine, as this is a very interesting market to me. I would like MET Ukraine to become much bigger in size, expanding its portfolio of commodities beyond natural gas. However, it is very difficult to predict how things will develop in the future. In 2019, nobody could have predicted the Covid pandemic, and now here we are… therefore I prefer planning not more than 3 or 4 years ahead.