Victor Ivanov, Director for Russia and CIS at Context
Victor Ivanov is 38 years old, separated, and has three children. Born in southern Russia, Victor lived in London, Copenhagen, Heidelberg and St. Gallen before coming to Barcelona 12 years ago. He is the Director for Russia and CIS at Context, a leading big data analytics company that specializes in statistics and IT market intelligence. Based in London, it has employees from more than 30 countries. Victor Ivanov speaks six languages and is fascinated by anthropology, languages, psychology, and world cultures.
Why did you choose Barcelona?
My story is quite commonplace: I came to Barcelona as a student and I fell in love with a local girl. I decided to leave Germany and come to live in Barcelona, although that meant overcoming several challenges: validating my qualifications, finding a job (I came in 2008, right at the peak of the crisis), learning Spanish and Catalan, getting to know the culture, etc. But in the end, looking back, it has been a very interesting journey and I have learned a lot. I am happy to have had this great opportunity.
What aspects of the city would you highlight as positive?
Spain is one of the countries with the best fiber optic coverage in Europe (and the world). This means high quality Internet access, which is a very important component in the digital economy. Moreover, Barcelona is really well connected to the rest of the world thanks to its modern airport. It is a great place for both work and leisure, benefiting from the sea, the mountains, superb leisure opportunities, a good road network, numerous co-working offices and very friendly people who are always willing to help. The city also has an excellent range of educational institutions, with some of the best business schools in the world and universities with an international reputation that are driving forward technological and human change.
Which aspects of the city would you like to improve? How?
Barcelona doesn't have enough bicycle lanes or parking spaces, so one of the great challenges is to improve amenities for bicycles and electric transport. As a polyglot and father, I have also noted that people here have a problem with English (and other languages in general), which is essential for the growth and development of the city and the economy in general. A change of mentality is needed regarding language learning and the Catalan people should take advantage of the fact that they have grown up in a bilingual environment and encourage use of other languages. There should also be more government aid for business and a reduction in the high taxes imposed on SMEs and startups, which are particularly high when compared with countries like Germany and Portugal.
What are the strengths that will help the city overcome the COVID-19 crisis?
The people of Barcelona and the Spaniards in general are happy and optimistic and always keep going in spite of the problems. I believe that this optimism has already helped Spain and Barcelona on several occasions and I am sure this will help once again. Furthermore, Barcelona is a very popular tourist destination and I am sure that once the crisis is over, the Barcelona brand will once again attract visitors and international talent.
What challenges do you think the city will face once the health emergency subsides?
We will find ourselves facing a new reality. Our way of working and studying has already changed: technology is more present in our lives, and distances are becoming even shorter. Barcelona must solve the problems I mentioned earlier, but it has a lot to offer for people able to telework (good leisure and cultural opportunities, the sea, the mountains, a very high standard of living thanks to the climate and the health system, etc.).
What do you expect from Barcelona in the coming years?
I hope that Barcelona will become a world center for business, culture and technology. The city has numerous advantages and I hope that politicians will be able to take the right steps to boost its progress, especially by reducing the bureaucratic burden (technology could automate many processes) and offering tax incentives to international companies.