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Pipelife Portraits (I)


She skydives; she adores documentary films about photography, travel, culture, science, history, anthropology; she practices Yoga; she wants to learn a barefoot Indian dance called “Barata Natyan and Kathakali” and this year, she will visit Uganda, Kenya, Tanzania and Zanzibar. In short, Irena Belokurova from Riga lives a full and interesting life. In this, the first of a series of Pipelife Portraits, you will find out what makes some Pipelife colleagues tick.

Irena joined Mabo Baltics in 1997, two years before it was acquired by Pipelife. Irena was appointed Purchasing and Logistics Manager. “Everything started from scratch,” she remembers. “Today, the Latvian workforce amounts to 30 employees. Together with our factory in Estonia and Sales office in Lithuania, the entire Baltic team is 107 strong.”

When the office lights are turned off at night, Irena heads for her yoga session. “The exercises really are a body, mind and soul experience,” she says. “The working day can be a stressful environment – making sure everybody gets what they want just in time. It sounds like a cliché but yoga restores calm into one’s thinking. The Sanskrit word for yoga means to control or to unite. Its effects can even be shared with work colleagues.”


Her interests have been kindled by her love of Indian and other Asian cultures. And Irena travels! When she does she makes a photographic travelogue - a photo-reportage of the people and cultures she has visited. “It is not enough to be in a place. What is a place? A name? A moment in time? So I use my camera not only to freeze the moment but also to capture the mood of the situation. Predictably, my addiction to National Geographic Channel and Discovery is complete.”

Irena takes her lead from Claude Renault and Phil Borges, world renowned photographer ‘Gurus’. “I adore their work. I have learned a lot from their compositions, the use of color, emotions and the vulnerability of their subjects…”

But as a female subject in a man’s world, how does Irena feel?

“The pipe network is more important than the old boy’s network,” she insists. “Pipelife is not a monastery. I am fortunate in being able to work closely with colleagues in the Baltic States, Scandinavia and in the rest of Europe. What you bring to the work role in terms of skills and talents is more important than gender. It is about finding new ways to generate added value.”

“We are very much aware of this principle in purchasing and logistics. We are a crucial link in the supply chain. And that supply chain runs from drawing board to executive board and from raw materials to after-sales. Margins can be won or lost anywhere along that chain so we have to communicate and work evermore smartly.”

But how can skydiving relate to all that?

“There is no more humble an experience than jumping out of a plane, free falling at 200 km per hour and hoping that your parachute will open. When you free-fall, it is not like having that sinking feeling you have in a plane for instance. You become mentally detached – almost drawn into a Zen-like state.”

“I think the meaning of life is that we're alive and we are aware. When I am free falling, I become aware with an extremely keen sense of sharpness.”

In September 2008, Irena participated in Red Bull Flugtag. It challenges teams of people to build homemade, human-powered flying machines and pilot them off a 6m high deck in hopes of achieving flight! Flugtag may mean "flying day" in German, but all these crafts ultimately splash into the waters below. They are judged not only on their flight's distance, but creativity and showmanship as well. The first Red Bull Flugtag took place in Vienna, Austria, in 1991. A pilot of Vikingu Ligava (Viking Bride), her team finished 9th place having soared the skies for 23m before touching down on water.

An interest in Buddhism, psychology and people is what gives her a buzz. “We live in an ever more competitive world,” she observes. “Making time to understand ourselves is one way to enhance our lives and our culture.”


How does she see her future in Pipelife? “It is a great company. We are leaders in Latvia and continuously striving to do better, to win that next tender, to sharpen our marketing appeal and define more efficient targets for purchasing and logistics!”

“This year has been difficult. Whereas we have European Funds to jumpstart the economies of Latvia, Lithuania and Estonia, the global credit squeeze has influenced public investment. But we shall succeed. As part of a group, we have a great product portfolio and the people to deliver it!”

“We also have a lot of energy in the Baltics. According to folklore, the honey bee is a source for our strength and tenacity. Life can sometimes be bitter but the people of the Baltics remain optimistic. Nothing is impossible and if it takes honey to make life even sweeter, so be it!”