Gagik Danielyan
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Gagik Danielyan (MBA ’94): ‘Remembering my student years puts a smile on my face’

5 min read

Gagik Danielyan (MBA ’94) is a management professional with over 20 years of experience in both local and international companies. He has worked at Coca-Cola HBC company as chief financial officer from 2003 to 2007, after which he became the general manager of the same company up till 2015. Currently, Gagik is the director of Dargett brewery, the first craft brewery in Armenia. We asked him to travel back in time to his student years and share with us his most cherished memories connected with the American University of Armenia (AUA), as well as to speak about his current position and his role as a leader in big and small companies. 

What inspired you to come to AUA back in the early 1990s?

The early 1990’s were a time when our country entered a new era. Armenia declared its independence in 1991, and AUA opened its doors in the same year. Though it was a tough period for our country, AUA was a bright spot for students and people of the same mindset. The MBA program was the most appealing to me in terms of continuing my education, learning new things, exploring new opportunities and moving forward with the changing times. It differed very much from my previous education, both at school and the university. The environment at AUA was totally new, the relationship and communication with professors was rather different.

What are some of your most cherished memories from your student years at AUA?

I remember that we had many professors from the U.S. and I would take road trips with them, showing them the beautiful sights of Armenia. We also had many outdoor activities, such as picnics, parties, and tree-planting initiatives that we enjoyed a lot. It has been almost 30 years since my graduation, but remembering my student years always puts a smile on my face. I have many good friends from those years.

Was there a professor who influenced you the most?

We had many good professors, but I remember some of them more specifically. Dr. Earl Snell, who taught us finance, was a very kind and good person, and he was interested in Armenian culture and the people. I would be his tour guide and show him around Armenia. Another professor who had a strong influence on me was Dr. Farouk Heiba. He taught marketing. He was of Egyptian origin but came from the U.S. and had a very colorful personality. I remember being pleasantly surprised to have a marketing professor like him. 

Based on your experience of serving in leadership positions for over 20 years now, both in local and international companies, what qualities do you think make a good leader?

There are a number of qualities that one needs to possess in order to be a successful leader. I think that a leader should trust the people he/she works with, or people that work for him/her in order to be able to identify their true potential and help them develop. A good leader needs to have a natural curiosity towards learning and trying new things. Also, it is very important to share the values of the company where you work and have commitment to lead the business to success. As a leader, I strongly believe that people are the most important asset of any organization and collaborating with them productively would achieve your best results. 

What do you consider the most important achievement in your career?

I have worked for Coca-Cola in different countries and in different roles for 24 years, and I have realized a number of achievements that make me proud. However, I would like to highlight two things as the most important achievements in my career. The first one is my success in hiring dozens of people while they were students who have eventually become high-ranking professionals. And the second achievement I am proud of is seeing my team members grow professionally. 

How was the transition from an international company like Coca-Cola to a local company? 

Needless to say, it was a challenge. One needs to have very good adaptability in order to switch from an international company to a local one. There is a big difference between Coca-Cola, an international company with over 100 years of history, and Dargett, which entered the Armenian market three-four years ago. In bigger companies there are more rules, policies, and procedures set by its leaders or management teams over time, and that is what people working for those companies are expected to follow. In a young local company, on the other hand, there is a lot more flexibility, but there are many things that you would need to do on your own. You don’t have anyone to give you ready-made answers or directions, you simply work with your team to find the right solution in a given situation. I’d say that is the beauty of working for a small local company. In smaller companies like Dargett the good thing is that you have the freedom to act as you deem appropriate and gradually build the company culture.

In a country like Armenia which has centuries-old winemaking traditions, how is the beer culture spreading?

It is not a secret that beer is not the most popular alcoholic beverage in Armenia, and there are some stereotypes associated with beer; at Dargett, we are moving towards breaking those stereotypes.

Dargett was the pioneer of craft beer in Armenia. It brought a totally new culture to beer consumption in our country. While many people still think that there are only two types of beer ⁠— light and dark⁠— Dargett offers twenty different types of beer. Another stereotype is that beer is good only with snacks. At Dargett, we believe that beer is a very good accompaniment to all kinds of food. In addition, beer is uncompromisingly labeled as a “male” beverage, which is not true; everyone can enjoy a good beer. We believe that beer consumption has a good growth potential in Armenia.

As an AUA alumnus who constantly supports his alma mater through donations, what motivates you to keep giving back to the University and the community?   

Considering my student years here, I think that I was very privileged to receive a free education. Moreover, my whole career started thanks to the education I received here at AUA. I have a natural feeling that “I was given, so I need to give back.” Being a representative of the private sector now, I want to do more for my alma mater than just contributing to it financially. I want to be more engaged with the University and students, and be as helpful as I can. 

What advice do you have for current AUA students?

I strongly believe that education and educated people are the key to success in any society. Following the 1988 earthquake, very smart people decided that they need to help this country by investing in its education sector. My advice to current AUA students would be to work hard and study hard. This is the time in your life when you can invest in yourselves to ensure success in your future. Also, I would encourage students to enjoy every moment and see the opportunities that are available in Armenia.