11.07.2019Armenian by Birth
“You need more than just patriotic reasons to come back to live in Armenia.” -Tatev Petrossian
Tatev Petrossian is a French-Armenia who moved here in January 2018. Born in Armenia, Tatev’s family moved to France when she was only 2. Living there did not disconnect her and her family from the Armenian community. Tatev had a very active role since her mother was the president of the Armenian Cultural Association, ‘Alliance Pan Armenienne’ in Nice.
“I lived in a home where you didn’t get food if you didn’t speak Armenian,” jokes Tatev. “Speaking Armenian at home was also proof as my sister and I used to spend a lot of time with my grandparents in Marseille after school. Back then, there weren’t cable Armenian channels yet so I remember translating to my grandma her favorite soap opera “Les feux de l’amour”; that was hilarious as we used to debate the fate of those over-paid soap actors with my grandma for hours”.
Although the Armenian identity had a strong presence in their household, Tatev idea of being Armenian wasn’t limited to the cultural aspect of going to an Armenian school, dancing her berd par straight and reminiscing on the genocide trauma, but to channel that nation’s energy into her own hustle. Stories of Armenian soldiers, Garegin Njdeh, ASALA, Monte Melkonian were in constant flow in her identity building as an Armenian from the diaspora.
“We hated the idea of victimization in our house, which is why genocide stories didn’t soak in my skin a lot. We are where we are not because we wanted to, but because we had to, so we have to leverage it into our own interest. I had the chance to have parents that taught me probably from a toddler age that life is a marathon and perseverance and endurance need to be my besties for life.”
Tatev visited Armenia a lot as a kid. Her first visit was in 1997. It was also the first time her family visited after relocating to France since 1992: “I remember how my parents despite having dreamt of this trip for so long, had these nostalgia-loaded smile on their faces trying to find bits of that past that will still be comestible.” She would also visit with the Armenian Cultural Association as a choir member and go on live tours.
After graduating Corporate Finance at INSEEC business school in Paris and starting to work in an Investment fund with portfolios in the region, she would also come to Armenia on due-diligence work trips, and that is when Tatev understood that there’s much more potential to a life in Armenia than just tourist life here, and this probably was the stepping stone of her repat story.
“I thought of living in Armenia as early as 2012. My work trips made me understand that I will come back to Armenia; not for patriotic reasons, but because there’s an opportunity for me that can serve both the country and myself.”
After a couple of intensive years working in Paris and London, Tatev was called by the Russian Presidential Academy (RANEPA) in Moscow to teach and lead workshops in Management Strategy to students of the Faculty of Finance, and it became also an opportunity to obtain her second Master’s degree in International Project Management. Two years past and after receiving a call for a job offer in Armenia, it became all naturally, her next destination.
With no expectations whatsoever, Tatev basically adapted in Armenia the second she got the keys to her apartment. “It was all so organic for me but people would consistently wonder and ask me why somebody with my background would like to come back here… That’s the only shake that will remind me that trust needed to be gained from locals as it apparently wasn’t as organic in their minds as it was for me.” Other than that, she would answer that she didn’t experience any cultural shock to feel that big of a difference. “Moscow was a big cultural shock for me after living in London. So maybe that transition in Russia actually smoothened the adaptation to my new Armenian life”.
“After working at a non-profit organization, I realized it’s not for me and I had to begin my own journey. That’s when I decided to open my own company: Revolve Consulting. We are a consulting firm specialized in alternative business strategies and more specifically in corporate circular strategies, as circular economy is something I’m deeply passionate about and convinced by its economic potential. Revolve originates, develops and restructures disruptive sustainable business models with both international and local stakeholders. My ultimate goal is to build profitable business ecosystems where value growth is not extensively correlated to harmful resources exploitations. Everybody is given the opportunity at some point in their life to set a ripple that can potentially be turned into a wave, provided you stand for your value and advocate your vision with like-minded individuals. That’s what I’m trying to do with my company.”
One of the issues Tatev has faced in Armenia was being a woman and a diaspora Armenian on a decision-making level. She tells us how some people build professional relationships with her with suspicions in the sense that why would a woman with so many degrees come to Armenia when she can make more money elsewhere. It’s more about setting the suspicion straights at your first introductory meeting, in a sense, it’s also a gain of time as people don’t give you much time to tiptoe with what you have to say. You drop your set of cards from day 1 and then, along the road, play on the language and codes set by your client. Transparency in the message you convey remains the best form of authenticity.
“Another practical way of dealing with that is boxing; not the people, just with my trainer. Sometimes people come and watch us train while asking my trainer when my next fight is due so they bet on me,” Tatev jokes. “I’ve started to think that this might be quite a lucrative plan B. Who will bet on a 4’11 Frenchie with gloves?”.
Although she doesn’t have direct family members in Armenia, Tatev has a lot of friends and relatives and a fantastic support system which makes staying here 10 times better. As for the moment that really hit home, Tatev says when she had to sign a contract and was told about taxes, realizing that she will contribute herself too to the military services pension, she was struck by the fact that she will be contributing to something whose main goal is to defend and hold the country. But for her, the real anchor of being in Armenia is buying a house here.
“When you’re renting, you still have an idea of constant motion. But when you buy a home, that’s a real commitment. Living in Armenia is still a journey for me, but the answer will come soon eventually.”
Tatev has a few things in mind to achieve in the next 6 months: kicking Revolve off the inception stage and start building a team, getting a driver’s license and rebuild her grandparents’ house.
To people who want to move to Armenia, Tatev says that any greatness or fabulous achievements we’ve heard, seen or lived never came from comfort zone, so finding the strength to kick yourself in the butt is paramount. She understands why people leave the country, but she also says that one should leave something behind for others to continue building, if so, “build a sense of continuum is what sustainable development is for me, whether you’re here or no”. Everybody wants to leave their footprint, and she’s trying to make hers as visible as possible. And the depth potential of one’s footprint in Armenia is definitely worth it.
“Patriotism is not enough reason for you to move to Armenia. You need more than just that to anchor yourself here.”