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Olga's story - A native Russian at home in the Red River Valley

FARGO, N.D. -- Olga Hall is a key North Dakotan, putting the state's farm technology into the hands of farmers in the former Soviet Union. At 32, Hall was raised in Irkutsk, Russia, a city of about a million people in south-central Siberia. It's ...

FARGO, N.D. -- Olga Hall is a key North Dakotan, putting the state's farm technology into the hands of farmers in the former Soviet Union.

At 32, Hall was raised in Irkutsk, Russia, a city of about a million people in south-central Siberia. It's an area known for more for tourism and supplying timber to Asia and Europe than for any farming.

Olga Vasilyeva was born in 1975. She and a younger brother were raised in an atmosphere of industry and trade. Her father was president of a government-owned construction company and her mother was a timber export specialist.

She grew up through the transition between communism and capitalism.

"My father was president of a government (-owned) company," she says.

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His factory made concrete panels for the housing construction.

"They would talk in five-year plans," she says. "If you achieved more than what was stated by the government plans, you'd get rewards and acknowledgements."

But individuals didn't own companies, and companies were not geared to measure profitability or cash flow. The only thing that companies were measured by in the days of Communist rule was meeting a plan dictated from Moscow.

To the United States

After earning a bachelor's degree in marketing from Irkutsk State University in 1996, Olga arrived in the United States by way of a Rotary International scholarship. Texas Rotary clubs sponsored the scholarship so she studied at Texas Tech University in Lubbock, Texas, where she lived with a Rotary International family and earned an MBA in international business.

"After graduating, I found that John Deere was expanding dramatically at that time," Hall says. "When they hired me, the agreement was I'd work in North American marketing first and understand the business here before they assigned me on the international level."

But then the equipment economy started to decline. Deere pulled its expatriates back into the United States, so international opportunities with the company became limited. In the meantime, Olga became engaged to Mike Hall, who wanted to move back to the North Dakota area where he had grown up and gone to school. They married in 2003.

"I moved from Siberia in Russia, got a break from the cold and the snow when I lived in Texas, and ended up living in another Siberia (North Dakota)."

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"Peter (Christianson) offered me a job in marketing," Hall says. "So I was able to use my bachelor's degree and later the international business degree."

At about the time that Olga arrived, Christianson's dealerships had merged with Meyer's, and the marketing efforts were centralized and made more consistent.

In 2004, she was named marketing manager for Titan Machinery, and in 2006, she took a newly created position as international marketing manager.

On-the-job training

Working on the front lines of a fast-growing business has been a real educational experience for Hall.

"Peter said I would learn more about the equipment business in six months than I'd learned all the way through school and in my four years at John Deere," Hall says. "He was wrong it only took two months."

Of course, life steps in. In November, Hall gave birth to her first child Alex. She's just returned to work.

She goes home for a visit once a year and occasionally can meet with her family on work trips.

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"When I was growing up, observing my mom working on an international level, I always admired her knowledge in business, her attitude," Hall says. "It's just something I always wanted to do, as far as international sales."

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