Meet Elena

Elena Sokolova, Volvo Production System Coach

What brought you to Volvo Group Trucks, Hagerstown?

I started at Volvo in 2008 at a brand-new Volvo Trucks plant in Kaluga, Russia. I joined as a first line manager for material handling and was responsible for small teams in goods receiving, warehousing, kitting, and line feeding.

I then joined another brand-new plant in Kaluga for Volvo Construction Equipment, and was there for two years as a material handling manager. Both were exciting journeys for me. I started some work with VPS (lean manufacturing) in my area, and when my colleague was on maternity leave, I was VPS plant coordinator for half of a year.

That was really cool! I was responsible for the breakdown of the roadmaps, and working together with the plant manager on all of the VPS initiatives. We were just starting and it was exciting. All of us were new to this – the new terminology, and learning the methods and tools. We were learning by doing. Then unfortunately, the VCE plant closed.

After a couple of years, I got a call from a former director with a message that we will have an extreme pace increase, and was asked if I can join, but now on the production team. Of course, I was excited to rejoin. For me, Volvo is a dream employer so I joined as a first line manager in assembly.

We were back in business and it was a great, new experience, new area. Operations for me was a really new thing to do. I was responsible for off-line and joined at the beginning of a cool project: the insourcing of tires and rims.

After a couple of years, my family thought of moving somewhere for work and living, so I started searching in the facilities that Volvo has, and one of them was this Hagerstown plant. It was interesting that I got the confirmation for an interview when I was on my vacation. Actually, I took the video interview from my phone at the hotel! It took a couple of months and it was quite a difficult journey, with all of the paperwork, visa prep and so on.

It is exciting to see and get this opportunity to bring my knowledge and experience here as the VPS coach. Lean manufacturing is my passion. I truly believe and live these values, and I’m so enthusiastic about that. I’m in it, let’s say, and I’m here, since September 2019. Exciting!


What does “We are the Heart” mean to you?

First of all when I heard it for the first time I thought yes, yes, yes – this is it. This is really how I feel about that. We are the heart both because of our products and also because of our people. Each of us has the heart. It’s so touching, it’s beating, and this is all of us, our energy, our passion, our enthusiasm, and so for me this is it. We are the heart and we keep it beating. This is life, this is work, this is everything.

Why do you keep the heart beating?

I bring all of my energy and passion to work. I get so much enjoy. I work with a lot of people here. Actually, half of the production plant I am coaching and the other half are my colleagues. That’s why I interact with a lot of people and I try to give all of my knowledge, to spread all of my experience. I share my energy and enthusiasm. When you do it, it’s catching, people may feel it from me as well, so by that I keep the heart beating.

What’s the coolest thing about your job?

My work is dream work, a combination of a lot of initiatives and a lot of cooperation with people which I enjoy. I enjoy for example, the training and coaching part, when you talk to people, when you see the struggles and where you can help, where you can support.

What is the most difficult part of your job?

I’m responsible for the VPS journey and it cannot be done by one person no matter how enthusiastic that person is. It should be done by each of us. Probably the most difficult part is that sometimes people are not on board in this journey, and we need to change this mindset so that each of us lives this journey and takes their own part.

How do you spend your time outside of work?

Well, I’m excited about life in general! If I pick three things, it’s cooking, travelling, and reading books; I enjoy that. I’m an amateur cooker at home, baking things for my son and husband. Hopefully they enjoy it. Also travelling. I have travelled a lot back home to Europe, Asia, and Africa as well. Now we’re a bit stuck, but this is a nice place to be stuck because there are opportunities to travel around this country.

Published 2021 May 12


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