London is a great location to find some of IE’s finest alumni, who are doing the most interesting work. Recently IE’s Regional Director for Europe, Joël McConnell (JM), had the chance to catch up with International MBA alumni Dimitrios Spiliopoulos (DS) to discuss his time on campus at IE Business School, and how he made the elusive triple jump at graduation: new geography, new industry, and new function. Dimitrios continues to be an engaged and supportive member of the IE alumni club in the UK, and he is definitely an alumnus worth connecting with in London. Below is the transcript from their interview.

JM: “Your career trajectory prior to joining the MBA was all about export and trade.  Tell me about your time connecting India with Europe, your military service, and your time at DOMUS.”

DS: “Indeed, international trade was a clear path for me, as I love travelling and exploring new markets, and seeking out new opportunities in complex business environments. This passion for international exposure started back during my ERASMUS program in Copenhagen Business School where I did my undergraduate exchange.

When I was finishing my bachelor studies, I had a clear vision: to find a job abroad instead of doing a master like most of my friends. So, and thanks to my involvement in AIESEC, I went to New Delhi to work for a big Indian construction group. I was lucky enough to have the opportunity to be responsible for the Scandinavian and Greek market for natural stones, such as granite, marble, sandstone and more. The job was quite interesting, but what I most enjoyed was experiencing the diversity India had to offer.  And while in India, I enjoyed many experiences with new friends from around the world, one of which I would later meet again at IE!

The military service is something that it is mandatory in Greece. And while I was afraid that it would set me back professionally, I was selected to serve my duty in Cyprus – a really interesting destination for many reasons, and I’m glad to have had the experience.

Having lived in three countries in three years, I was ready to spend some time in Athens so for the next four years I was in the Greek capital, where I worked for the biggest factory in Greece for locks, aluminum accessories and security products. This time I was driving export sales and business strategy in regions such as the Middle East, North and South Africa, the Balkans, and CIS. I am proud that I was able to help a Greek factory survive during the crisis by really focusing on boosting exports sales.  While the job was great for seeking out new opportunities in exotic places like Algeria, Kazakhstan and others in the Gulf like Saudi Arabia, UAE and Kuwait, by the end my time with them I felt like I was ready for a change, and given the economic and political situation in Greece, I decided to embark on a new adventure.”

JM: “Your friends and family wondered why you were leaving an interesting life in Greece to go do an MBA.  Tell me about how you came to join the International MBA at IE Business School, and the impact you had on campus through your leading the IE Strategy Club, and coordinating closely with our Talent and Careers team.”

DS: “My job and life in Athens were good, but I wanted to expand my horizons and do a complete change in trajectory. Therefore, after plenty of research, I decided to do a top MBA that had global recognition, and it was a big challenge as funding was an issue. I also wanted a program that did not have a standard curriculum, but instead one that offered flexibility, many opportunities to try different things, and I wanted to study with a highly diverse group of students and professors. After all my research, I found the program I was looking for, which was the International MBA at IE Business School.

As I mentioned, I wanted to try new things and better understand myself. Learning about strategy and leadership were of course very important to me, so I campaigned for and became the president of IE Strategy Club on campus. It was a promising club, but inactive so together with few other fellow students we got it going again, and organized some impactful activities on campus. The club led engagement with the strategy departments of big multinational companies, with the goal of bringing top speakers to IE, and ideally to help fellow students access career opportunities. As a result, we hosted events with top companies like Facebook, GSK, Amadeus, Nestle and Unilever. Unilever specifically decided to offer a strategy role for MBA students at IE, which was coordinated by the Talent and Careers Department at IE. Having Natalia from Careers involved made all the difference, so a special thanks to her for her help and engagement!”

JM: “While perhaps a little bit easier for European nationals due to the common market and freedom of movement, you made that elusive “triple jump” that many MBAs would love to make. Not something that is easy to do! Tell me about the organizations you have worked with in the Internet of Things (IoT) sphere post-MBA.”

DS: “Indeed, I changed country, industry and function. After the MBA I joined the global Internet of Things (IoT) team at Vodafone as the team I joined needed someone with international commercial experience. At Vodafone, I was focusing on the strategic market development of the Retail and Smart Home sector doing strategy, sales enablement and marketing plans for these verticals. It was my first time both in a big corporate environment and in the technology industry, and my time at Vodadone was like a second MBA for me! I fell in love with the potential of IoT and I could not see my future out of this sphere.

Before talking about my current role at Telefonica, I need to point out that I was initially rejected for the role at Vodafone but through some clever insistence via LinkedIn, I was invited for additional interviews and ended up placing with them.  The point here is that a ‘no’ does not always mean a ‘definitive no’, but you need to be smart. You need to effectively transmit why the company should hire you, and to show your potential value to the company.

But back to my current role, which I’ve held since July 2017.  After Vodafone I was hired by Telefonica to work for them in the UK market, again in IoT but this time my role was broader in terms of sectors. In the beginning I was mainly involved with new propositions, strategy and partnerships. What’s great about being at Telefonica is that it also allows me to contribute to their startup accelerator, known as Wayra, which is so refreshing! In the last few months, I have worked mainly in business development dealing with councils, startups and big corporates.”

JM: “One of the things we talk about in the International MBA program at IE Business School is how to lead social impact initiatives, and giving back to the communities where we live and work. Tell me about your mentorship work at both Startupbootcamp and IoTUK.”

DS: “I noticed that startups in the technology sector are very good with technology, but some of them need help with big picture perspective, which means, among other things, focusing on customer needs, go-to-market strategy, and having the right business model. These are all things I learned at IE, especially given my time in the Startup Lab. So, I wanted both to help some of these startups and at the same time to keep myself updated in IoT space, and learn about different sectors. In IoT Startupbootcamp Accelerator which focuses on IoT connected B2B products, I am helping startups with their business plans and positioning challenges, and connecting them with helpful stakeholders. On the other hand, at IoTUK – which is a government-funded initiative, I am helping a startup that is trying to develop a service that is both for people who are sensitive in air pollution, and that would also help local authorities collect valuable data for policy-setting purposes. Giving back to the local startup ecosystem is enriching in itself of course, but it also provides a complementary outlet to my day-to-day work at a large corporate, where I get to connect with creative and ambitious entrepreneurs.”

JM: “You lived through the threat of Grexit, and are about to experience Brexit, why stay in London? What is it about the city that keeps you there? And finally, what are some of your favorite places in the city?”

DS: “Living in an ‘exit’ environment has taught me to be alert and ready to jump on great opportunities when they come up, or even to start something from zero. So, because of this it doesn’t concern me as much as it might have in the past. I feel that being comfortable with change is a fundamental part of the MBA experience, and we certainly learned how to adapt to change – and find opportunities, as part of the International MBA at IE Business School.

London is a great place to live despite the relatively high living costs, and in practical terms, not much has changed despite the uncertainty related to the coming separation of the UK from the European Union. Moreover, I choose London because today it is the best city in Europe for IoT professionals, and you can easily travel to most destinations in the world from here; try many international cuisines; and meet new friends and old friends who might be passing through the city. We have also created a engaged IE community here thanks to the efforts of our graduates, the IE UK Alumni Club and the IE London Office.

And since you asked, some of my favorite places in the city to explore are the sites and sounds around the canals of Little Venice in Paddington, to head to Regent Park for a little fresh air, or even to Camden Market for something good to eat.”

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