The first woman President of the Hellenic-Australian Chamber of Commerce and Industry
Georgegina Poulos is a senior executive in multinational companies with a strong Human Resources focus and extensive experience in both the international and domestic markets, across a variety of industries. She has a general background in Human Resources Management and her expertise is in organizational development, training and development, leadership, culture building and change management.
She currently is one of the most important women in Australia, Global Director People at T2 TEA and Global Retail Operations at Unilever and President of the Hellenic-American Chamber of Commerce and Industry (HACCI). She is the first woman who was elected, in April 2016, as the head of an exclusively male-dominated organization, as was HACCI, for many decades.
She is of Greek descent, being the first child of first and second generation Greek immigrants in Australia. She was born in 1970, in the small town of Traralgon. Growing up, when she finished school, she left for London where he worked for a whole decade in the restaurant business field in the United Kingdom and in Amsterdam, and then returned to Australia to study Human Resources (HR) and Industrial Relations and earn a Masters in Applied Sciences (Organisational Dynamics) of the RMIT University in Melbourne.
One of her grandfathers was the one who first arrived in Australia from Cyprus. A few years later, when he had already secured the right conditions for his family, his wife and three children followed him, one of whom was her at that time 9 year-old mother-to-be. Her father’s journey was a little different, after arriving from Greece, from a small village in the Peloponnese near Akrata, alone, at the age of 16. A few years later he met his future wife, fell in love with her “and a few months ago celebrated the fifty years of marriage”, as Ms. Poulos says in an interview with the newspaper “Kathimerini”. “Normally, my name should have been Alexandra have, since Alexander was my dad’s father’s name. But our relatives insisted -and convinced my parents- that they should not “waste” the name for a girl” she said, smiling.
Ms. Georgegina Poulos grew up, as she said, with very strong influences from both Greece and Cyprus. “Listening to family’s stories, learning our culture and traditions. My parents never pushed me to study or marry. The only thing they tried to breathe into me from a very young age was the love for the fellow human. And they themselves have done an important charity work”, she mentioned.
Generosity and empathy, she said, are virtues that she was taught since she was very little. She learned that there will always be people around us who are not as lucky as we, and we should help them. She learned what solidarity, fidelity and morality mean, that she must open her door with a smile to anyone who needs help, to share what I have – not just what she has on her plate, in her wallet or in her wardrobe, but mostly her knowledge, because that is what will make a difference, help someone become a better person and contribute overall to the society.
At 18 years old, she traveled for the first time in Greece and did not skip to visit her father’s village. “My family was anxious. “You do not speak Greek, how are you going?” they told me”. By the time I step my foot there, I will speak!” I assured them. And that’s exactly how it happened. I immediately fell in love with Greece. I was crying when the day came that I had to to go”, Ms. Poulos remembers.
For the new generation of immigrants from Greece, in the years of the economic crisis, she said that the road is not always paved with rose petals. “In the 1960s, when large waves of immigrants arrived here, Australia was considered the country of opportunity. People believed that, even if they did not have many qualifications, they would make it. Today, thanks to the agreement between the two countries, Australia and Greece, there is a visa for those who want to work, but it can be difficult. There are still prejudices: if you do not speak good English, if your name is difficult to pronounce, you will find obstacles. And that even applies to educated and competent people. What I want to say is that the transition is not smooth for everyone”, she said.
For the fact that she is the first woman to be elected head of a purely male-dominated organization, the Hellenic-American Chamber of Commerce and Industry, she says that this was not a simple thing to be achieved.
“Some people in the Greek-Australian community said,” Who is she? Where did she come from?”. But that did not put me down. I am very resistant, I want to fight my battles, hoping that I will act as a role model for younger women who are now starting their career: to show them that they can have it all! I have everything in my world, and I am grateful for that”, said Ms. Poulos.
One of her typical working days can begin very early in the morning at 5:30 with the first business phone call and may end with one last call scheduled for late at night, at 22:30. Because she has no children, she is somewhat flexible; the only one with whom she is negotiating her hours is her partner, said the busy and multitasking Ms. Poulos.
Asked, finally, about what her Greek origin meant to her, she replied that “It means that I am proud of my roots, that I work hard, that I want to have fun in my free time, that I have strong connection with my family and my friends, that I do not take things very seriously, but I always remember what matters most in life. Oh, and I’m cooking huge quantities of meals for my dinner tables – which my guests cannot consume entirely. What’s more… Greek than that?”.
Ms. Georgegina Poulos has done an admirable career in the field of large multinational businesses and companies. Her key strength is that she combines excellent organizational and communication skills with a strategic business approach to human resources. She has proven experience in assisting organizations to achieve sustainable business growth and a positive operating culture within complex multi-site environments.
She is also an active member of the Australian and Hellenic-Australian society, by taking part in charity events, by making fundraisers to support the weakest people and by participating in many non-profit organizations.
Interview Source: Kathimerini