Me, Myself and Illuminet: 10 minutes with Maria Drakoula

We are keen to show off the fantastic faces and stories behind the Illuminet brand, and we sure have plenty of them. Me, Myself and Illuminet: 10 minutes with… is a series where over time we are going to get to know a little bit about these fantastic faces. Once a month our Marketing Coordinator Chloe Jones will interview a new face with a new story and gain an insight into their lifestyle and background, going on to explore the fantastic work they have done in the past, present and future for Illuminet.

Todays guest is Maria Drakoula, Illuminet’s Business Operations Manager. We hope you enjoy Episode 2 of this series.

Also, if you missed Episode 1, click the button below to catch up on the series so far.

Interview Transcript

Tell us a little bit about you, nothing too professional at this stage, just a little insight into your life for us.

Maria: I have been in the UK for seven years now. I’m originally from Greece, I’m a mother of a girl, one girl. And, yes, when I’m not working, I really enjoy going for long walks and pre pandemic I really loved meeting my friends and I really love going out for drinks and all. 

Chloe: I guess your love for walks has perhaps increased since we’ve been in lockdown.

Maria: Absolutely yes yes yes!

What is your favourite thing about Greece vs the UK?

I love, lots of things about the UK and from Greece. But I think the biggest thing about the UK is how green it is and so many beautiful places that you can visit. If you want to go close to nature you know and feel, surrounded by beautiful trees and beautiful rivers, lakes, it is so so beautiful. I really enjoy the fact that people have made an effort throughout the centuries to preserve places of historical importance estates castles and ancient buildings, not to mention Stonehenge etc and I’m fascinated by that. So that’s what I love most in the UK, from Greece. Of course we have the culture and everything. I want to say it’s the food I love. The Greek food is fantastic.

Where did you grow up in Greece?

Maria: I was raised in the middle of Athens, and at just 10 years old that’s when we moved out of Athens, with my family, my parents and my brother, and due to work reasons for my dad, and we were a bit more rural so we were in a little village outside of Athens, and yeah, different lifestyle. They were both lovely places to be in different ways. But certainly identify myself as a, as a city girl.

Chloe: I can relate on that as well. You love the walks but it’s nice to be in the city.

Where and what did you study?

Yes I studied in Greece in the Athens University, the couple district University. I studied philosophy education, with a major in psychology. That was a proper university degree; a bachelor’s degree. And I’ve studied lots of languages, I really am fascinated by different languages and so I can speak German, Italian, and a little bit of Russian.

Chloe: That’s impressive, are you fluent in all of them?

Maria: No, no, I’m only fluent in Greek, English and German.

Tell us an interesting fact you learnt!?

So there is one particular thing I learned that you have only seven seconds where the people around you are going to form an impression of you. And after the seven seconds it is really hard to change their opinion of who you are. It takes for our brain only seven seconds to form an actual opinion if they like you or not.

What were you doing early days into your career?

Well, after finishing my degree, my bachelor’s degree. I continued working because I used to work throughout my studies, and I did all sorts of different jobs, and most of them were around sales. I used to work as a salesperson as well. But when I moved into the UK I was mainly in sales operations I was an analyst for quite big companies in data management, and that was for about five, six years and then I joined Illuminet as Business Operations Manager. 

Where, when and how did you meet Illuminet?

It was actually the Chief Technology Officer Kit Neal, I used to know Kit and we used to work together in a previous company. When he joined Illuminet he realised that actually he needs a person that has my skills and work attitude, because he used to know me how I’m working etc. and he talked to me then about this role of Business Operations Manager and if I’m interested. And that’s when I say, Yes, please. That sounds amazing because working in a big company is great for stability and changes for growth. But you don’t have so much of a say in making a difference or an impact or a change in processes and when you see something, so I thought this would be a fantastic opportunity for me to use my brain a little bit more instead of following a process and make a difference to the better.

What was it that drew you to Illuminet?

Yes, and it’s also because I met the people for the interview and then I realised they are intelligent people that are very very respectful that work as a team. And this is fantastic the work ethic is, is really what I believe in as how you should be working. Also, another factor that persuaded me was that we have our green credentials and that we care for the environment. We really want to make a difference and deliver to our children a better planet and a better society, it’s a very important thing for me.

How long have you been at Illuminet?

Maria: Just over a year since September 2019, and very interesting year it has been.

Chloe: I was going to say…how have you found the first year?

Maria: Yeah, brilliant there are a lot of things to do and what I enjoy most of all is the variety and of the projects I’m involved on my responsibilities. I like to work under stress, and to have lots of different things to to work with. So what I do tell my family that when they ask ‘you’re Business Operations, what do you do?’ I say that I’m responsible for the products team first of all, and I also help the whole company make decisions and plans for how to develop our message to our clients, How to make decisions that are going to help us achieve our targets for for the year. And I am also highly involved in producing a new product, develop design and create new products, and I’ve worked this year also in setting the standards for ISO:9001, which was very, very important for the company, as you give an assurance to your clients that the quality is standard and, you know, we have rules to abide by.

What is your biggest work achievement?

It was hard work to produce the ISO and I do believe that this is my biggest achievement. But another thing that I feel very proud of is developing is the online version of our consulting services.

What is the most interesting thing you are working on right now?

We’re working on a new product as well, it’s being developed. Currently, I’m involved also in perfecting our products, and the online version of our products. I’m also involved in the delivery of one of our 90 day spin cycle products, and it’s fascinating because that’s the first project that I have been involved with, and present at the delivery. So I can take notes and see how we can make improvements on our products according to the customer feedback.

What are you most excited for about the future with Illuminet?

I’m really excited about the potential in the post pandemic era, I mean, lots of things are changing for businesses which we have started to realise that people can work from home. So that would mean potentially that there’s going to be a major restructuring in how people are working, their strategies that the companies follow, and we will be there to help people because we went as a business through this ourselves, and as consultancies, we have a way to help our customers so I’m really excited about that. And I’m also excited about the fact that all our products are becoming now virtual as I said, which set aside the fact that we’re under a pandemic now etc. It will be more easy to work for companies that have potentially lots of different locations so you have a department perhaps that you want to involve in a project that someone lives in Birmingham, someone lives in Athens, or someone else lives in the USA, etc. All these people you cannot gather them for a 90 day project for instance to work for 90 days in a specific region so everybody can work from home, virtually now we have great visual boards that they can actually do real time collaboration on that so very excited to making that work and disseminating the knowledge.

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