Georgegina Poulos was the first person I approached for the “21 Women for 2021” interview series.
With her positive attitude she encouraged me to follow a storytelling path towards recording the voices of Australian women of Greek heritage who challenge stereotypes and break glass ceilings.
And if you think this is a rather unusual intro, you should read on.
A Global Director People at T2 Tea, Georgegina is responsible for shaping, leading and delivering the company’s global People strategy in order to support and enable performance against agreed business objectives.
Five years ago, by becoming the first woman to lead the male-dominated Hellenic-Australian Chamber of Commerce and Industry (HACCI) the Greek Cypriot senior executive, proved that generosity and empathy are virtues that have the potential to create change.
Now she’s on a mission to transfer her knowledge to future female leaders who will in turn contribute to the society as a whole.
Q: You are currently the Global Director of People at T2 but you chose an -out of the box- path to pursue your career. Tell us a bit more about it.
A: I started working at a young age in my Mum’s clothing store, with a love for fashion I opened my own small boutique when I was 19. At 21, my parents gave me a year abroad and I stayed 10!
I remember sitting in Burger King on Tottenham Court Road with my best friend and the Evening Standard looking for jobs. We would each take a turn to run up the stairs to use the payphone. Towards the end of the day, it was my friend’s turn and she made the call to Johnny Pizza Bar. He asked if she had any experience, she said no but my friend does. So, I called back and I ended up working for Gioma Restaurants for 10 years in London and The Netherlands. I trained all new managers, developed a Children’s marketing campaign and opened 6 restaurants.
After returning to Australia in 2000, I stayed in hospitality and completed my Post Graduate in HR and IR. My first HR role was for HMS Host at Melbourne Airport, from there I moved to the Stamford Plaza Hotel.
After spending 15+ years in hospitality I decided to move into another industry, Supply Chain. I soon realised my strength as an HR practitioner was strategic thinking, organisational design and working in complex and challenging environments.
I have been able to transition across multiple industries such as Food Service, Logistics, Energy, Retail and Local Government. I’ve loved the flexibility of running my own consultancy and working in organisations to build capability to deliver strategy. Four years ago, I joined T2 and I love every minute of it.
Q: How has your Greek background and values helped you navigate your career path and overcome barriers?
A: Work ethic and resilience have been instilled in me since a child and I bring these attributes with me.
Q: You were the first woman to lead the Hellenic Australian Chamber of Commerce and Industry (HACCI) as the Chair of Board. Why is it important for more women to follow in your footsteps?
A: I was privileged to be the first female Chair of HACCI. The current Chair is also a woman as are many of the Greek Community Groups.
For me it is important that I am a role model to younger females within our community so they can see it isn’t a ‘boys club’, that women can be strong influential leaders both in business and in the community
Q: You have worked around the world. Are our workplaces inclusive enough in Australia?
A: I think organisations globally still have a lot of work to do to be truly inclusive. We have strong social biases that need to be broken. I am proud of the work we are doing at T2 in this space, we have just started this journey and we too have so much more to do
Q: What is the message you would like to share with our readers this International Women’s Day?
A: This year’s theme “Women in leadership: Achieving an equal future in a COVID-19 world” is so important as many women were severely impacted last year during the peak of COVID and still are.
Flexibility was one of the great outcomes of last year. Employers need to continue to embrace flexibility to encourage more women to take up leadership positions. Whether it be flex roles & or Work From Home (WFH).
The notion of working 5 days in the office 0800-1800 no longer exists. COVID has shown us that true leaders can lead virtually and by embracing flexibility creates more opportunity for female leaders to thrive both personally and professionally
My own personal takeaway is that having flexibility to anywhere, anytime and any way I become more productive and a better leader.