Posted on Oct 28, 2019
Firstly, I would like to thank all of you for giving me the chance to be part of this small but important Leaside Rotary Club. I expressed my interest in joining the club on 17thMarch 2019 through the club’s website and immediately Don Bello, who afterwards became my mentor, invited me to your meeting that was held on Monday 25 March 2019. Still I remember the warm atmosphere and the welcome I received by all of you as a guest.
As most you remember, the story of myself and family and our path to Canada was outlined in the Leaside Life magazine (April 2019 edition). Now let’s go into more details about me:…
I was born in 17th July 1978, in Athens and raised in Patras which is well known for its port that connects the country to West Europe. My father was working as train driver and my mother was a teacher at the public elementary school of our neighborhood. Both were well-known and accepted in the local community due to their character, ethics and straightness. This helped myself and my sister to get socialized and develop friendships that last till now.
At the age of 16, I had to decide what I would like to study. As teenager I was always inspired by the army. I was thinking to follow this kind of carrier that probably would have prisoned me in a small area of the country. My uncle who was an Engineer, called me at his home on a day that he was suffering from a back injury and he was laying into his bed. He told me … ‘’I heard that you want to follow a job that doesn’t suit you and you will regret later. Be an Engineer!!’’ I don’t know why but I believed him, so 2 years later with the support of my parents, I was in the Civil Engineering department of Patras University. That meant University Student in my city! Less money to spendby the family. What a great chance to buy a car with the money I was saving!! The first 2 years I was very dedicated to my studies and I was keeping a balance between University and teenager life with all what that means… 😊!
In 1999 I was assigned by a professor to develop a study for application methods of sprayed concrete in tunneling. Luckily there was an on-going big project with 6 tunnels to be built. It was the city’s By-Pass project with duration 4 years. I thought that this was my chance to enter this wonderful world of construction. I visited the project office with someone I knew, and he was involved in this project as 3rd party consultant. He introduced me to the Assistant Project Manager with whom soon we became very close friends. I explained that the purpose of my visit was my study in University and surprisingly they offered me a summer job!! My Study for the application of Sprayed Concrete was completed in 3 weeks with an excellent mark. Most important was that the contractor offered me to continue the job even after summer. With no hesitation I accepted. Job satisfaction and money made me set aside my studies… I lost semesters but I do not regret. I gained work experience that you can’t learn in Universities. I strongly believe in the below motto: Education is what you get when you read a fine print, experience is what you get when you Don’t…
After 2 years in the project with the title Engineer Trainee, I decided that I had to go on for the next step. I left the job and focused again in my studies that were left behind. In 2003 I graduated finally as Civil Engineer and immediately I joined the army as military service of 12 months is mandatory for all male in my country. During that period, I was wondering what I should do for work when I would be back to the real world.
A superintendent, whom I met while I was working as student approached me and asked me whether I was interested to work in Saudi Arabia with a Greek company. I studied the reputation of the company and after being shocked with the fact that this company was chosen by the Saudi Royal family to build their road and railway network back in 50’s I informed him to proceed by referring me to the Management. It was a period that many projects were awarded to them and theywere inneed for people with experience and with less experience like me at that time.
I arrived on 15th October 2005 in Jeddah with mindset positive that turned immediately negative when the door of the plane opened. I said to myself that I will try to stay only for the probation period which was 3 months. The 3 months became 2 years that remembering them now I can smile. It was a great experience as I interfered in building a Power Plant Project that probably till now is the biggest of its kind in the world.
When I was 28 (1.5 year after I landed in Saudi Arabia) I started wondering what I will do with my life in general. The place where I was livingand working was a compound 100 km south of Jeddah. Desert. Sun and Sand. I thought that this is not a place to continue. The thought of making family started to whisper my ears.
I left in May 2017. I was sure that I would not be able to stay in my country as my mentality was already formed to work in different way. Greece was not an option. I was looking to find jobs abroad.
The time to leave KSA was perfect as summer in Greece was ahead, my pockets loaded with petro-dollars so I didn’t have to worry about job for the near future. I can say that this was one of the best periods of my life. Reckless life. But winter around the corner. I enjoyed till December where I started applying for jobs again. A call for an interview asked me to visit a company in Athens. I drove there, the interview went really well and before I reached my car to drive back home the offer came through phone. Area Manager for West Regions and Deputy Country Manager with salary 50% more than what I was getting in Saudi Arabia. Country: Syria… All I knew for Syria was a country with great history, food and wonderful people… I couldn’t say no.
2nd of January 2009, I flew to Damascus where I lived for a year. During that period, I met my wife Rania. Marriage was not in my calendar and I believe that all men never have it… it happens…. We got married in September 2010 and as the Project in Syria completed, I had to think again where is next? Now Greece was for me the best option, but the financial crisis forced us abroad again. January 2011 I was back in Saudi Arabia. Same company that I worked from 2005 till 2007. New chapter in our common life started. Our first daughter was born at the end of 2011 and the second in 2014. This chapter lasted 4.5 wonderful for us years. My job was recognized and secured and since I rejoined, I had the title of Quality Manager in various projects (mainly Rail projects). Another passport gained: The managerial title.
For some issues, mainly disagreements with the Management on my role, led us to move out of Saudi Arabia and move into the neighboring Qatar. I was called by a company that was executing a prestigious project. LRT project in Doha and the company was in the top 5 global contractors. Although I was not feeling confident at the beginning as it was my first project of this extent, soon I gained the recognition by the Management. After 3 years I got a proposal for Director position in the project, but this came after I had the offer to come to Canada which I accepted with no hesitation as we were looking for new options and new location for the family. To be honest, Canada was not an option due to the weather. I never thought about moving here. Denmark and Australia were the first targets instead.
In November 2018, we came in Toronto to work for the LRT Eglinton Crosstown Project as Quality Control Manager. It was a shock for us, but the kids really enjoyed the snow. My wife and I didn’t. 
Despite the first shock, we consider Canada a place that we can call home for the years to come.
A friend from Greece who was the President of Patras Rotary Club, briefed me about its principles and advised to come and join. While I was in Middle East this was not an option as there were no clubs available. He told me to consider it as a break during the week. This is exactly how I see Rotary. A getaway during a stressful week. An opportunity to get involved in the community. I am happy to interact with people like you, who are always keen to help and provide advises and directions. The best simplified approach on what Rotary is, was given by my 8 years old daughter to her 5 years old sister. ‘’Rotary is a group of good people who like to help’’. Simple words.
That’s all for now… Thank you for listening….