Achilleas Kanaris, the CEO of Vodafone Romania, shares his professional story with Business Review and sets some coordinates for young people who are thinking of pursuing a career in the telecom industry.
By Anda Sebesi
Vodafone Romania CEO Achilleas Kanaris’s original career plan after graduating from university in the UK as an engineer was to go back to Greece and run a business together with his father. But since he had some doubts about this move, he decided to give consulting a try. He was hired by Booz Allen Hamilton, a major US-based consultancy, and stayed in London for the job. Then the opportunity to jump into the telecom industry came along, and that’s when he joined O2. Later, Vodafone reached out with another amazing opportunity for Kanaris, who was already a big fan of the brand.
“When I went to Greece to join the Vodafone sales organisation in a supporting role, I was unfortunately fortunate, because the business was not doing well, and the financial crisis was also hitting the country right when I went back, in 2009. We therefore had to deal with both crises at the same time. That was a fantastic learning experience for me, because it really helped me focus, grow, be really quick in my decision-making process, and very clear about where I want to go,” Kanaris recalls. He adds that Vodafone Greece has been used as an example of how you can turn around the fundamentals of a business when you are in a tough situation. “It was a great professional school, a fantastic journey of personal growth, and it helped me develop a philosophy that I’ve been following ever since,” he says.
Kanaris has been at the helm of Vodafone Romania since July last year, and he says that the Romanian business is substantially larger than the Albanian unit he previously managed for almost four years between 2018 and 2021, and that it operates on a far more competitive market. “This motivates me and pushes me to evolve even further. Vodafone gives me the chance to grow on a professional level. It is an organisation that continuously innovates; it is fearless, committed, and brave, yet human-centric – and these are values that I also stand by.” He explains that the covid-19 pandemic required Vodafone Romania to deliver in days what it would have normally done in years. “We had to move all our operations online,” he says. While it was a tremendous challenge for an operator like Vodafone Romania, with all its call centers and shops, the lesson for Kanaris was that anything was possible. “The pandemic was an negative situation that led to a very positive outcome – it provided a platform for venturing out into new areas, including decision-wise. And the major takeaway is that we came through by empowering each team member. Each and every one of us has proven our ability to individually drive collective change,” Kanaris notes. He adds that now, on its journey towards becoming a fully fledged technology company, Vodafone doesn’t just rely on top-down, take-it-or leave-it decisons. “It’s actually a set of ideas that we discuss, sense-check, and co-create with the whole organisation. Hence our company motto: #togetherwecan.”
According to Kanaris, having access to anything and everything through a mobile devicee, at any time, saving valuable time, enriching our lives with information, and connecting with people wherever they are, is the most important aspect of the huge technological leap of the last 15 years. “You can now use your mobile phone and reliable high-speed networks to access e-health solutions, mobile banking, education, utilities, all the way to search & rescue services in case of emergency. This has changed the way we live and operate, and telecoms have played a central role,” Kanaris adds.
Asked to give some advice to young people who are thinking of a career in the telecommunications industry, Kanaris puts it simply: “Start now and be prepared for the unknown, and stay open to disruption and to constantly reinventing yourself. You’ll have the chance to closely witness the industry’s shift from bare connectivity to technology and digitalization. Years from now, you’ll look back and see how much the world has changed – and you will have been a part of that change.”