Ms Elena Sarantidi (DEREE ’05), KPMG E-services Sales Senior Advisor, spoke to Touch Base at the Ag. Paraskevi campus in mid November about her studies at DEREE, her fondest memories, her work and the current job market.
What are your best memories from your days at DEREE?
I have great memories, enviable ones I would say.
First of all, DEREE’s premises are very professional. You feel like you are going to college outside Greece, like in the US as we see on TV. And, you also have, outside your courses, extracurricular activities right on campus. I was very impressed by the library as well. I had a space to read between my courses.
I was comparing myself with other friends who were attending other universities, and found that I had a specific schedule, whereas they did not. I also had extra time to prepare for my midterm and for my exams. From day one I knew what I had to do in the semester. I think this is a major thing that helped me afterwards, when I went to work with a multinational company, I knew what a deadline was. What you have to do in a specific timeframe. What it means to have a project from the beginning to the end. Here at DEREE, every course was a project.
I learned how to deal with pressure – not only with exams – as things moved quickly.
I began to have another perspective of time management, which I think helped me as well in my professional life.
I also had the best professors at DEREE. I had Mr Athanasopoulos. And, two of my best friends are from DEREE, like family, as we were maid of honors to each other – my koubares.
Can you tell us about your role at KPMG?
I am a senior advisor, I have under my responsibility our e-recruiting tools. So I’m in HR consulting, where we consult customers on e-recruiting products. One of them is Just Jobs, the site with job ads from KPMG and our clients. I use social media a lot too, reposting job ads. Social media is something that is really rising. Most people are looking for their next jobs through social media ads.
What’s your typical day?
I don’t have a typical day. Mostly visits to customers, either existing or new ones, talking to customers over the phone and following their needs, interviews with candidates, posting and publicizing our ads, or our customers’ ads through our site, and utilizing social media also. I also have presentations, speeches to companies, and other tasks.
And your job with Celebrity movers before KPMG? What did that entail?
It’s a company that moves expats all over the world, either coming to Greece or moving out of Greece. It was really interesting as it was very international and I met people from all over the world. We were moving ambassadors, for example. I was like an account manager – that is everything that the customer needed, I was responsible for the service. It was again like project management.
I had experience from consulting, especially from meeting people face to face, and it helped me in order to build relationships with these people.
Can you tell us about your first job? Did DEREE play a role in helping you find a job?
When I left DEREE, my last course was in July, and at the end of September I had already started working for sales for DELL. This came about after an alumna at DELL asked DEREE for interview candidates for DELL based on their academic performance. I interviewed and got the job, along with others.
You also spoke of time management, project management, and learning about deadlines at DEREE. What other things did you gain from DEREE?
First of all, DEREE gave me an international prospective. In Greece, we were not so used to meeting people from other cultures back then. It was difficult for me before I came to DEREE.
As far as networking, when I meet people that are DEREE alumni, I think it’s psychological as well, you have a positive feeling about those people. Also in my work, it has helped me because DEREE is well respected. For example, it’s not only that I have finished the College, but also that people I meet have a sense of security that they’re talking to a person that is well educated and has gained some values from their studies.
In business terms, when I see clients who work in corporations that I do business with, and who have finished DEREE, working in HR or working in some other aspect of the business, we speak the same language…
What would you advise students or anyone for that matter who wants to break into your field? What are the things that they need to work on? What are the skills needed in HR consulting?
I think the most important thing in consulting is to be very, very positive towards other people, and let them talk to you. Hear them, because there is no other way to understand customers’ needs if you talk all the time – you will gain nothing.
Also, what’s very important is that you always have to try to learn new things. When you finish your studies, you have an overall perspective of the business, but as time goes by, maybe you will forget some things, so you must always be updated about the things you have already learned, and keep on learning new things. Go to seminars, read publications, always be in touch with your past, and always seek opportunities to learn new things. You never know what you will use.
You will not become a manager at the age of 25, but maybe at the age of 35 or 45 when you become a manager, you will need these things. So, try and learn things that you lack – for example, go to a seminar or encourage your company to make you better in let’s say presentation, if that is a skill you need. If we don’t ask for things, they will never come. Try to recognize areas of improvement in order for you to get better.
What are some of the new things people are asking for in HR? Have the skills that people are looking for changed with the crisis?
New things being asked for are people who can handle multiple roles. That is people who are well organized, who have potential, who have a positive attitude towards the job. For example, executives who may get under their management not only Greece, but also at the EMEA level for example. So, people who can deal with multiple roles and responsibilities, which is not easy!
There’s been a shift in your job as well, hasn’t there? Towards social media and online?
Yes, and it’s a positive change, in my personal opinion, because through the internet and through social media, you can reach your target audience. And that’s the issue. Our customer, when he is looking for a candidate, is looking for someone from a specific audience.
How big is the consulting market in Greece in your specific field – HR and e-recruiting? It’s a fledgling field, isn’t it?
In Greece, KPMG is the only company that has e-recruiting services. KPMG has had E-recruiting since 2001, but we created some new services a few years ago. What we integrated in Just Jobs is social media. We became more extrovert.
Now, what would you tell young people studying and thinking about what they will do with their future? How many openings do you have?
Currently we have 30 to 40 ads in total in Just Jobs by KPMG and by clients.
Is there a market or field that has more openings?
I would say currently, though it depends, we have many openings in the IT field and in accounting and finance.
But if you look at our site, you’ll also see that there are also ads in consumer insights, for brand managers, lawyers, legal representatives, positions in retail, project managers, transfer pricing, and others.
Has demand picked up? Is there a trend? Are more companies hiring more people from where you stand – what is your outlook?
We feel that yes, things are progressing and getting better. We are not in the year 2004, but in terms of previous years, yes, we see a positive involvement, let’s say. That things are getting better. It’s not easy yet, but we feel that things are getting better.
So, what would you advise young people looking for jobs, who can’t find jobs? Should they stay in Greece, tough it out, or leave? That is, do you see recovery sooner or later?
To tell you the truth, no-one can tell us now that things will become better in one, two, three, five years. It’s still a turbulent environment. We see some positive things, but no-one can tell you exactly. Yes, we feel that things are going better, but the decision to stay or leave Greece, I don’t think it has to do with the crisis. I would advise people that they should go if they really want to have an international experience, and when they come back it will be great for them, and for the country, for the companies here in Greece. If someone wants to stay in Greece, and find a company that will give him or her the opportunity to go abroad and come back, that’s also something they can do. That really depends on your own personal targets. It’s not always the case that leaving Greece is always bad or good. You have to know what you want to do.
Do you have any regrets? Something you didn’t do in your career?
No. I made some bad decisions and some good decisions. That’s life. But, there are always things you can learn, from the companies you went to, from those you left, from where you are now.
I don’t have regrets, because everywhere I went gave me something new. Companies may share some characteristics, but they are also completely different environments. What you can do is you can pick the good things, and you’re always trying to find something that will be closer to your own personality and your skills. What opens a door? Yes, your CV, you studies, what you have as working experience, but what is keeping you in a company and helping you evolve is your soft skills, and your personality.
On November 26, Ms Sarantidi also visited the DEREE campus and spoke to DEREE Business undergrads regarding the field of consulting, career opportunities, certifications and skills needed, and also interviewed students for job openings.
Elena Sarantidi BIO
Ms Sarantidi, today E-services Sales Senior Advisor at KPMG Greece, earned her Bachelor’s in Business Administration from DEREE in 2005 (3.49 GPA), and quickly got a job in sales with DELL.
She was at DELL for over two years before becoming Senior Sales Consultant at Executive Search, People for Business, where she remained for four years until August 2011. Ms Sarantidi has also worked as a Business Development Consultant for two years with Celebrity International Movers SA, before joining the KPMG team two years ago.