Before joining Sopra Steria Benelux as Senior Manager, Greek-born Konstantina Kyriakopoulou had already worked for a couple of years in ICT consultancy, most notably for Sopra Steria in the UK. Prior to that, however, she had mainly been employed as a researcher at a number of universities and research centres, both in Greece and England. We talked to Konstantina about her transition from the academic to the business world.
You have a background in experimental psychology and social neuroscience. What made you decide to take on those studies?
“I was always intrigued by the way we humans make decisions and interact with our environment, be it technological or societal. That’s why I decided to study neuroscience at the University College in London. That study gave me a really detailed view of how information is processed in the human brain and translated into actions. Having this scientific background, and building on it, allowed me to provide tangible recommendations to governments, both in the UK and at the European level.”
What was your research about? What specific topics did you focus on?
“For my PhD, I focused on research in the field of judgement and decision-making: how people use their judgement to forecast, monitor and control their behaviour. As Research Project Manager at the UK’s Loughborough University, my last academic position, I led a variety of projects on users’ interaction with their environment and, more specifically, the products and services they use. These projects particularly served or benefited the utilities sector in the UK, as they dealt, for instance, with the reduction of energy consumption and greenhouse gas emissions.
Researching end-users' interaction with IT technologies in this specific context, my main challenge was to provide valid answers to questions such as: how do users interact with new or upcoming technologies in the energy sector? How are these technologies perceived by them? How can we measure the adoption of these technologies? And how can we forecast their adoption in the future, in order to design technologies which are more widely accepted by end-users?”
After leaving your academic position, you also supported Sopra Steria UK with their user interaction research projects for a while, again working with the British Government.
“Indeed. In the course of my career, I’ve worked extensively on projects that focused on user-centred design and ICT, not only with other academics but also with commercial and industrial partners such as Sopra Steria. My research work also made me realise that there is a great need to provide actionable recommendations that impact the wider public. This realisation opened up the door for me to coordinate the full life cycle of large-scale IT projects that support the digital transformation of public administrations. I first did this on behalf of the British Government - at Sopra Steria UK, among others. And today I’m doing it on behalf of the European Commission, as Project Manager in the EU Public Sector Department at Sopra Steria Benelux.”
What kind of projects are you currently managing?
“I don’t want to go into too much detail, but I am basically coordinating a number of complex large-scale IT projects on behalf of different European institutions. One such institution is the Directorate-General for Health and Food Safety, DG SANTE. Other examples are the European Chemicals Agency, ECHA, and the Directorate-General for Informatics, DG DIGIT. It is my job to ensure the necessary alignment between the EU’s overall digital policy and the different government initiatives. I am also tasked with facilitating the exchange of knowledge and experience with other governments and European or international organisations.”
What attracted you to this particular position?
“First of all, there was the company, Sopra Steria, which really attracted me. More specifically, it was the fact that I knew from experience already how heavily they tend to invest in their employees - through extracurricular activities, but also through training opportunities, for instance.
I also found Sopra Steria to be a truly international organisation. In the sense that they give you real visibility into their projects undertaken across different European countries in both the private and the public sectors. Apart from the diversity this brings to your everyday work, this also allows for internal mobility. When you join, admittedly, you are assigned to a specific business unit, where you take up a specific role for a specific industry. However, there is enough flexibility within the company to allow employees to move, if possible, to another business unit where they can take up another role for another industry. So you don’t necessarily have to stay stuck in one role, industry or business unit.
The other decisive factor was the position itself. Because I had this long experience in working with the Public Sector, I wanted to actively pursue that career path and build on my previous experience.”
What do you like most about your job?
“The fast-paced, challenging environment, for sure, along with the need for constant problem-solving. Then there’s also the personal satisfaction I get from providing design ideas and coordinating the actual design of these systems that have the potential to be used by all our citizens and businesses in the EU. Ultimately, most - if not all - of these EU projects that I manage will be realised for the use and benefit of all of us: you, me, my parents back in Greece… That these projects provide such benefits to society is already a reward on its own, if you ask me.”
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