Maria, tell us about your background.
I grew up in the rural Region of Epirus in Greece. My parents were both primary school teachers, teaching in remote agricultural villages. I always admired their passion for teaching and encouraging their students and their families to pursue further higher education regardless of their background. From a young age, my passion was books and STEM subjects such as Maths, Science and Chemistry.
What did you study at University and why?
I was always fascinated by structures and their engineering; hence, at 18, I moved to South Wales, UK, where I completed a BEng Honors Degree in Civil Engineering and a Master of Science in Civil Engineering.
Recently I completed a Business Sustainability Management and a Real Estate Sustainability management Course from Cambridge University CISL.
What is your role today?
I started my career in the Structural Design team of one of the biggest infrastructure projects in Greece (the Rion-Antirion Bridge Project). I continued working on big international infrastructure projects. My career soon evolved into Project Quality, Occupational Health and Safety and Environmental Management.
In 2006, I moved to the United Arab Emirates. I was involved in similar roles in developing Mega and Iconic Projects in the region, such as Masdar City and The Qasr Al Watan of Abu Dhabi. From 2011 until 2022, I worked with the largest government public asset development company in the Corporate Strategy Division, overlooking the company’s performance monitoring and control mechanisms and operational policies and processes in line with international and regional frameworks.
In March 2022, I founded “Sustainability Switch Consultancy”, a boutique consultancy aiming to make an impact by helping companies through their sustainability and energy transition journey.
Why did you decide to start your own company?
Most recently, my working experience has centred on establishing and evaluating projects and change programmes from a sustainability perspective, ensuring organisational / client adherence to Sustainable Development Goals.
I believe in transferrable skills within different disciplines; hence, I can make a bigger impact by sharing my experience and sustainability passion across different business sectors, specifically assisting companies through the Energy Transition journey and Sustainable Development goals compliance.
I set up my company to make this journey and transition unique and customised to each client’s identity and sustainable aspiration, as well as achieve self -actualisation.
Do you have a purpose in life and passions?
My purpose is to achieve self-actualisation on a personal and professional level. Engage with like-minded people and create positive, innovative and creative impact through my personal and professional interactions.
What is DE&I for you? Can you share situations, comments or news that are still shocking you today?
Having worked internationally, I have encountered challenges as a female Engineer and Lead in a male-dominated construction industry environment.
For me, DE&I is the capacity to recognise, evaluate and promote the differentiation between an organisation or community workforce and embrace the opportunities that this creates rather than create isolation and discrimination.
I engaged with young women engineers during my tenure and enjoyed coaching and empowering them in the workplace. During my Management roles, I was a DE&I advocate, always supporting equality and respect in the workplace.
How can we (individually) promote DE&I in the workplace?
As individuals, we have to act as DE&I change agents in our sphere of influence: our own communities, workplace, and home environment.
Mentorship programmes are a great tool for workplace diversity programmes to ensure that everyone has the opportunity to advance.
Any DE&I quick wins to share with us?
I was recently preparing a Sustainability assessment report for one of my clients. This client never addressed the subject of DE&I independently; however, by assessing their current DE&I situation, we realised there are way ahead on DE&I from other companies because it is embedded in their Leadership’s values.
As a Sustainability specialist and woman, what should we do to make our planet a better place to live?
As Sustainability agents, we have to walk the talk and make our every action impactful towards Climate Change and the realisation of the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals.
As women, our role is to empower and elevate all other women around us, educate and support future generations and always look for opportunities that arise even through difficult situations.
“’Let us change the narratives and the gender stereotypes so every girl can embrace her power and reach her full potential,’ says UN Women.”