Three weeks back in Cambridge changed my life, says Cambridge alumnus Constantine Goulimis.
If you’ve ever wondered what life would be like outside the comfort zone, ask Constantine Goulimis. Having spent many years working at the highest level, Goulimis, a Cambridge alumnus, decided to return to the University to take part in Cambridge Judge Business School’s challenging Advanced Leadership Programme.
“All of us need to be alert to the danger of getting stale, and we all need a jolt every now and again,” says Goulimis. “I have been very lucky in that I have always worked for myself and been my own boss. I have never worked in a hierarchical system in a big company. But in my environment, it is easy to assume that you know more than you actually do. I think we need to be humble about these things.”
So why return to Cambridge? Goulimis admits to a certain feeling of nostalgia as he got off the train at the same station where he had arrived as an undergraduate 30 years ago. “But more practically, of course, the programme suited me. I didn’t want to spend one week every three months on a programme. I wanted something that I could immerse myself in, and something that gave me the opportunity to self-reflect as well as interact with a broad group of people, and be exposed to very high quality speakers and intellectual ideas.”
Goulimis, the co-founder of Greycon, specialises in the application of advanced mathematical techniques for manufacturing. Some of the code he wrote during his PhD is still in daily production use in more than 350 paper, packaging, film and corrugated manufacturing plants around the world that use Greycon’s X-Trim software.
He has always maintained his links with his home country of Greece, taking a year off to do military service there. And at the height of the Greek austerity crisis, he worked pro bono for the country’s Ministry of Finance in order to try to improve its tax collection system.
There’s a great value, he says, in removing yourself from day-to-day concerns in order to focus on the big picture with a diverse group of people.
We spent those three weeks in an environment where tangentially everything was relevant, from the geopolitical situation and the analysis we did of that, to the personal development and personal discoveries that were made,” he says. “And I felt that because we were all older and senior, there was no macho culture about letting people know who was best. Rather, it was more about understanding each other and gaining insight, in a very collaborative atmosphere.
The opportunity to examine problems on a global scale – alongside outstanding individuals from all over the world – was also valuable. Goulimis gained a reputation on the course, he says, as “the cynic”. “I come from a culture of vigourous debate,” he explains. “You disagree. You respect the other person, but you challenge the assumptions. It was good to have that opportunity. For example, in the first week, we discussed the Chinese system where the Party owns everything but at the same time has immensely rich people at the very top. Is this viable? Will it last another 50 years? That was a particularly interesting debate, and an example of an idea that needs to be discussed and challenged.”
And on a personal level, Goulimis says that the course helped him to kickstart his own development goals. “I realised that I don’t pay as much attention as I should to the careers, aspirations and hopes of the people around me, and I perhaps don’t nurture them as I should. It may have seemed obvious, but it was not obvious before the course. And now I have identified that, I can recognise when it is happening and take steps to prevent it.”
He would highly recommend the programme to fellow Cambridge alumni, he says, looking for a challenge – and his only regret is that he didn’t do it sooner. “It is a commitment in terms of time, but I found it to be immensely valuable. On reflection, I should have exposed myself to alternative systems and ideas a long time ago.”