Friday, September 20, 2013

Meet Andreas Souvaliotis

Canada is a progressive country in many ways but it has surprisingly very few openly gay CEO's. Recently, BOE Magazine's Rupa Ganatra did an interview with Social Entrepreneur Andreas Souvaliotis, founder of Air Miles for Social Change. Souvaliotis is an interesting and proud, gay man. Below is an excerpt.

Rupa Ganatra writes:
Social Entrepreneur Andreas Souvaliotis had several entrepreneurial roles within Corporate Canada until 2007, when he launched the world’s first national environmental and healthy lifestyle incentive programme, Green Rewards and AIR MILES for Social Change. He has seen huge success in his social entrepreneurial ventures in Canada and has been recognised by distinguished leaders for his work, including the Prince of Wales. We managed to grab lunch with Andreas as he passed through London and asked him a few questions.

Tell us about your background? 
Andreas Souvaliotis: I have been a misfit all my life. I was born gay, raised in a homophobic society (in Greece), blessed with some Asperger’s genes that pushed me to the fringes of mainstream society as a math savant and a music prodigy and escaped on my own to Canada as a teenager. I managed to build a life and a reputation as an unconventional, disruptive and energised immigrant in my chosen new country. Canada was my kind of home – inclusive, diverse, progressive, cool and always embracing young minds and new ways of thinking. My early career choices were only influenced by my extreme skills in certain areas (I studied Computer Science and began to work as a systems analyst) and it took a while before I could focus on what I truly wanted to do in life. Eventually I got an MBA and built a career as a business executive. 
* * * 
What do you think your journey has taught you about yourself? 
Andreas Souvaliotis: Misfits like me can take one of two routes in life: we can either suppress our uniqueness and work really hard at “fitting in”, as society always teaches us to do, or we can harness our unique minds creatively and become true changemakers for the world. It took me a long time to figure out the second option and I spent the majority of my adult life trying (unsuccessfully) to fit in… but now that I’ve tasted the awesome power of being a changemaker and an effective disruptor, now I know exactly how to harness my brain and soul for even bigger things in the future. 
* * * 
If you could be stuck in an elevator with anybody, who would it be? 
Andreas Souvaliotis: I am too old to be star-struck anymore and, as a changemaker, I would much rather have an opportunity to impact the thinking and perspectives of an influential and powerful individual. The Prime Minister of my own country comes to mind – he is a very opinionated and extremely controlling politician who, in a relatively short period of time, has managed to reverse Canada’s historical image as one of the world’s leading, modern, progressive, caring and environmentally responsible nations. I would truly enjoy an opportunity to have a values-based exchange with that man; to talk to him about genuine leadership and about building and creating instead of just obsessing about the next election campaign. I am marketer and it pains me to see how the brand of my awesome country has been bruised in recent years. I’d love an opportunity to have a creative discussion with my country’s ultimate brand manager.