#TechSaloniki Interviews with creative Technology Leaders
Vassilis Kafatos – President of Deloitte Alexander Competence Center
Riccardo Russo – Lead of the Consulting Team of Deloitte Alexander Competence Center
In 2018, Deloitte launched in Thessaloniki, Deloitte Alexander Competence Center (DACC) S.A., a hub for the development of its next generation services and talent. DACC was setup as a competence / excellence center to capitalize on the abundant of talent of Thessaloniki and to serve the growing needs for skilled resources of Deloitte. The center is located in Technopoli (Thessaloniki’s ICT Business Park), where it attracts talented university graduates, trains them in the latest technology skills and engages them in breakthrough projects in Europe.
Mr Kafatos, as you reflect on your time as Chairman, what are some of DACC’S biggest insights?
We decided within the economic crisis, to invest in the talent and prospects of young Greek University graduates. We provide targeted training in future competencies and skills and create numerous promising careers in Thessaloniki within Deloitte’s forward-looking multinational environment. Most importantly we give the opportunity to young professionals to work from Thessaloniki in highly interesting and challenging projects of our global network in areas such as Digital, Analytics, Robotics, Cyber, Cloud.
Why… Thessaloniki? What is the strategic reason for choosing Thessaloniki as Deloitte’s New Technology hub?
Thessaloniki has significant comparative advantages and the potential to be developed into a global talent, technology and innovation hub. The city has numerous leading academic institutions and research centers, a large pool of young talented university graduates, strong foreign languages skills, a growing innovation and developers’ community and very good quality of life. We decided to invest in Thessaloniki focusing on training and reskilling / upskilling young graduates in exponential technology skills and in the latest competencies according to future market needs. We have formed strong working relationships with local Universities and Research Centers and invest on targeted and continuous education of our people through focused training courses, bootcamps, code schools, academies, etc.
What are DACC’S mission and vision?
Our mission is to “Make an impact that matters” and I believe through our Competence Center we have contributed to the beginning of a new journey for Thessaloniki, toward becoming an international talent and technology hub. Over the last couple of years we have hired, trained and developed a great number of graduates from Greek Universities while at the same time attracted professionals from abroad, helping to reversing brain drain in Greece. I am happy that our initiative was followed by other companies and relevant projects, creating very promising opportunities and prospects for the city going forward.
Give us three reasons why a TECH company should choose Thessaloniki as a new TECHstination for opening its next branch.
- The local active programmers’ ecosystem
- The drive of young graduates to learn new skills and work in exponential technologies and
- The city’s vibe and evolving extrovert character
What do you hope to accomplish within the next year and what are DACC’S future goals?
We currently employ more than 450 professional and aim to double the number of our people within the next couple of years. Among our future plans is to further strengthen our collaboration with the Universities and Research Centers in training and degree programs, to develop even more smart, flexible and remote ways of working to cater to the needs and wants of our people and to setup new teams in research and development of future trends, strategy and insights. Overall we aim to make a significant contribution in the reskilling / upskilling of our youth in Greece to be able to thrive in the new reality.
Meet Vassilis Kafatos -President of Deloitte Alexander Competence Center
Vassilis Kafatos (Equity Partner) is Deloitte Greece Clients & Industries Leader and President of the Deloitte Alexander Competence Center. Vassilis specializes in corporate & digital strategy, innovation, business model transformation, mergers & acquisitions, financial restructuring and operational excellence and has over 20 years of advisory experience in various sectors including travel, hospitality, investment management, consumer business and manufacturing . He serves as a Trustee of the Board of Anatolia College, as the Vice President of the American – Hellenic Chamber of Commerce, as the President of the Advisory Board of the Council on Competitiveness of Greece and as an Executive Committee member of the Board of Directors of the Federation of Industries of Greece. He holds a degree in Economic Science from the Aristotle University of Thessaloniki, an MBA in Corporate Strategy from the University of Texas at Austin and postgraduate diplomas in Business Leadership from IMD, Lausanne.
Mr Russo, Can you give us a sense of the demographic of DACC and tell us a little about your work culture?
Deloitte Central Mediterranean, the cluster that includes Deloitte Greece, Italy & Malta, has created Deloitte Alexander Competence Center in Thessaloniki at the end of 2017. The center officially opened its doors on January 2018.
There are some pillars in Deloitte’s work culture that for me are important. First of all, the respect and the inclusion for all our colleagues, regardless of seniority, gender, religion or any other factor. I am strongly convinced that each one’s uniqueness adds value and contributes to reaching considerable outcomes with respect to both a professional level as well as to a personal one.
The second pillar relates to the way we communicate: at DACC, since the initial HR interview, one is encouraged to feel free to share with us her/his own thoughts, doubts, suggestions and feedback. Each one’s idea might be valuable enough to solve an issue, simplify a procedure and, in general, help improve our organization.
The third pillar is concerns the importance of knowledge! Considering our professional life as a continuous learning journey, we emphasize to all of our colleagues the importance of constant learning. We provide funds for training and official certification programs, convinced that these are investments rather than costs that yield a “win-win” situation.
To obtain an official certification is a win for our colleagues who expand their professional potential but, at the same time, it is a win for our organization since our people demonstrate a differentiation factor in the market.
Tell us more about the Technologies that you implement and your innovative products or services.
As you know, Deloitte is the biggest Consulting firm worldwide, and it is highly focused on Technology. Currently in our Center, we employ 300 professionals in our Consulting team and provide 12 different market offerings focusing on innovative technologies. We have teams working on Salesforce, SAP, Oracle, Cloud Solutions such as AWS, Azure, Google, Mulesofet, Boomi, MS Dynamics, Adobe, RPA, Power BI and many more. All our professionals are involved in critical international projects while assisting our customers in their Digital Transformation journey.
In order to assist our customers and to effectively address the change and the evolution of their business needs, we strive to always look ahead, and identify what could the next frontier and prepare to succeed in it. That is why we heavily invest in training and why we empower our professionals to continuously expand their knowledge.
Brain Drain vs Brain Gain… Give us three reasons why a tech-oriented employee should stay and work in Thessaloniki or come back after gaining some experience working abroad. How is Deloitte contributing on this?
I believe that during the past three years, the situation in Thessaloniki has changed drastically. When we decided to open the Center in Thessaloniki, the local Tech market was smaller than the current one. In my opinion, this is also thanks to us, Deloitte. Deloitte was one of the first organizations to invest to such a degree in this area and one of the first employers to believe in the enormous capabilities of the young local talent and in the level of the local academic community.
Our initiative in Thessaloniki has contributed to convincing other players to invest more in this region. Since the beginning, our Center has been offering the opportunity to work in an international environment, collaborating daily with colleagues from other European countries, in a very friendly, inclusive, dynamic, collaborative and challenging atmosphere.
Additionally, before Covid, most of our professionals used to travel in Italy and in other countries both for projects and for training purposes. This means that today it is not anymore necessary for new graduates to go abroad to find all these characteristics in a job opportunity on one side, and on the other side it is also possible to return in Greece and continue to have exceptional career opportunities.
How is DACC contributing to future employees’ education?
Investing in talent is one of Deloitte’s main priorities. At Deloitte Alexander Competence Center, training and development capabilities are offered to the latest technologies and business trends. Graduates are hired, following focused training, to support our clients across Greece and Europe.
Moreover, having established close collaborations with Universities and Research centers in various aspects, such as joint projects, research, training, etc. and the ecosystem of High Technology and Innovative organizations in Thessaloniki, we provide continuous learning and professional development opportunities to our people.
From an HR perspective, what do you hope to accomplish within the next year and what are DACC’S future goals?
In terms of growth, the expectation for DACC Consulting is to close the next fiscal year with around 500 – 550 talented professionals, meaning an increase of about 75% YoY.
DACC is considered as a fundamental component of Deloitte’s current and future strategy and expansion.
One of our main targets will be to offer to our current and future team members a truly stimulating environment to continue their professional growth, while being focused on the best of breed technologies and ensuring the fundamental respect of the “work life balance”. We are really proud to have been certified as a High-Trust workplace for 2021 by Great Place To Work® and we will continue our efforts to confirm that and improve further.
From an employee’s perspective, what makes DACC a unique place to work? How is DACC contributing to a better work-life balance?
We have always strived to create a unique environment, to create a place of hard but also joyful work and where you can feel important for not only what you know, but mainly for who you are! A place where everybody feels free to share her/his ideas, where collaboration and knowledge sharing are the normality, where everybody has the opportunity to achieve her/his goals with respect to the different pace that each one has. I suppose that having gained the “Best Place to Work” nomination confirms that we are heading to the right direction.
Meet Riccardo Russo – Lead of the Consulting Team of Deloitte Alexander Competence Center
Riccardo Russo is the Lead of the Consulting Team of Deloitte Alexander Competence Center. With 26 years experience in IT consulting (he has been working in this industry since 1995 and since 1997 in Deloitte) and a lot of involvement in many SAP implementations, roll outs, release upgrades, both in Italy and abroad (US, Brazil, Mexico, Spain, Germany), he is since March 2018 in charge of the development of DACC, the Competence Center that DCM has opened in Thessaloniki the same year. Before leading DACC, he led SAP and Oracle Application Management Services teams in Deloitte Consulting Italy, as a Service Delivery Manager for most of Deloitte’s customers. His main responsibilities at DACC are to manage the full process of selection and hiring new professionals, the organization of bootcamps and training in cutting-edge technologies academies, and last but not least to increase the awareness of Deloitte as the main player in the tech sector. He is also in charge to promote the assignment of DACC resources on Clients’ projects and of their participation to training and certification programs. One of his goals achieved so far is that in April 2021 DACC Consulting Team reached the number of approximately 300 professionals (back in 2018 there were just 6 resources), distributed in the following markets: Cloud Engineering (AWS, Mulesoft, Dell Boomi, Azure, …), Salesforce, SAP, Oracle, MS Dynamics AX, Adobe EM, Managed Service (including 24/7 support), System Engineering, TS&T, Supply Chain & Network Operation, HR Transformation, Analytics and Cognitive
Life at Deloitte – Deloitte Alexander Competence Center’s Professionals
Ioanna Papadopoulou, Software Engineer – 1 year at DACC
Working at DACC… What inspires you to pursue the career you have today?
Creativity and problem-solving are part of our daily work, combined with Deloitte’s purpose, “to make an impact that matters”, motivate us to achieve even more.
What advice do you have for prospective DACC candidates?
Try to learn a new thing every day, work hard and never give up!
Tell us a… “secret” about working at Deloitte that no one (except your colleague’s) knows about?
Teamwork makes the “dream-work”, so we are organizing a “Reunion day at the office”, after a year of working remotely, to see each other and meet our new colleagues in person.
Thanasis Chatzieleftheriou, Consultant -3 years at Deloitte
Life at DACC… Do you enjoy Deloitte’s culture and why?
The daily life at Deloitte is lively, especially before quarantine, when the offices were full of enthusiastic young people. The culture of Deloitte acknowledges individuality, since we, as an organization, embrace diversity and inclusion. What fascinates me more is that you can join different communities for discussing everyday matters. One example is GLOBE, the Deloitte’s LGBT+ network which takes initiatives and organizes discussions about the life of LGBT+ community at Deloitte, but also in the outside world.
What advice would you give to recent new entrants?
I would encourage them to try to have fun every single day, learn new things and have new experiences every day. Deloitte offers a place to familiarize with new technologies, meet great people, work in compelling multinational projects with people from all around the world. All you have to do is to try your best to gain these experiences.
What’s a fun fact about DACC many people may not know?
On Grill Thursday during carnival many people used to come to the office dressed up, but the highlight was our director who came as Super-Mario, and a senior consultant as princess, while her interviewing candidates for new positions in DACC.
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