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International Mother Language Day with Siemens – Nikolaos Kavakiotis’ Story

Category: diversity and inclusion, Engineering, Sustainability, technology, What Our People Say, Siemens, Languages

Diversity and Inclusion.

Nikolaos Kavakiotis is the Head of Building Performance and Sustainability at Siemens and has been with the company since 2012.

His role involves running a team to deliver energy and sustainability projects.

“Siemens is one of the companies that shapes the future of this world, so I love to be a part of it,” said Nikolaos.  

Diversity of thought is being spoken about in business more and more and companies are looking into how to achieve it and the benefits it brings.

“Diversity of thought is about bringing a different perspective. It’s not just knowing different things to somebody else. It’s bringing a different tool box and avoiding homogeneity of thoughts,” said Nikolaos.  

As someone who was not born In Britain, Nikolaos has felt that it is important for colleagues to understand that there are challenges which come from attracting international talent to the organisation.  Miscommunication costs businesses in productivity and profitability but when 19% of the UK population are from ethnic minorities, and multiple languages are being spoken, how can businesses safeguard against communication errors?

By setting up a new employee network in Siemens, The International Network, Nikolaos Is hoping to promote diversity of thought by encouraging, embracing and celebrating the diversity of Siemens’ employees from different national/ethnic backgrounds.

“All the issues I’ve ever had in my life drill down to communications. Managers need to take on culture and linguistic training. There needs to be cultural information and education from both sides. Those that are born and raised in England and those that are not,” said Nikolaos.

Nikolaos has experienced different forms of racial discrimination during his career and personal life because of his heritage.  Some are quite shocking.

“The one that got under my skin and took 48 hours to report to the police was when someone knocked on my door selling household products. I politely told him I wasn’t interested and he turned and told me I was a f***ing foreigner. I froze In shock and then he took his right hand, turned it into the shape of a gun and started shooting me, making sure he does the appropriate sound of a gun going off (in case I had any doubt). "

Nikolaos believes that most of his colleagues would be shocked to hear this experience.  "People think the stories are in the movies and don't believe that it really happens". Awareness Is one of the most Important starting points.  It Is important to outline what exclusion experience Is so that others can understand.

“When I was meeting an industrial client I was part of a team of four people to deliver a solution. The team was hired based on expertise. The manager told me my name wasn’t very English and asked where I was from. I thought, what does my name have to do with the solution we are here to discuss? The funny bit is that none of the other three had "very English" names either. Ironically enough the thought that crossed my mind then was Shakespeare's line from Romeo and Juliet "what's In a name?". 

Experiences like this can make someone feel excluded and so I want to build the awareness of the impact that small moments like these can have on someone.  This is so Important to achieve because we don’t want Individuals to self-limit themselves.  We want to avoid the Imposter syndrome so that everyone knows that they are Included and that their Ideas are valued.  What Is great is that Siemens is focussed on creating an Inclusive culture where every voice is heard and so the company is empowering me and supporting me to set up the International Network.   Anyone across the organisation who is interested or passionate about the topic can join the network, it is not just for foreign workers. 

Storytelling is key for building awareness In Siemens but there is also another reason for creating the International Network.

“The more years you live in a country the more years you spend away from the country you were born and some of us can reach a stage where the abroad becomes your home and what used to be home becomes the abroad. You become a citizen of both nations and no nation at the same time, and you cannot relate 100% to either."

"By connecting international colleagues together, who have also had similar experiences, you realise that you're not alone; that you belong.  Every human being has the need to belong and we each bring our best work If we are not just invited to participate but are part of shaping the world around us." 

When asked what companies can do to ensure international employees feel included Nikolaos said:

“Make sure every company is consistent in its core vision and walks the walk. Say a company wants to be diverse, it has to be diverse at all levels; from consultants, senior management right down to every team member In every function and every location."

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VERCIDA works with over one hundred clients who are committed to creating an inclusive work environment. If you are an employer and interested in working with VERCIDA to promote your diversity and inclusion initiatives and attract the best candidates, please email [email protected] for more information.

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