Katerina Andreou
Founder of HR Innovate

‘My mission for 2022 is to continue to be relentless and tenacious in our commitment and quest to be the best Recruitment and HR ally to top tier professionals, companies, and employers in our region’

Tell us about your company.
“We are a fast paced, boutique and international recruitment agency based in Nicosia servicing clients in the Tech and Finance sectors all over Cyprus, the EMEA region and Europe. We are best known for our high levels of discretion, deep profiling of candidates and long term, collaborative relationships with both candidates and companies; we are proud of our brand and mission. We frequently take part in local community initiatives as professionals who stand for ethical business, and we are lucky that, along the way, we get to know fresh and new talent, and are proud to offer much guidance and attention to the young and upcoming job seeker.
In my professional life, my team and clients know me best, for my passion and expertise in executive head hunting, careers coaching, and passion for helping people with their work lives. I think these same colleagues and friends might also say I am known for my impatient nature, my lack of knowledge or reference to pop culture, and eternal itch for travel and adventure.
Born in Kenya, I spent my childhood growing up in the Middle East and later Cyprus. I learned young, the power of resilience and adaptability and it has served me well. I owe my sanity to being a devoted runner, many a business move is pounded through on the trails after work.”

What do you think helped you the most to make a career as a woman?
“I think I am fortunate to be born to a generation and time where I lived through the digital revolution, but also a period of history where the victories for equality have been many. I never experienced the subjugation that other women of previous generations or indeed current generations do in other regions of the world.
I was brought up rather unconventionally by stubborn, fiercely independent parents both of whom left family and country to pursue their dreams as young adults, with little to no support of any kind. I think that set the tone and example. I grew up knowing what it was to struggle but I was never told growing up that I could not do something, or I was not capable because of my gender or any another reason. I therefore grew up feeling like there was no limit to what I could do but not expecting it to be easy, I always felt compelled to strive, for whatever it was, no matter how big or small.
I understood early on, the value of autonomy, and how much of that comes from a lucrative and happy professional life; I never saw it as a choice whether to have a career or not. It was inevitable, to ensure I always had options and could retain my independence and freedom to travel and experience life the way I wanted, on my own terms and subservient to no-one.”

What is the biggest factor that has helped you be successful?
“The support and endless emotional nourishment and encouragement of my tribe, a motley crew of family and friends that have accompanied me in this journey every step of the way. Dark days were and are always made better by the text or call from one of them reminding me to get back up and out there, and over the years have proved to be the game changers, and they know who they are.
Being stubborn and tenacious helped too; resilience is key for the entrepreneur and being able to rise to the endless litany of challenges and not get too side-tracked by every set back. Expectations must be realistic. I never count my chickens before they hatch, and I am learning not to out-pace the system although that has come with age and experience. I have learned to fight less and negotiate more, the benefits of patience and timing, and how sometimes in business many things are best served cold and not as hot, kneejerk reactions.”

As a female leader what has been the most significant barrier in your career?
“As a female founder my experiences served as a double-edged sword. When I started out, I was often underestimated and not always counted at first, drowned out by the Alpha males or more established businesspeople in the arena, but this simultaneously served me well because it made me more determined and much more self-aware. Instead of seeing my gender as a disability, or feeling victimised, I decided it was better to learn how to use it to my advantage. It allows you to watch, observe and draw conclusions before you act, and the element of surprise is often useful in negotiations etc.
At first, it was daunting and knocked my confidence on occasion, but after a short time, I became more fluent in the dynamics at play in the professional environment; it became easier to learn to assert my strengths without aggression but leaving no doubt that I would be counted, one way or the other. My business is my baby and creation; I find my defensiveness and protective feeling over HR Innovate and my team often makes me growl or roar if I feel any of my team or our brand has been short changed.”

What advice would you give to the next generation of female leaders?
“Moving forward, I think the next generations of female leaders will need the same resilience and boldness in the future that we did in previous generations, however, they will also have to deal with our legacy of newer issues such as pandemics and climate change.
“The digital age is indeed the brave new world, full of amazing innovation and possibility, and I think the next generation of female leaders should be ready to fully embrace this and immerse themselves in the tech side of any business line. I am a particular fan of the digital nomad, and I think these next generations of female leaders will have much wider reach and thereby much more propensity and scope to do good because their business reach will be powered digitally in ways we can only imagine now.”