Brain drain

I left Greece in May of 2010. I didn’t leave because of the crisis which neither had been felt at the time nor people knew how destructive it would be or how long it would last.

I left because of the archaic work mentality and ethos, the lack of options, progress and professionalism. I left because it didn’t feel like Greece wanted to change or wanted someone like me1 to help bring change.

In March of 2018 fate brought me back. Hard times followed but somehow I managed to endure.

By the end of September of 2018 my savings had been depleted and I didn’t want my partner to carry all the load. In the months that followed, before I decided to start the work on Windmill on the iPhone, I reached out to organisations that were either hiring for a role I could apply (e.g. iPhone Developer) or thought I could contribute in some other capacity.

Here is one of the messages I sent at the time. I have removed a few details to preserve the anonymity of the individuals/companies.

My name is Markos and I have a software engineering background.

I have been at the helm of Tesco Bank and Soldo to bring organisational change and deliver their iPhone apps.

I have recently moved to Athens from London and I am looking to get involved in the startup ecosystem with the goal of providing aid based on my experience and expertise.

I would love to have a coffee and meet personally in order to explore this further.

I am looking forward to hearing from you.

Every single one responded. I followed up by emailing my CV to give even more insight into my background. A couple of them never responded after that.

Those who did respond, we arranged to meet. It became clear that unless there was an open, available role, there wasn’t much need for me. One of the responses I got went even further than that.

  • “I don’t know you and you have no LinkedIn.”

Here is another experience from applying and interviewing as an iPhone Developer.

  • “Why do you want to work as an iPhone Developer?”
  • “I am a software engineer. This is part of my skillset and expertise.”
  • “Yes but. You are overqualified.”

That is not the first time I am hearing this alongside the “You don’t look like a developer.”, which would be funny if it wasn’t stereotypical.

In another interview, I was confronted with what I would mildly call a hiring process from the past. Questions where in rapid fire mode.

  • “Where do you see yourself in 5 years?”
  • “What is something you are proud of?”
  • “What are you bringing to the table?”
  • “Why do you want to work for us?”

With very little room left for a discussion in-between. Impersonal, prejudicial, biased and formulaic.

When I finally got the opportunity to have a dialogue, (“We’ve got 10 minutes left if you want to ask any questions.”) I challenged by asking the tough questions only to get generic, hollow responses back and PR speak that pat themselves in the back.

For the past few years, there has been all this talk in Greece around the brain drain. It so happens that I am here after all these years. Equipped with skills, carrying the experience, bringing in the knowledge and for what it’s worth, developing a product. What are some of the reasons to keep staying in Greece?

What is the proposal that Greece makes? Where are the opportunities? How do Greeks find them? Why should Greek emigrants come back?

Maybe this needs to be a coordinated effort between the state and the private sector. A combination of sponsorship, campaigning, incentives at the state level and opportunities, contributions, assessment done at the private level.

Greece as a country, alongside organisations and individuals need to understand that they must be willing to change and be ready to fight for, be challenged, do their homework, adapt and give way to Greek emigrants if they want to reverse the brain drain.

Just doing some thinking out loud, having been back for over a year now.

  1. I left Greece as soon as I finished high school to study Information Technology at Sunderland University in the UK. I spent 1 year working at CERN in Geneva during my placement year. I even started working in the UK after I finish my studies. I decided to return to Greece in 2003, I wanted to live, contribute, shape and be part of its future. ↩︎

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This is a personal website, at the outskirts of the web, away from social media and publishing platforms. This website surfaces social, racial, economic traits and explores human relationships. It highlights the conditions that contribute to one's personal success or downfall. It shares stories that act as a reminder that life is messy, complex, nuanced, diverse. It aims to bring the world closer together. It reaches out to those that feel lost, lonely, inadequate and outcasts. I am with you.