Katerina Giannouka likes to build things. She grew up on Lego and make-believe travel agencies and is now Asia Pacific president of one of today’s largest hotel groups. A true believer of “anything is possible”, she’d tell you to always follow your gut, even if it means choosing something uncomfortably scary, and the universe will take care of everything else.
Was there a career setback you faced that later turned out to be an advantage?
It was a rainy Monday morning in Brussels in early 2012 as I entered my boss’s office with a sealed envelope in hand. A significant downsizing had favoured me immensely, and I was about to be offered a double promotion with significantly expanded responsibilities. Alas, that envelope contained my resignation. I had chosen to walk away from what everyone saw as the opportunity of a lifetime to support my then significant other in his own pursuit of an unmissable career opportunity in Hong Kong. What seemed like a huge setback turned out to be my first, decisive step into the business world of Asia, leading to my current role, lifelong friendships and most importantly, my partner-in-crime, Timo.
What do you fear the most?
Feeling abandoned and worthless. This may sound dark, but I have come to recognise these fears as the driving force in the achievements and choices surrounding my career, lifestyle and relationships. The trick is to gain awareness of our fears so they become useful feedback loops to reach our dreams.
What advice would you give someone who’s deemed successful?
I usually find that listening is much more impactful than giving advice, but if asked, I would suggest they take a moment to notice that no one ever made it back to yesterday and if tomorrow never comes, all we have is now, now and now. Let’s be present.