Highly accomplished and multi-faceted energetic leader Mariza Fotiou is the founder of CuriousIQ , a Digital learning resources and employment support for people in need. She has over 14 years of experience in financial services and digital energy combined, and a proven track record of directing global, complex, strategic transformation initiatives involving organizational, investment products, process, and technology changes as well as implementing cost management and revenue enhancement initiatives.
Below are highlights of the interview conducted between World’s Leaders and Mariza Fotiou:
Brief our audience about your journey as a business leader. Tell us about your background and what did you do before you started/joined the CuriousIQ?
My career started in the US, where I moved after graduating from my bachelors in Greece. I then pursued a Masters in Finance, which I graduated in 2009 from Baruch College in New York. After graduating, I joined HSBC Private Bank and worked there for about 10 years. I moved a lot within the bank and had some amazing roles that kept me growing professionally. I also gained exposure from working in two continents: NY, US and London, UK, eventually leaving as Chief Operating Office in digital. This role exposed me to the technical aspect of product creation. I possessed the necessary skills and could apply them to any industry. As COO, I received a completely different perspective on all facets of running a digital organisation. In 2020, I decided to change industries and joined BP. Here I lead the organisation’s specialised digital product development teams to efficiently construct new digital services. Digital is one of the most vital skills to have if you want to make a difference in today’s world.
What was the idea behind starting CuriousIQ?
Social mobility is a real issue of our time. With all the increasing geopolitical unrest, more and more people will be in need of integration. The second thing is that digital skills will only continue to drive demand for tech talent in the years to come. These two parameters, and my strong drive to help those in need, led me to create CuriousIQ. I strongly believe that social entrepreneurship brings the evolution the world needs and boosts inclusion. So, I found a way to combine and apply my skills to make a difference. CuriousIQ was founded in response to an unjust and ongoing situation in Greece, a country with enormous potential. For every marginalised person who lives on the edges of society. The goal is to upskill underprivileged people in digital skills and advance their employability by helping them find a job in the market.
As a Founder of CuriousIQ, what are your major roles and responsibilities?
My role can be divided into three main themes: team leadership, strategic management, and partnerships. Each one has its own set of challenges. I create active citizen involvement and favourably impact the rate and reach of our objectives. I transform the vision into action through the identification of the right partnerships that can help us meet our goals and expand our reach. Fundraising is a big part of my role, something that I find critical for the successful execution of the program. It would be really difficult to achieve results without stability of resources. However, a founder, besides being a visionary, should also be self-aware and capable of learning and self-developing. And this is the part I enjoy the most about my work, as it helps me to continue to grow as a person.
How do you balance work and life responsibilities?
I prioritise my mental health because it makes me a better person and better at my work. Also, exercise is very important for me. I need to keep moving, otherwise I lose my energy. I can fit it in no matter what. I know that if I don’t, I will not be as happy and as productive as I want to be. Lastly, I make time for my friends and family. It is very easy for me to get lost in my work because I get a lot of satisfaction when things progress. But I make a conscious effort to stop and spend time with people I love because it is very important.
Tell us about your vision for the company. How do you ensure a culture of integrity and innovation in the company?
CuriousIQ’s vision is to improve the lives of those who live in underserved communities while also involving them in the design, implementation, and execution of its projects. As a result, we not only have a reliable, in-depth understanding of the needs, but we also ensure that the communities are prepared to take on future initiatives on their own. The world is currently undergoing an ethical revolution. Many times in my carrier and most recently as a founder I have openly addressed discrimination. It is true that we do not live in an equal world. In CuriousIQ equality, transparency, integrity and inclusivity are part of our moral compass, part of the culture. I approach the team as equal players by always listening to their ideas, concepts, and future plans. Based on my professional experience, these humble beginnings serve as the cornerstone for a solid foundation, where the team quickly learns the principles of experimentation, innovation and empowerment which are then positioned as the fundamental pillars of our culture.
What advice would you give to the emerging entrepreneurs and enthusiasts considering a career in an industry?
My advice is to remind themselves daily of their ‘’why’’. Why – they do what they do. If what you do is your purpose in life or what people call your ‘’calling’’, you have more strength to keep going and more chances to succeed. We all know that starting a business is hard. That it takes emotional, psychological and financial strength to get through. And by being a founder you stretch (and sometimes brake) all three. So believing in what you do will help you not through hardship and eventually shine and succeed.