Interview with George Roukas

1. How has your career path changed up until now?
It’s changed many times. I graduated from NYU with an MBA in finance and started working for the Assistant Treasurer of a Fortune 100 company, but less than one year in, I fell in love with computers and taught myself to code. I then moved to a financial services company where I decided I preferred bridging the gap between the business and technology. Within a few years I was in an internet startup for travel, and then two others before going back into a big company as a product manager, which didn’t seem to exist outside of CPG companies. Then a few years later I became upset with the results of a few consulting engagements and decided to partner with several colleagues to start a better kind of consulting company. I’ve worked there for 16 years.

2. Did you have a mentor who helped you get to where you are now? If so, what would you say is the most important thing you learned from your mentor?
I had many advisors, but I would say few were mentors. I just gathered what I could from anyone I could. One possible exception was a colleague named Philip Wolf. I don’t think I can count the number of things he taught me.

3. What advice would you give to those pursuing their first business venture?
Read Tony Fadell’s book “Build: An unorthodox guide to making things worth making” It’s good to have the answer key!

4. How do you overcome risk when it comes to making business decisions?
Eisenhower said: Plans are worthless, but planning is everything. If you lay out your plans and think through where things can go awry, you can often get a good sense of your true risks. When you think through the potential issues beforehand, you can often avoid surprises, and the paralyzing effects that often ensue. Just having thought through problems will make them less impactful should they arise.

5. Why did you decide to become a mentor/ investor for the Hospitality Innovation Hub Incubator?
How could I say no to Dr. K?

6. What book are you reading now?
“Seeing what’s next” by Clayton Christensen and “The craft of the cocktail” by Dale DeGroff

7. What is your favorite vacation destination?
Spain and Italy are neck and neck. I love the pace, and the food!

8. What is your favorite movie?
Casablanca, and the first Matrix movie

9. Any last words you would like to share....
Everybody else says this too, but I tell my own kids to prepare for learning their whole lives. Don’t depend on just formal education either—take the initiative to read and study after you get out of school. There is no such thing as a lifelong career anymore—people change what they do more frequently than ever, so be prepared for curves in the road. Your education, in and out of school, will be vital to your happiness and success in life.

George Roukas