The Journey of a Dialectican Expat
We sat down with George Skandalidis, Client Service - Senior Manager and one of the founding members of our office in Montréal, to get a better understanding of his decision to move to the vibrant Canadian city and find all about his experience so far.
To begin with, can you take us a bit more about your Dialectica journey so far?
I first joined Dialectica’s Client Service Team in December 2018, after completing my graduate studies in Philosophy at the University of Cambridge. I joined Dialectica as a Client Service Associate about two and a half years ago and I was based in the Athens office, when the company counted just 50 employees. After some months, I was promoted to the Associate Manager position in early 2020. I became a Client Service Manager last October and now I’m a Senior Manager since June.
It was back in December when our leadership team was looking for members of the existing team in Athens to join the new office in Montréal and become its founding members. After a thorough successful application process, including a cover letter, business plan creation and an interview, I quickly decided that this was a perfect career step for me, opening up new opportunities and learning curves and I moved to Canada at the beginning of 2021 to continue my journey at Dialectica from a new, unexpected-at-first location.
What were the key drivers of your decision to join the Montréal office?
It was a positive step for the development of my career and a great challenge for me personally. When you join Dialectica, you quickly realize that the company is growing globally and is growing fast. In a way, I share the same always-on mindset and global vision, so a move that would broaden my professional and personal horizons was an obvious choice for me. Understandably it is demanding at times, but I’m up for the challenge — especially as I am able to further support a company that I care about.
How did the pandemic influence your decision to move?
I know that this might sound strange, but it had a positive impact. 2020 was a year that everything stood still. But yet Dialectica didn’t! We continued our journey towards rapid growth and global expansion as normal. To be part of something that is moving forward and evolves, especially at times when almost nothing else does, is a great opportunity.
How was the adjustment to the new office?
Even though the title of my role didn’t change and someone would expect that the day-to-day remained the same, it surely didn’t. Today there are about 60 people in the Montréal office, which was the size of the Dialectica team when I first joined the company. However, when I moved here in Canada in January we were about 15 people. It felt really different, as we had to build everything from scratch.
There weren’t major differences in the Client Service-related tasks. It was the people management side that was totally different, from the way we interact with each other to the adjacent projects we have to take on in order to set up the office — from that perspective, it was a completely new experience at the beginning.
You were working with the same people for over a year. Did it feel strange to build a new team, but still be in the same company?
For me, joining a new office as one of the founding members in an unfamiliar territory sounded (and is!) too daring to ignore. I’m working with a highly international and younger team here; there is such great talent in Canada! Everyone comes from a different location, cultural or social background, bringing diverse experiences and points of view to the table — and this adds great value to our projects, as well. I’m not “the local” here and I’m constantly learning from my teammates.
Also, the excitement of the brand-new office hasn’t worn off yet. The team is hyped, still being built, and everything feels more pressing and more vibrant. There is a shared start-up feel to the Montréal Office, and we are all racing together in this.
Tell a bit more about your new team in the Montréal office?
I am lucky to be surrounded by a very smart and hard-working group of colleagues. Our team is working alongside leading firms in the Northern American market and has received amazing feedback from clients on their ability to add hard-to-find value to their projects. Joseph joined the company in December when he travelled all the way to Montréal from Beirut to embark on his professional career at Dialectica. Oliver, also from Lebanon, joined just two months later after completing his studies in Engineering at McGill and Nina, from Toronto, joined a month ago, after completing her studies in Political Science and Economics. We all take pride in our work — there’s a customer-centric ethic and at the same time we’ve developed a flexible workflow. We embrace smart-working; when there is a lot to be done, we’ll happily stay late and nail the specific task at hand, and whenever we have dealt with any challenges ahead, we’ll close up early and enjoy the summer vibes Montréal is currently offering!
What are the main challenges so far?
With the expansion to Montréal, we are tackling a new, demanding and competitive market, so at least for the beginning our targets are stretched. Given our experience and proof of concept from Athens however, we are even more ambitious in Canada!
Naturally, it took some time to adjust to my new position from a people management’s perspective. There are definitely increased responsibilities and the workflow can get challenging. Nevertheless, we are all in this together, there is a true team spirit and support, from the leadership team and the managers to the newly-hired associates. Whenever someone is in need of help, everyone will make themselves available — we are here for one another.
Do you feel that the move has contributed to your professional growth?
Undoubtedly! As the team is rapidly expanding, there are many new opportunities for growth. I’ve already learnt much from working with a completely new team and the increased responsibilities of the position. Even working on the same task with different people than before makes each day feel brand-new.
Additionally, as I joined the Montréal office as one of the founding managers, I’ve rapidly developed my people skills and multitasking. Here, and because we are a small team of individuals building something truly extraordinary, we all have a say in key decisions — you don’t necessarily get to have the chance to be so involved in an already-established location, because most of the processes are already there waiting for you.
What surprised you the most when you arrived in the city and the new office?
Having spent time in the US as a student, I thought that Canada and Montréal would be more or less the same. But the city feels very “European”, it’s vibrant, lively — happy. The people are very social and outgoing. Also, there are so many outdoor activities to explore and even though it is the largest city in Quebec, it is so easy to navigate and go around. And I love living centrally and just taking a short walk to the office.
Oh and one more thing! Everyone warned me that there is a good chance that people would prefer to communicate in French, but that’s a myth — everyone communicates in English as well. Unfortunately, it is cold here in winter, that is not a myth.
What are the things that you cannot wait to experience?
I’m surely looking forward to living the full Montréal experience when the COVID-19 measures are lifted completely. Terraces and restaurants are finally open here and I’ve heard a lot about the local cuisine. Can’t wait for the International Jazz festival too this fall, and the nightlife in the broader city. It feels like there is always something on — the options are endless.
Also, Montréal is a great hub for travelling — there are so many affordable and flexible flight options for other Canadians cities or the States, and I’m eager to explore.
Final question. Can you describe your Dialectica journey in three words?
Exciting. Demanding. Rewarding.