Always try to take the high road. Don’t burn bridges in your professional life.
Stacy Gianoulis was born in Boston, raised in a multi-generational Dorchester household with parents, grandparents and four brothers. Stacy’s grandfather moved from Greece to Boston at age eleven, and by the time he was seventeen, he was running his own business. He was autodidactic, as a successful investor in the stock market. He spent hour upon hour sharing his knowledge and wisdom with Stacy.
Stacy’s admiration for his grandfather had a profound influence on his professional decisions. Stacy was raised with an entrepreneurial spirit. He desired to either own a business or work within an innovative environment. But first, he worked his way through college. He graduated from Boston College in the mid-’80s, with a bachelor’s degree in philosophy.
Applying the knowledge and wisdom of his grandfather, Stacy began investing in numerous small businesses. As an investor, Stacy observed the huge productivity gains and the growth of personal computers in business. Recognizing this, he decided that it would be prudent to return to school and advance his Information technology skills. He earned his A+ certification and followed up with Novel Netware Engineer (CNE) then went on to become a Microsoft Certified Engineer (MCSE).
Gianoulis landed his first information technology position as a systems administrator. Today, he holds a position at Boston University, as the Assistant Vice President of Client Services Support (CS&S) within Information Service & Technology, serving over 40,000 students, faculty and staff. He has served the university in various roles such as Manager of Technical Services, and Executive Director, IT Help Center prior to his current position.
Stacy Gianoulis entered the IT industry when desktop computing, networking, and enterprise systems were in their infancy. Rapid change is always present in IT. Stacy embraces change and strives to provide innovative solutions and excellent client support.
Where did the idea for your career come from?
When I graduated from college, I had invested in several small businesses. Applications were rapidly being developed to make businesses more efficient. It was clear that desktop technology was the way of the future. It was also obvious that there would be a shortage of IT professionals. I saw it as an opportunity to create a career path. I also had a vested interest in small businesses.
I joined Boston University because large research universities are a very interesting and exciting place to work. They are very diverse and distributed. It allows for creativity and innovative thinking. I am in an administrative unit where we support everyone from students to researchers. One day you may be supporting a researcher who is working on a cure for cancer and the next day supporting a student who may become famous due to their work in technology or the arts. Diversity draws a lot of opportunities for challenges. You can keep reinventing yourself. Rapid change is always present in IT.
What does your typical day look like and how do you make it productive?
In Client Services & Support, we require information for each initiative to provide the solutions that would best serve clients. These are many and varied, which means no day is really typical. In fact, I am frequently adjusting and re-prioritize on a daily basis. Coffee is a definite requirement!
How do you bring ideas to life?
I give myself adequate time to think. Sometimes we get caught up going from meeting to meeting. Everyone has so much on their plates, it is difficult to get everything done quickly. I have to make sure to put time aside. I collaborate with a few key individuals that would be most valuable to the idea on the table. We debate the pros and cons and we move forward.
What’s one trend that excites you?
Automation is one thing that excites me. I believe I’ve been successful in my career by embracing change. I use new ideas to help my staff become successful. I believe some people are afraid of change and certainly automation because it seems it might threaten jobs. In reality, I see automation as a way of allowing my staff to eliminate busy work and put their efforts into more meaningful work. It will benefit their skills and career development, but it will also benefit the university.
What is one habit of yours that makes you more productive as an entrepreneur?
I read a lot of news articles, not only on technology and higher education but news from all over the world. There is so much information out there. It helps me from becoming stagnant and to keep sight of the bigger picture. Time management is critical and reading is key.
What advice would you give your younger self?
I would tell my younger self to take more chances. There are so many ideas that I look back on and wish I had pursued.
Tell us something that’s true that almost nobody agrees with you on.
Being a good leader is really about your team. These days, everyone is about self-promotion and “creating their brand” so this isn’t a popular opinion. However, if I do my job well, I will appear to be unnecessary. The better a team is functioning, the more it means their leader is effective.
As an entrepreneur, what is the one thing you do over and over and recommend everyone else do?
Everyone should ask questions. Practice active listening. I don’t believe people ask enough questions.
What is one strategy that has helped you grow your business?
I always try to take the high road. More than once my position here has been eliminated due to restructuring, but I stepped up and helped in a positive manner. As a result, I was offered a new position outside of the restructuring. You never know when that extra effort will be rewarded.
What is one failure you had as an entrepreneur, and how did you overcome it?
There was an employee that I had many years ago who was incredibly smart but extremely stubborn. I believe that the talent I saw in the employee could be cultivated and I tried mentorship and training opportunities. However, the person never responded to these opportunities and did not rise to the potential of leadership material, despite the fact that he frequently expressed an interest in that path. As a leader, it taught me that soft skills are just as important as technical skills. They should be equally viewed. I learned from this experience, how to set-up employees for success and professional development.
What is one business idea that you’re willing to give away to our readers?
I believe an affordable, easy solution for organic year-round gardening, aimed at those who live in the city or in temperate climates, it would be profitable. There is a focus these days on “whole foods” but buying organic can be expensive, especially for a family. Solutions that could make growing fruits and vegetables more accessible throughout the winter would have widespread appeal, in my opinion.
What is the best $100 you recently spent? What and why?
I am on my feet a lot. I am always in a suit and I try to wear comfortable shoes. I finally found a pair of comfortable shoes. I feel like I am lighter on my feet and I can move faster.
What is one piece of software or a web service that helps you be productive?
I make use of many different useful tools and software, but I think what’s really overlooked is a simple pad of paper and pen or pencil. I find that I’m most productive and focused if I step away from the electronic devices, and jot my ideas down on paper, before expanding to the digital world.
What is the one book that you recommend our community should read and why?
I would recommend A Thousand Places to See Before You Die by Patricia Schultz. I think getting work/life balance is important although I don’t always take my own advice. Life is too short. I believe you should meet diverse cultures and see different parts of the world. Energize and revitalize.
What is your favorite quote?
“Nothing else in the world… not all the armies… is so powerful as an idea whose time has come.” Victor Hugo, Les Misérables
● If you appear to be “invaluable” as a leader, putting out fires on a regular basis, this is actually a red flag; the effectiveness of your team is a better reflection of your leadership skills.
● Give yourself time to think.
● Ask more questions.
● Always try to take the high road. Don’t burn bridges in your professional life.
Steve (Stefan) Junge hails from Germany and helps with the day-to-day publishing of interviews on IdeaMensch. While he and Mario don’t share a favorite soccer club, their enthusiasm to help entrepreneurs is a shared passion.