Elias Sakellis has been in finance for the last fifteen years and currently works in a senior management role at Quantum Pacific.
What did you learn at Imperial both in class and out?
"For me, going to Imperial aged 18 years old was probably a very different experience from that of someone who grew up in England. I had to move abroad to come here – that in itself teaches you a lot of things. And obviously I needed to create a new social circle, which again is quite exciting, and living in central London is certainly a really important soft element of the experience.
With the benefit of hindsight, I can appreciate Imperial itself - the academic side - even more. You learn how to perform and how to study within an environment where most people around you are pretty smart and hardworking, and the MEng course is a continuous effort. From my perspective, it’s been the general learning, how to further my analytical and quantitative skills that has stood me in good stead over the years of my career. Furthermore, in such a no-nonsense academic environment, one learns pretty quickly that maturity and self-discipline are necessary"
What’s your fondest memory of your time at Imperial?
"My fondest memory is the friends I made. I don‘t even think I can pass the first year thermodynamics exam today, I don’t think I remember any of that, but what sticks with you is the long term friendships you make."
Tell me about your initial career selection post Imperial
"Towards the end of my engineering degree, after doing some research, I had pretty much decided that I wanted to go into investment banking. While I knew I could do this straight away, I thought it would be a good thing if I spent a year learning a little bit more about finance, so I stayed on to do an MSc. I had other options: I could have gone to Oxford, I could have gone to the LSE, I could even have gone abroad, but after looking through all the different courses that had accepted me I decided that the Imperial College course was the better one. After completing my MSc in Finance I decided what part of investment banking I wanted to work in, was lucky enough to get a good job at Lehman Brothers, and that was the beginning."
What have been your career highlights so far?
"There are a few. Early on at Goldman Sachs (where I moved after a year with Lehman Brothers) being promoted from analyst to associate a year early was a big achievement. After five years I decided to leave Goldman for a year and do an MBA. I came back into a totally different department - it was starting from scratch in many ways - and again, I managed within a couple of years to be promoted early. Subsequently I was asked to be a business unit manager for the Investment Banking Division and that meant being taken out from the deal making and instead helping the senior management team of the division with the day-to-day management of the division. It was an amazing year which I spent putting together strategic reviews, annual budgets, and work plans and learning about managing people (both more senior and more junior to me). After that year I went back into the business and I was senior enough to lead very large and complicated transactions that were commercial successes. Off the back of one of them came the next step of my career. I worked with investment group Quantum Pacific and helped them to restructure one of their businesses. It was a very complicated and intense transaction that took almost a year, but it was very successful. A year or two afterwards I joined them. I’ve been at Quantum Pacific now for three and a half years, which is a totally different experience again in terms of scope and breadth. I’m part of a small senior management team overseeing a global investment portfolio and I’m working closely with the CEOs of very large portfolio companies."
What are your plans for the future?
"There’s a lot more I can learn and a lot more I can achieve in my current role. It’s a very large group with a very broad portfolio and I’ve got a huge amount of responsibility. I also travel more than half of my time, so it’s very exciting.”
How would you advise current students?
"In terms of university study, my perspective is live in the moment and don’t worry too much about things. We’d sometimes put ourselves under a lot of pressure for exams or projects - and obviously everything is important in life and it’s important to do your best - but at the end of the day it’s also about spending some time thinking about what you want to do in the long-term, where and how you want to live, meeting people and developing other parts of your personality. Sometimes in very high calibre academic institutions, that point is lost. In terms of career progression, don’t be afraid to take risks. Don’t get too bogged down by peer pressure or influenced too much by what people around you are doing. Take some risks early on, and more often than not they will pay off. That would be my overall advice."