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Today you’re going to hear the story of Christina Gerakiteys.

Christina is a mentor. Christina has quite a varied background and has done a lot, and for a long time she struggled with that fact. The fact that she never could just focus on one thing. As the quote by Steve Jobs goes, You can’t connect the dots looking forward; you can only connect them looking backwards. So you have to trust that the dots will somehow connect in your future. You have to trust in something – your gut, destiny, life, karma, whatever. This approach has never let me down, and it has made all the difference in my life.

It has all started to make sense for Christina today, and we will get to today, but for now, let’s go back to day one where this story begins…

Transcript

Christina:

I think I’m just a big kid at heart. I keep waiting for the day that I grow up, Adam, and I hope it never comes really.

Adam:

Hi, I’m Adam Spencer and welcome to day one, where we go back to the very beginning, to share the untold stories of incredible regional startups and entrepreneurs.

Today you’re going to hear the story of Christina Gerakiteys.

Christina:

Making entrepreneurship compulsory kind of doesn’t ring it for me. Teaching resilience and teaching persistence and teaching people critical thinking and helping people expand their knowledge, absolutely. But a world full of entrepreneurs could be a dangerous thing.

More

Adam:

This story is going to be little different to the usual founder stories, this is going to be the first in a series of stories about the activators, about the supporters. Stories about the people who help drive innovation and the startup world forward here in Australia.

Those who are connectors, mentors, facilitators and everything in between.

So moving forward, in addition to the regular founder stories, the team and I will be producing stories like this one, but in addition to these stories, we will be doing features on support organisations and that category encompasses every organisation that helps startups and founders. Organisations like Slingshot Accelerator, Startmate, Microsoft for Startups and eventually, literally, every organisation that exists to help startups. That is the mission.

I want Welcome to Day One to be a resource for everyone who wants to or is starting a business to feel supported,  to feel like they are in this with a team, with a community.

That’s what we are doing and if you’re interested in learning more or have questions please feel free to shoot me an email. I’d love to hear from you.

So, let’s get down to business, who is Christina Gerakiteys?

Christina:

I curate experiences that open hearts and minds to what’s possible. For me, it’s super clear what I do, but for other people, because they can’t box me, they can’t go, “Oh, you lecture at university,” or “Oh, you’re a business advisor,” or, “You run workshops.” Or, “oh, you’re a facilitator or speaker,” or whatever. Because they can’t box me, they find it difficult to actually describe what I do. For me, what I try to do, is clearly help people because that’s my ultimate aim is to make life easier is some way shape or form for the whole entire planet.

Adam:

To me, Christina is a mentor. Christina has quite a varied background and has done a lot, and for a long time she struggled with that fact. The fact that she never could just focus on one thing. As the quote by Steve Jobs goes, You can’t connect the dots looking forward; you can only connect them looking backwards. So you have to trust that the dots will somehow connect in your future. You have to trust in something – your gut, destiny, life, karma, whatever. This approach has never let me down, and it has made all the difference in my life.

It has all started to make sense for Christina today, and we will get to today, but for now, let’s go back to day one where this story begins…

Christina:

Okay. I can’t remember. I think I’ve always been in love with innovation, I just didn’t know what to call it. I’ve always been in love with change, improvements, doing things differently, and experiences. I’ve always been in love with creating experiential processes, experiential learnings, ever since I can remember.

One of the biggest criticisms I had of myself for a long time was that I couldn’t be focused on one thing. I started studying law and found it just not right for me. Then I went to university, I was already studying law subjects, turned that into a Bachelor of Arts. But that wasn’t enough. I also then enrolled and studied full time music at the conservatorium, so just performance. So I was doing two full time degrees then.

I remember having a conversation with my parents one day and they actually said to me, “You’ve never been any different.” At one point in time I was doing singing lessons, piano lessons, drama classes, net ball, Greek school. That was at a very early age. So my interests have always been wide and varied.

Adam:

So how did this law student turned performer, turned teacher end up becoming the go to person for innovation and ideation workshops and programs?

Christina:

So what happened was, I had experience in a few of those careers and then I had my first child and I was asked to go and teach singing at TAFE, because I’d sung in a band. Anyway, I ended up, to cut a long story short, I became entrenched in the music department at TAFE, ended up running the Newcastle Music Group. That was an experiential one. I wanted to make music, business and experiential process for students, so we ran music business. I had two awesome colleagues, Ian Dunn and Shane Williams, who has the Pumphouse School of Design now, who worked with me on that project.

Then, I went to run the Film and Television School, again, experiential learning, we had a production company and I had students working on events like Fat as Butter, doing the audio visual effects, filming, and things like that. Then it was actually a gentleman by the name of Neville Sawyer who had AMP control, amazing gentleman, very passionate about innovation, couldn’t get anyone to run an innovation program for him. The Universities, TAFE had been asking for quite some time. Somebody came up to me and said, “Will you run an innovation program?” And I said, “Yep, sure.”

And then I had to find out exactly what they meant by innovation. Then I called the program Create and Innovate and I was told that I couldn’t call it Create and Innovate because that was too airy-fairy. Which makes me laugh now because now I see the signs around the uni that go “The place for creativity and innovation” and that’s when I went, “Oh my god, I’ve come home.” I just remember going, “Oh, this is drawing everything that I have ever done into the one arena. And now I know why I’ve had all those different experiences because now I can use them all to run innovation, creativity, talks, workshops, experiences.” So it really started there.

Adam:

And, so all the seemingly unrelated directions that Christina was pulled in by her curiosity founder her arriving at the destination of innovation and all the experience she has gathered along the way gave her a unique skillset to create the innovation programs she ha s become known for…

Christina:

I have written Start with Why programs, or based on Start with Why concept from Simon Sinek. But they’ve also got a lot of my own learnings in there as well. I write innovation programs like the Innovation Exchange, like the Rippler program. But they’re all experiences because I am an absolute believer in experiential learning and that we learn best when we’re in a room together. That we can share knowledge and help each other.

Adam:

And this is where Christina’s superpower starts to shine through, Her ability to connect people and foster collaboration and of course her unbridled optimism,

Christina:

I mean I’ve had some amazing, amazing experiences. And I have had some soul destroying, absolutely soul destroying experiences. Personal and business. The whole gamut.

And it’s all those traits … you know when they do the surveys with entrepreneurs, successful entrepreneurs, and optimism comes out on top all the time. If I wasn’t optimistic I would have sunk. Personally, business wise, whatever, a long time ago. And it’s that optimism that gives you the strength to be resilient, that gives you the strength to keep facing the knocks.

Adam:

And now, we start to come full circle. As Christina mentioned at the beginning of this episode, one of her biggest self-criticisms was that she couldn’t focus on one thing and that her interests have always been wide and varied as evidenced by her experience. From an early age, studying the piano, dancing, singing, drama class, netball, greek school, starting with Law at university, moving across to Arts, singing in a band, teaching singing at TAFE and getting deeply involved in the music department, running and organising events.

Christina:

We ran Newcastle Music Week for ten years. All those skills are what help me now run workshops, market workshops and programs and put them together in the best way that I know how.

Adam:

Then to teaching at a film & television school to developing and running innovation programs. But as Christina has come to realise, her initial qualms with not being able to focus on just one thing was never a weakness and in fact was a strength. It would all click into place through a conversation Christina would have with a gentlemen over coffee.

Christina:

But it’s amassing of experience that one day I had a conversation with a gentleman by the name of Jeff Julian, who’s a futurist, and he’s worked for Spielberg, Steve Jobs. I said to him, so I’m sitting there having coffee with this person that’s worked with Steve Jobs and Spielberg. Worked on the Minority Report. I said, “Why did Steve Jobs actually employ you?”

He said to me that Steve Jobs said to him, “I employed you because you know a fair bit about a lot of stuff and you’re interested in a lot of stuff.” I went, oh my goodness, I feel like I’ve come home. That has been me, I have an insatiably curious mind, I just want to learn constantly, but it’s not enough to learn, I need to pass it on.

So if I look back, everything has lead to where I am now.

Adam:

And, where is Christina today? Christina still does a lot of different things, but it’s two main things. The first one in chronological order is Utopia X. The company Christina founded. UtopiaX is a company that offers workshops, programs and retreats to help open people’s minds to what’s possible and helps people get clear on what they want.

Christina:

So it comes back to Utopia X and why it is called Utopia X. So I believe that we can live in peace, with compassion, with love, if we make love our prime focus, as opposed to fear and war and all the ulterior sides of what love and compassion and kindness stand for. I believe that we can live in that space. I don’t believe that it’s the same spot for everybody and that’s why it’s Utopia X because my idea of what is ideals and utopic is completely different to what yours is. Maybe, maybe not. But everybody has a different version of what that is. But if we live in unconditional love and if we live in kindness and compassion, then we can allow everybody to live in their own space, respect that space for everybody and still maintain the place that we need to maintain for ourselves to live our most true self.

Adam:

And… number 2, Christina is Co-CEO of SingularityU Australia alongside Lisa Andrews. Between the two of these amazing women, they head up the SingularityU Australia Summit and the SingularityU Australia Global Impact Challenge.

But hang on, what is SingularityU?

Peter Diamandis:

SingularityU is a place that teaches about exponentially growing technologies. These are the technologies that are going to be changing our world.

Adam:

That’s the co-founder and executive chairman of  SingularityU who apart from Singularity University is best known for founding the X Prize Foundation.

Underpinning all of Christina’s work with UtopiaX and SingularityU is two things, her insatiable curiosity…

Christina:

I have an insatiably curious mind, I just want to learn constantly.

Adam:

And her love for innovation. For change, for improvement.

Christina:

What is innovation? Innovation is coming up with something new that is of use. Whether it’s a major new app or website or product. Whether it’s the flying suits that they’re actually working in various parts around the world. They’ve actually got working flying suits. Whether that’s innovation, it’s the new, it’s thinking about what is possible. It’s making improvements in the way that we do things.

Adam:

And that’s where we are today. So much more was said in the conversation I had with Christina, that wouldn’t fit into the story. So I want to end this episode with an interesting piece of advice from Christina about keeping fresh and open eyes.

Christina:

You have to walk around with your eyes wide open all the time to go, what is that showing me? One of my favorite terms is look through the eyes of a tourist. So when we’re in a different city, we look at buildings, we look at trees, w e look at oceans, we look at people and we notice all the differences. When we’re back in our home towns, we don’t notice all those differences all the time.

But it’s amazing, when you look through the eyes of a tourist and you see different things and different opportunities, different experiences, it opens hearts and minds to what’s possible.

Adam:

Thank you for listening to the story of Christina Gerakiteys. I hope you enjoyed it. Everything that was mentioned in the episode today is on the show notes page on welcometodayone.com.

Coming up on Welcome to Day One in our supporter and activator series we have organisation features on Startmate featuring the head of operations at Startmate, Michael Batko.

Michael:

Just pick a direction.  Whatever it is. Come up with a couple of hypothesis’ and run after one. Validate it as quickly as possible and tick it off the list and go after another one. Or just actually double down on that one. Just actually making decisions rather than being paralysed and pursuing all different paths at the same time.

Adam:

Startup Muster, featuring the founder of Startup Muster and Director of Entrepreneurship at UTS, Murray Hurps

Murray:

I was putting by far the most time in, at the time. There was a couple of people involved, as advisors, that were incredibly helpful. Monica Wulff, I managed to get the ear of, at the time, when she was at the ABS. And she’s an incredible person, and, much more incredible than I can explain in a podcast of this length.

Adam:

And another activator story featuring startup mentor, investor and entrepreneur in residence, Alan “the nice one” Jones.

Alan:

I think one thing that helps us as a startup founder is being a person who tries to make the most of every day and also kind of sees their work as as also a their creative challenge and their emotional need all wrapped up into one package. And I think it’s that way for me.

Adam:

Ratings & reviews help to keep us going and they help more people discover our stories. You can rate the show on most podcast platforms by going to ratedayone.com. That’s ratedayone.com to leave a rating on the podcast.

And, Thank you for giving this episode of Welcome to Day One your attention. This episode was created by me, Adam Spencer.

Interviews conducted by me, Adam Spencer.

A big thank you to Christina Gerakiteys for taking the time to be involved.

The script was written by me, Adam Spencer.

Music by Lee Rosevere, full attribution on our website welcometodayone.com

This episode was produced by me, Adam Spencer and edited by Natalie Holland.

Thank you and see you next time!

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Credits

A big thank you to Christina Gerakiteys for taking the time to be involved.

Music Credits

Music by Lee Rosevere.

Title: Let’s Start at the Beginning

Source: Let’s Start at the Beginning

Licence: CC BY 4.0

Thanks for listening! Catch you next time.

Adam

Adam is the host of Welcome to Day One covering the Hunter-Central Coast region.