Quiet achiever

first_imgHaving delivered a complicated project for electronic and systems group Thales Australia just nine days before its deadline and against all odds, Charalambos Tavlaridis has every right to feel very proud and ready for a new challenge. With two of the company’s simulators located in Toowoomba – a full-flight helicopter mission simulator and a helicopter crew procedural trainer (CPT) and an additional second CPT based in Darwin, it has certainly been a very challenging and rewarding journey with Thales Australia. Mr Tavlaridis has been with the company, which operates in 84 countries and employs more than 65,000 people, as their program manager for the last 18 years. With a simulator costing anywhere between $12-$30 million each and with a reliability/availability lifecycle of approximately seven years, it is vital that all technical staff are trained sufficiently in order to ensure the simulators are operating at peak level with 98 per cent operational uptime efficiency. This project has now concluded. “After 18 years with the company, I have now decided that my job here is done and I feel that, although the time is never going to be perfect, it is a good time to test the waters and look at other opportunities,” Mr Tavlaridis says.But how did it all start for the eldest son of a Greek-Pontian family that migrated to Australia and settled in Coober Pedy back in 1968? Looking back to his childhood and watching his father work very hard as an opal miner, Mr Tavlaridis enjoyed the relaxed lifestyle in an ethnic environment that allowed him to maintain his heritage. But as much as he enjoyed the freedom, he just couldn’t see any future in Coober Pedy. “I love this place, I really think that my ‘can do attitude’ goes back to those years I spent in Coober Pedy,” he admits.“That’s where I learnt how to drive a car, at the age of 11. That’s where I made my first kite using only water, newspaper and flour. That’s where I built up my appreciation and passion for aeroplanes.”Being ambitious and passionate about aeroplanes but a realist at the same time, Mr Tavlaridis moved to Melbourne and made the conscious decision to join the army.“I wanted to learn how to make aeroplanes but didn’t have the financial support to study independently, so I decided that joining the army and studying Aerospace Engineering at RMIT was the best way to make my dream come true,” he says.“I wanted to gain the ability to understand technical, complicated concepts and apply the knowledge”, he adds. It has now been 30 years of working on simulators and he is still amazed at what technology has to offer. “With a simulator, what you see, visually, is exactly the same as it would be out in real life,” Mr Tavlaridis says.“Pilots practice all the emergencies and know all the procedures while the motion platform gives them more realism which results in better performance.”Being a project manager in a very demanding and high performance industry can be quite difficult at times. “You are continually being tested, but the most challenging part in my career relates back to people and culture,” he says. “Initially, we used to recruit our staff based on their relevant experience, training and then attitude. As the years progressed, I have come to realise that, when you have a team in a remote location, you can’t afford to lose talent. I examined the high turnover and realised that we were hiring all ‘wrong’. As soon as we put attitude first and experience second, the morale of the team changed. The lesson I took away from that is that if you have the right attitude, your team will run smoothly. You can teach skills but you can’t teach character. If you have the right attitude, there is nothing you can’t do.”It takes only a few minutes to see that Charalambos Tavlaridis is passionate about two things; his career and his Greek heritage. Back in 2007 and whilst the Pontian Brotherhood of South Australia was facing financial difficulties, Mr Tavlaridis was invited by the members of the Community to join them; he immediately was elected president and his strategic planning, organisational skills and collective efforts resulted in the SA parliament recognising the Pontian Genocide as the Brotherhood celebrates its 50th year anniversary. “We took advantage of the opportunity given to us at the time and worked very hard for the 50th anniversary to be commemorated in the SA Migration Museum with a plaque which finally recognised that Pontians were the genocidal victims of the Ottoman Empire,” he says.“South Australia was the first parliament in the world to recognise the genocide. I will be eternally grateful to Mr Michael Atkinson, Minister of Justice and Multicultural Affairs at the time, who unveiled the plaque and stood by our side,” Mr Tavlaridis adds. Although Mr Tavlaridis feels extremely proud and humbled by the whole experience, he hopes that “this gesture and accomplishment will inspire the next generation of Greeks to join in the efforts and keep the Greek culture alive in the years to come”. Now, if you think that this is all from the 49-year-old project manager, wait until you read about his next project. “I am training for the 2015 Greek Marathon,” he says. “I will be running the 42km marathon next November and I am looking forward to receiving my medal in Athens,” he concludes. Charalambos Tavlaridis is focused, determined and inspiring. He is most certainly one of those individuals who make you feel proud to be Greek. Facebook Twitter: @NeosKosmos Instagramlast_img

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