Medal awarded for fast-paced work in a complex environment

Dimitrios Mavridis (International Politics, 2010), Media Relations Manager for the UK Mission to the European Union, was recently awarded a British Empire Medal for services to British Foreign Policy. Dimitrios talked to us about his fast-paced job in Brussels, his time at City, and both the personal and professional challenges he has faced. 

Dimitrios Mavridis“I won’t forget the day I told my dad back home. I was raised under the obsolete mantra that men aren’t supposed to cry. We kind of did. Both.”
In the autumn of 2021, City alumnus Dimitrios Mavridis, was awarded a British Empire Medal for services to British Foreign Policy and as demonstrated by Dimitrios and his father’s reactions, it was both appreciated recognition and a personal and professional milestone.
“Personal, as ever since I left City, I’ve concentrated my energies on understanding how I can best contribute to the UK’s role in Europe while also doing what I like the most. This meant sacrificing a lot of personal time usually spent with close friends and family. Receiving this award justifies my decision.”
According to Dimitrios, the recognition is for ‘hands-on’ services to the local community for activity that has made a significant difference, which is why it also means a lot to him professionally.
“The local community, in this case, is what most people call ‘Brussels’ – a detached place with unclear processes for many. I spent time making it my home and I am very glad to see that my knowledge has benefited the UK’s Foreign Policy at the right time. Not least because, in my mind, it also aligns with City’s motto – to serve mankind. “

Although the recognition is much appreciated, and Dimitrios is highly invested in his work, he can look at his role with a touch of humour.
“According to the people that nominated me, I have helped further the UK’s reputation in Brussels while also transforming how it [The UK] communicates there [Brussels] during the very fluid times of the UK’s exit from the EU,” he explains wryly. “Some could argue that I didn’t do a great job. There may be truth in that.”
Even so, it’s not for lack of trying and Dimitrios would happily set his critics a challenge.
“I would invite them to explain to a UK Minister how to position themselves next to their Brussels’ counterpart after a discussion with no clear outcome and take questions from very inquisitive members of the press. Or wake up daily at five am to ensure that people that manage media in the UK have an accurate picture of ‘Brussels chatter’ before the news cycle begins. I would even invite them to rack their brains to come up with a method that quantifies public information campaigns in a very fluid political context.”

For Dimitrios, his role as Media Relations Manager for the UK Mission to the European Union ticks all the right boxes: It focuses on UK – EU relations, it’s fast-paced, and it’s in a place that makes Dimitrios feel welcome.
“I was hired at a very strange time, so the first iteration of my role was quite different to what it is nowadays. The role I was hired for was about media operations six months before the UK would assume the rotating Presidency of the EU. My starting date was the day after the referendum result to leave the EU. One can imagine how much it transformed from the get-go. The Foreign Office clearly mentioned in the job description that they were looking for someone who would be expected to work out of hours. It did not disappoint someone in their early 30s looking to make the most out of such an opportunity.”

Dimitrios graduated from City in 2010 with an MA in International Politics.
“I did extensive research the year before my studies, and I could see that the staff in the International Politics department at City had just created a fresh, new department where my critical thinking would be a good fit.”
For Dimitrios, it was important to choose a subject that supports his values.
“I am convinced that people matter. At the same time, people need to feel valued,” he says. “It sounds cheesy, but I studied International Politics because I wanted to make a difference at a level that matters to me and the world. Having lived and studied the field in Greece, I could see that my home country had made its Foreign Policy choices based largely on the role of powers larger than itself, and this makes sense if one looks at its place on the map and historical developments that took place there. Myself however, I needed to explore a different way of thinking that could eventually lead me to a place where I could contribute to shaping change at a global level. The UK in the late [20]00s was that place. It still is if one looks at the UK’s recently published integrated review and its Global Britain ambitions.”
He says he got an added bonus while studying for the MA:
“While studying in Greece for my Bachelor’s I was exposed to many members of teaching staff who were great authorities in their field. In the Master’s Degree I chose at City I found sort of an extended family. Teaching staff from a diversity of backgrounds were there to support me every step of the way. Both in challenging me to develop my thinking but also when dealing with personal difficulties one faces away from home.”

 Dimitrios thoroughly enjoyed his studies at City.
“They were everything I imagined them to be. A transformative experience both in terms of the curriculum and the social life around my studies. I really feel that I expanded my horizons on the underpinnings of the international relations discipline to the extent that I even considered a PhD. Thankfully for both the discipline and myself, I followed a more action-oriented trajectory.”
This trajectory was at first “nonlinear”, as Dimitrios describes it.
“EU affairs weren’t popular in London at the time, and myself, I am not great at planning. I focused on what I do best – peddling in all directions until something sticks.”
After several unsuccessful applications to London-based Think Tanks and UK MPs offices, the European Commission called Dimitrios in for a traineeship and Brussels was suddenly in the mix.

Having secured the right job for him, are there any challenges?
“Communicating with clarity and staying sane. It is the civil service. One can imagine the many checks and balances required to coalesce common understanding and harness actionable objectives – both internally and externally. Add to that a fluid political environment and an equally complex civil service on the EU side, the number of stakeholders involved to agree on a piece of paper is quite large. Managing these stakeholders is the biggest part of any comms role and it can take a toll on you if don’t stay focused on what matters. What matters is keeping in mind what this is all about. Keeping citizens informed on both sides of the channel on a number of issues – ranging from travel restrictions lately to complex technical issues like allocation of fishing quotas following Brexit.”

And what does Dimitrios consider his biggest success?
“I recently overcame cancer. Thankfully it hadn’t progressed much, so I was back on my feet within a year. The success wasn’t so much overcoming the disease at this point but swiftly processing what it means about the person I wish to become. I realised that I had focused much of my time on leaving a mark through my chosen field of work. Cancer was a chance to take much-needed time off of work and think deeply about what else I wish to be: A good friend, son, and maybe one day a father.”
He also looks forward to a new chapter of his role, which is highly topical.
“I will be managing climate-related communications for the UK government in Brussels. I trust it is a big challenge and in terms of where it fits, it is the biggest one the world is facing and one that was and will be there after Covid.”
It’s a subject that circles Dimitrios’ thoughts back to what he hopes for in the future.
“Most impassionate speeches during COP26 were about what kind of world we are going to leave for our children. I want to continue focusing on my family and eventually come to a place where I can have children of my own.”

A big congratulations to Dimitrios Mavridis for being awarded a British Empire Medal and a thank you for sharing his story!