Featured Interviews TNC

NRENs are catalysts to innovation: interview with Tryfon Chiotis

Tryfon Chiotis receiving the 2022 Community Award at the ceremony during TNC22 in Trieste, Italy.

Tryfon is Head of the GÉANT Project Management Office (PMO) and also one of the two winners of the 2022 Community Award. The Award is a celebration of his significant contribution to the GÉANT project as well as the wider community activities during his time at the Greek National Research and Education Network (GRNET), where he was the CTO, and at the various international Boards and Committees – NREN PC, TERENA General Assembly, the Future Internet Forum, ESA, IRG, EGI and PRACE – before he finally joined GÉANT.

In this interview, he shares the reasons behind his long-lasting commitment and dedication to the international research and education community and gives us a sneak peek into the GÉANT PMO’s future plans!

Tryfon, throughout your career in the research and education community from campus to national and now international level, you must have really seen everything when it comes to NRENs in action! At the Award ceremony in Trieste, you have called it your “life-long dream”. Tell us, what keeps you motivated to work and grow in this community?

Throughout my career I have worked with great colleagues. I can’t stress enough about the NRENs’ culture which acts as a catalyst to innovate, try new things, not to be afraid of failures. I am challenged daily and at the same time encouraged to find creative ways to solve problems. I am also grateful for the great leaders we have who inspire me every day to be passionate, and to love my job. Every day brings something new and different, and that surprise motivates me. For me, it’s one of those jobs where you can’t tell if it’s work or pleasure. It is a long-term endeavour, something you build towards and work upon every day.

For the last 10 years, you have been working on the GN project. Can you share with us your favourite moment working on it as the head of the PMO?  

I would have to say that there are several moments. Our ‘all hands’ symposia, the successful EC reviews, the moment you receive the Evaluation Result Letter (ESR) after the evaluation of a successful proposal, signing the two FPAs, and also sending out the 400th weekly project newsletter at 5 o’clock on a Monday morning!

During the ceremony you dedicated this Award to your colleagues and the whole Community, a key part of the GN project. What’s the secret ingredient to a successful PMO team working on such an ambitious project and with so many cross-disciplinary and international iterations?

My colleagues are a motivation to come into work every day as they consistently try to challenge the way things are done. We always end up brainstorming on how to do things better and it always leads to productive discussions. We all understand the wider mission, the importance of the work being done and how it fits into the overall scheme of things. Additionally, although the work we do is complex and never-ending, every call or meeting- even the tough ones- are always sprinkled with a personal connection, laughter, and a bit of fun. What I do can only be this successful because of great teamwork and synergy.

If you could sum up your work on the GN project in 5 words, what would they be?

Commitment. Colleagues. Collaboration. Contribution. Causes.

What’s next for you, Tryfon?

Funding after Horizon Europe is essentially the next big challenge. We will try for a new FPA, or a Contribution Agreement, or a Service Contract to secure the funding needs for 2028-2034. Longer term, well, the sky is the limit!

The Community Award will come back next year! Watch this space to send your nomination!

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