Demetroulakos ’12 Sees Community Code in International Experiences

It’s been a busy year for Louis Demetroulakos ’12, who visited Shore on January 22 to speak to Upper School students about his international education and work and travel experiences in China, Israel, Greece, and United Arab Emirates. In spring 2018, Demetroulakos graduated a year early from NYU Shanghai’s Global China Studies program with minors in history and Mandarin, and in the fall, he incorporated his own company in Dubai, Sirikos Advisory, which works with Chinese investors developing business strategies for international companies looking to work with China.

Touching on some of the highlights of his whirlwind year on stage in the Trustey Family Theatre, Demetroulakos said simply, “I’ve had a lot of amazing experiences since graduating from Shore, and I wanted to come back today to share what I call ‘Community Code moments’ from my travels, and how the Code that you all recite here can influence the rest of your life.” He illustrated the relevance and power of the Code’s simple set of values—be kind, be true, be respectful, be open, be dependable, and be my best—by describing memorable experiences around the world, from the life-changing to the mundane. He recounted befriending Mandarin-speaking workers on a construction site in Shanghai, visiting holy sites in Israel, and teaching English to Chinese students, among many other eye-opening experiences.

Indeed, since he departed as a Grade 9 graduate, Demetroulakos has returned to lessons learned at Shore along every step of his journey. As a high school student at Milton Academy, he was known for his passionate engagement in every aspect of the school, from academics to sports to student life. That broad engagement began at Shore, where Demetroulakos, a varsity basketball player by seventh grade, left the court during the winter of eighth grade so he could play a role in the Upper School musical, Once Upon a Mattress. In his last year at Milton, as Co-Head Monitor, he delivered the school’s Convocation address, urging classmates to embrace life with a positive outlook and a passion for learning, to stand up for what they believe, to remember the power of smiling at someone, and to take care of their community. In his speech, he quoted Milton’s motto, “Dare to be true,” and explained, “For me, this phrase means striving to be true to the best that is in me even if it means taking risks.” The connection to Shore was unmistakable.

As he looked ahead toward college, Demetroulakos made a daring, potentially risky decision that was as true to his interests and aspirations as it was surprising to his parents: he applied and was admitted to NYU Shanghai, which was founded in 2012 to cultivate globally-minded graduates and citizens through innovative teaching, world-class research, and a commitment to public service. As Demetroulakos explained in a lengthy letter he wrote for his parents defending his decision, “I decided to go study at NYU Shanghai because it checked two important boxes for me. The first was being in an entrepreneurial environment where I would be part of building the school while being a student at the same time. The second was the intensive China focus.” His parents were convinced.

Demetroulakos enrolled as a Global China Studies major, an innovative interdisciplinary course of study that allows students to build on knowledge and critical skills gained from the core curriculum to deepen their understanding of global currents in China. “I believe that over the next 20 years we will continue to see a rising China, and I wanted to equip myself with the tools and mindset to be able to be involved with this fascinating time in China’s history. The international experiences that came as a result (Tel Aviv, Athens, and Abu Dhabi) have given me an opportunity to see how different areas of the world understand and interact with China.”

Just months after graduating, Demetroulakos translated his global education and experiences into a business plan. He saw a huge opportunity in China’s Belt and Road Initiative—an investment program focused on a diverse array of investments in over 60 different countries. “As China shifts its focus to Europe and the Middle East,” he says, “I wanted to position myself as the go-to solution for international companies looking to partner with and do business with this new generation of Chinese companies.”

His enterprise, Sirikos Advisory, works with clients to answer the biggest question for any company looking to do business in China: “What is likely to go wrong with this partnership?” Demetroulakos explains, “This type of critical thinking is something I fell in love with during my Shore days, continued building in secondary school and college, and now use on a daily basis in work. My colleagues and I believe that the biggest issue in China is transparency (or lack thereof), and we try to position ourselves where those transparency issues are most likely to impact our clients. The solutions we come up with, then, revolve around a rigorous due diligence process. This can be frustrating and time-consuming, but we firmly believe preventing is better than curing.”

The high-stakes global marketplace in which this recent college graduate now finds himself immersed would be intimidating for anyone else so early in his career, but Demetroulakos feels prepared. “Shore pushed me from a young age to be decisive with every choice I make. The consequences of my decisions today may be more significant, but Shore’s culture—which encouraged me to try, fail, and grow—gave me the confidence that every decision, even a mistake, is an opportunity to learn and grow and explore.”

Other aspects of Shore have proved similarly relevant in a competitive world. “Some of my favorite Shore memories have to do with teamwork,” Demetroulakos recounts. “Whether it was a sports team, the musical, Acafellas, or the student senate, Shore got us to understand what it means to be part of a team. We learned how to tell someone politely that we disagree in the classroom, or push each other to work a little bit harder in practice. I am still astounded—in college and beyond—seeing peers struggling with the concept of teamwork.”

Lessons learned about thoughtfulness and kindness, as well, have served him through the years. “I remember, as an Upper Schooler, giving hand-written thank-you notes to my lacrosse coaches and teachers at the end of the year, or to the parents of friends who had invited me for a sleepover,” says Demetroulakos. “This practice has stuck with me. Each time I write an e-mail or have a conversation with a client, I think back to something that began at Shore.”
    • Demetroulakos in Shanghai

    • Speaking in the Trustey Family Theatre

    • With fellow ninth graders at Shore's semi-formal, 2012