Back in 1990, at the age of 10, his father volunteered him to create 100 posters with the slogan “Macedonia is Greek” and “Never Forget Cyprus 1974” for the massive rally held in Washington, DC. By the age of 11, he started making replicas of emblems from the Batman movie and sold them to children in his neighborhood. Today, Nestor Makarigakis, who started off as a talented artist during childhood has turned into a real-life entrepreneurial superhero, serving as the executive director and vice-president of the MISTRAS Group, as well as head of Marketing and Communications with over 25 years’ experience. He became the first company official to formally set up a separate department for Marketing and Communications, thus maximizing its functionality, while overseeing the company’s promotional campaigns, internal and external communications, public relations, and brand operations across the world.
Over the past 15 years, his efforts have contributed to upgrading the MISTRAS Group’s profile in the asset protection industry through global branding, marketing, development, and incorporation of the MISTRAS label.
His department has received awards from the Internet Advertising Competition (IAC) and Web Marketing Association (WMA), where he subsequently was invited to serve as a WebAward judge at the premier annual contest for web developers and marketers.
Nestor Makarigakis currently serves on three corporate committees, including the Environmental, Social, and Safety Committee (ESS), as well as the Corporate Governance and Investor Relations Committees. He also serves as strategic adviser to the executive director of the Data Solutions Center of Excellence for the development of OneSuite™, the first software ecosystem built for the asset protection industry. At the same time, he is an official board member and expert panelist of the Forbes Communications Council, board member of the Chief Marketing Officers (CMO) Council and network member of the CMO Club, member of the Web Marketing Association (WMA) and American Marketing Association (AMA), former member of the Association of National Advertisers (ANA) and exhibitor committee member of the American Society for Nondestructive Testing.
TNH’s interview with Nestor Makarigakis, who founded and managed a web design and development company, the Kataplix Group, at the age of 17 and ran it for eight years, was particularly informative due to the fact that he has assumed many responsibilities and initiatives from a very young age, which helped him develop a dynamic and responsible entrepreneurial approach with leadership qualities, which can support a company the size of the MISTRAS Group.
Born in Bay Ridge, Brooklyn, Mr. Makarigakis and is married to Katerina Makarigakis, with whom he has two children, Eleanna-Pelagia and Stelios-Nestor.
Mr. Makarigakis, what was your calling and your favorite pastime when you were a child?
From a very young age, I was always involved in art, architecture, graphic design, and logos – and I was interested in their history, meaning, and representation. My mother is very creative and she taught me to draw from very early on. These are the small details in life that proved vitally important in helping me get to where I am today.
In the mid 1980s, when I was around six years old, an art school sent home a promotional packet inviting people to draw a complicated image, which you could then send back to them to evaluate your talent and receive an art kit with drawing supplies – which you would have to pay for, of course! Even though it targeted an older demographic, since I was passionate about art from back then, I definitely wanted to give it a try. I still have the entire kit today! This experience taught me to view art differently from very early in life. When I turned ten, I used to design greeting cards for the holidays and send them to the local Greek newspapers The National Herald and Proini, and sometimes they would print them. I still have a copy of an issue featuring my card at home.
What were your fondest memories from that era?
I have a lot of fond memories as a child in Greece, which are connected to my Greek heritage. Before my parents built their home in the city of Megara, we spent a lot of time at my father’s hometown; the village of Olympoi on the island of Chios. I have a lot of funny and tender memories from there. I remember the animals and how captivating it felt to be in such close contact with them. I remember helping my grandfather Nestor in his vineyard and my grandmother Angeliki shell almonds and prepare sun-dried tomatoes. I remember locking up Aunt Fotini in the chicken coup, or another time, when she woke me up before daybreak so we could head up to a mountain on our donkeys to collect mastic… I remember Uncle Michael, who used to let me drive his three-wheel motorcycle. These are singular and unforgettable moments in my life, and I never experienced anything like them in the United States.
How did you get involved in Information Technology?
I grew up in the shipping industry, because my father worked in the Merchant Marines. I used to hear stories from him and our relatives who would travel the world, and I was always amazed at how these people, who came from a small village in Chios, were so familiar with so many other countries around the world. This led me to want to follow in my father’s footsteps in the Merchant Marines ever since I was a child and attend the US Merchant Marine Academy, but both my parents discouraged me. My father would always tell me that “we have our own company, but it would be good if you could study something else as well,” while my mother did not want me to be out at sea for months at a time, like my father in the past. And so, I changed course. This was a very confusing time, because I didn’t know what else to do. I ended up studying Information Technology, since I was already involved in web design from back then and wanted to learn more. My Information Technology background helps me in my career up until today, particularly with the rise of digital marketing.
Tell us a little bit about the MISTRAS Group.
The MISTRAS Group is a leading multinational provider of integrated technology-enabled asset protection solutions. With approximately 6,000 employees and over 120 offices in over 12 nations, it has served as an industry leader in asset protection for over 40 years, supported by a wide data-driven portfolio of solutions, world-class supervision and online monitoring (OLM), as well as a global network of resources and knowledge. The MISTRAS Group serves clients across a variety of industries (petroleum/petrochemicals, aviation/defense, renewable and non-renewable energy, construction, etc.) and helps them secure and maintain operational excellence, while helping the world at large by supporting organizations that help fuel our vehicles and power our society. We inspect the components they use to build all types of vehicles, from automobiles to air and space crafts, and we build real-time monitoring equipment to ensure safe travel across bridges. We offer enhanced value to our clients by integrating asset protection throughout the supply chain and centralizing integrity data using a suite of industrial IoT-connected digital software and monitoring solutions. The company’s core capabilities also include non-destructive testing field and in-line inspections enhanced by advanced robotics, laboratory quality control and assurance testing, sensing technologies and NDT equipment, asset and mechanical integrity engineering services, and light mechanical maintenance and access services.
How would you describe the MISTRAS Group’s corporate culture?
Our company features an unbelievable culture of innovation, entrepreneurialism, and camaraderie. Innovation is in our DNA, starting with our founder and executive chairman, Dr. Sotirios Vahaviolos, who systematically created a corporate culture dedicated to large-scale research and engineering development, which continues until today. However, Dr. Vahaviolos also made a different aspect of innovation within our organization possible. A large part of our growth comes from acquiring companies that possess parallel solutions and technologies that allow us to expand our services to solve our clients’ problems more efficiently. By bringing together leaders with an entrepreneurial spirit and actively incorporating interoperability among our stable technologies, we created an environment that stands out for continual improvement and technological progress. We also have an initiative called Caring Connects that reminds us all that we are part of something bigger than ourselves. MISTRAS is a multinational entity with over 100 locations, and so Caring Connects reminds us about the community we belong to and that the care we show for one another, our clients, and the environment is what makes the MISTRAS Group such a remarkable organization.
What opportunities does your company presently offer its clients?
Our founder, Dr. Vahaviolos, possessed the foresight and knowhow to develop remote monitoring technologies and market them back in the 1980s, a full decade and a half before the arrival of the World Wide Web! Whether its our technical team conducting testing or a sensor collecting information, we have been gathering integrity data, storing it, and processing it for decades. Today, our company provides its clients with the ability to view their integrity data in various dimensions, incorporating our software and technologies onto the new OneSuite™ platfrom, the first asset protection software ecosystem designed for our industry. This means that instead of storing integrity data on many different software applications, we provide clients with uniform access to their integrity data via our portal, including access to over 85 interoperable applications that communicate with each other and dynamically update on one central, connected, and secure platform.
We’ve entered a new era. What does the future hold for us?
In our sector, the first Web 3.0 (metaverse) databases have already arrived. Augmented Reality (AR) will help improve our technicians’ capabilities. Furthermore, Virtual Reality (VR) will help with the creation of digital twins. At that point, an asset, like a bridge, will have a digital version (i.e., a digital twin) that will accurately reflect its physical version, so that companies may experiment, try different approaches, and ultimately provide better solutions for the preservation of an asset’s integrity. Web 3.0 will help industries like ours in this manner and the MISTRAS Group’s team of innovators will be able to explore all these technologies and many more.
Who are the people that influenced you most in life
We are who we are because of the people around us. I recognize that I am who I am today thanks to certain people, without whom I would be nothing. I will start with my father, who pushed me to get an education and learn new things, and who never stopped doing so, thus preparing me to manage a business. He laid down the foundations for me and helped me get to where I am today. He trusted me and brought me on board to help him at work ever since I was a young boy. He gave me an IBM commercial typewriter and put me in charge of preparing his company’s invoices at the age of 12. I learned how to do it so well that I kept doing it for over 25 years, until he retired. That’s how I learned how a company operates. Being a mechanic, he wanted me to know how everything works and would have me stand alongside him when he was repairing something. Often times, he would even force me to watch, because I would get bored. I even learned how to fix the bicycles of the children in the neighborhood and get paid to do it! Both my parents and my wife Katerina are the most selfless people I know and they have offered me boundless support. The same goes for my sister Angela, whom I would always turn to for any problem I would face as a young man, whether it was how to dress or how to act in different situations. My brother-in-law Demetrios inspired me with the passion he has for his job. My uncle Nick always worked with computers, and in 1993 he gave me an old computer that he wanted to get rid of. This computer ended up changing my life, and very early on at that, because I was one of the few 13-year-olds who had their own personal computer. My uncle Greg, my grandfather John, my grandmother Maria…all these people taught me to love my work and to have a good work ethic, to appreciate hard-earned money, and to respect people and life – which is short and must be enjoyed together with hard work.
Dr. Vahaviolos, the founder and Executive Chairman of the MISTRAS Group has played an important role in my life and continues to positively impact it. I learned so much from him about business and strategy, and continue to do so. This is something for which I am infinitely appreciative. I hold deep gratitude and admiration for him. He has done so much for me that I feel as if my family is an extension of his own family. Words cannot describe the high regard in which I hold his knowledge, his mind, his experience, and his humanity.
As a Greek-American, how do you feel about your two countries?
I am extremely proud of both countries from which I hail. As a first-generation Greek-American, I feel a special warmth when I go to Greece and visit my family and the place where my parents were born and raised. Having more than one place where I feel at home is very important because it provides me with a greater sense of belonging, and I am grateful that I hail from such beautiful homelands. Greece always amazes me! Although geographically small, it possesses such vast beauty and it is unbelievably difficult – if not impossible – to see it all. I especially like how people have intertwined their local environment with their lives. For example, mastic in Chios, olives in the Peloponnese, etc., and I am amazed at how these products become a part of daily life. Even at the beach, after a long day, people can go for a swim and relax. You don’t find this strong connection to the land and the sea in the U.S. very often. On the other hand, the U.S. amazes me regarding how personal, financial, and academic progress are central in shaping people’s lives. If someone is looking for work, they will probably find it. If someone wants to succeed, it is likely that they will do so. If someone wants to further their education, they are able to. There are pathways available to suit all kinds of motivation and skills, and they are perhaps more evident or “easy” to follow here in the U.S. compared to elsewhere in the world.