Geek looking at data


Geek Of The Week: Lefty Papachristoforou

Feb 11, 2013, 01:24 PM by Jack DePoe

It’s all Geek to him.

Lefty Papachristoforou likes to do things his way.  This week, he’s celebrating his thirtieth birthday and, in keeping with a longstanding tradition, he has come up with a way to make this the quirkiest and most original celebration yet.  For years, EA’s Product Manager has been putting on an elaborate party in conjunction with his best friend from the University of Western Ontario who shares the same birthday. Now that the big three-oh is here, Lefty has something big in mind.

“We never just send out invitations and throw a party,” he says. “It’s always got to be something original.  This year, we’ve tried to crank it up another notch.”

That could be a tall order for a pair who’ve already pulled off some memorable events, like the time they sent out invitations to their bogus wedding. Their parties have ranged from off the wall to downright bizarre, but, as Lefty asserts, they are always a blast, and typically stretch over at least a week with different events. While he declined to say what this year’s party will entail (so as not to spoil the fun for friends), he guarantees a good time for all attendees.  Even his contribution at last year’s company holiday gift exchange was typical Lefty: his gift card was an autographed portrait of…Lefty—prompting much laughter from colleagues.

“I like to think outside the box a little bit.”

A quirky mind that has the ability to develop new ideas and look at issues in a different way serves Lefty well. Since joining Environics Analytics as Product Manager in 2012, Lefty has been called upon to find creative applications and new ways to use the ever-increasing suite of analytical tools available to EA’s clients.

“I like to think outside the box a little bit,” he states. “If I can come up with a new perspective or a different way of doing things, it can help us innovate as a company and move forward. In turn, that allows us to find new ways to help our clients with their business challenges.”

Lefty possesses both an entrepreneurial and analytical background, having worked previously as the content manager at ProductWiki, a web-based product information resource, and as an analyst at Union Gas Limited, where he researched new technologies and developed energy conservation programs. He earned an Honours Bachelor of Arts degree in business administration from the Richard Ivey School of Business at the University of Western Ontario. In the summer of 2012, as he looked for the next step in his career, Lefty met EA president Jan Kestle through a mutual friend. When Lefty revealed during an interview that he was a “numbers guy” who had taken calculus as an elective during his business course, the fit seemed perfect and he was soon hired. His affinity for numbers has stood him in good stead while learning the data analytics business. “I had no idea that this sort of business existed,” he recalls. “The ability to use numbers and statistics to make data-based marketing decisions is something I found fascinating.”


And being a numbers guy has also supported the other big love in Lefty’s life: sports. He’s an unabashed fan of the statistical aspect of sports like baseball and football, as
Lefty’s favourite winter activity from the top of a mountain in Switzerland.

well as the mental challenge of golf. “I really like to be active and outside,” says Lefty. “I love all sports, and especially watching baseball, but golf is my favourite to play.”

As a high school student, Lefty played on the school golf team and he continues playing to this day, at least once a week when the weather permits. An avid gym rat, he trains on weights and cardio equipment a minimum of three times weekly, and his winter weekends are often devoted to ski trips, both on local hills and further afield to Quebec, the U.S. and B.C.  On weeknights, Lefty typically relaxes in front of the TV in his apartment at CityPlace in downtown Toronto. The neighbourhood, classified as Young Digerati in the PRIZM system, seems to be true to its designation, according to Lefty, with its concentration of young professionals and couples with children. And despite the convenience of being close to the Rogers Centre, where Lefty regularly takes in a pro game, he does find the neighbourhood somewhat lacking in amenities. “You do feel a little bit separated from the action,” he says. “You have to travel a few blocks before you can get to a restaurant or shop.”

Still, walking a few blocks is hardly a deterrent for Lefty, who is quite the traveller. “Next to sports, I’d say my second favourite thing to do is travel,” he says. “And if I can combine them, all the better.” In the past few years, Lefty has attended both the Winter Olympics in Vancouver and the Summer Games in London, England. His travels have taken him to ten U.S. Cities to check out baseball games and some of the historic stadiums, including several that no longer exist.  When asked about his all-time favourite place to visit, he offers another typically unexpected response: Edinburgh [Scotland].


“It’s such a cool place with all the old buildings and the medieval atmosphere,” he says. “I like all the old castles.”

But his favourite sports-related excursion occurred while attending the Vancouver Olympics, where he felt nearly overwhelmed by the combination of the event and the national pride—not unexpected for the product of two very diverse cultures. His father hails from Cyprus, while his mother came from Hong Kong, both immigrants to Canada who raised their family in Waterloo. For Lefty, the combination of learning Greek and Cantonese was a challenge, though he says he still retains enough of both languages to get by in a street conversation. “It was tough because the two languages are so different,” he admits. “But having my maternal grandparents next door, I ended up retaining more Chinese.”


Alternating between diverse cultures in school and at home helped Lefty gain a unique perspective. Whether he’s taking on a new product challenge or devising a wacky way to celebrate a birthday, you can bet he’ll meet the challenge in his inimitable style. Just don’t take the party invitation too seriously.
Lefty at the Edinburgh Fringe Festival.

–Jack DePoe