Introducing: Bay Area Pioneer - Peter Kovacs

Jan 23, 2021

Peter Kovacs

Home LC: Concordia University, Montreal, Canada

@ Experience Highlight: Various EB roles, Global Village OC, AfroExpro 01 Delegate

Places Lived: Budapest, Hungary; Sidi-Bel-Abbes, Algeria; Montreal, Canada; Oakland & Palo Alto, California

Footprints: 38 countries

Contact me for: Executive Coaching, Travel & Entrepreneurship Advice, Great conversation :-)

Contact: peter@cqsavvy.com

Peter is an executive coach & cross-cultural expert. He helps high performers, entrepreneurs, change makers and C-level executives to raise the game for their companies, careers, and impact. His clients include Nvidia, Amazon and Bain & Co. 

Peter previously founded 4 startups in the B2B and B2C space. He also mentors at Singularity University, StartOut, Pathrise and the NASDAQ Entrepreneurial Center.

 

AIESEC Path and Beyond

How did your AIESEC experience influence your career and beyond?

 As much as it may sound like a cliché in the AIESEC world, it changed my life.

Until my first international conference, which was AfroExpro 2001 in Egypt, I very much lived with the usual worldview that our society tries so hard to instill us: work hard, get a job, do the safe thing, follow orders, retire, then, maybe, start living the life you really wanted. That conference changed that. 

I spent a week in a hotel with 70 leaders from the African continent as well as a few outsiders. (Me being one of them). I don’t use the word leader lightly here. 

The way they showed up and what they spoke about - grand projects and plans to make them happen - help me see the matrix. It helped lift me to 30k feet from where I could see not just the path I was on, but become aware of the other paths and possibilities. This was a pivotal moment. That is when, without realizing it, I weered off the beaten path. 

Another change was what I intuitively understood when I first saw a table AIESEC had on the club recruiting days in the first semester: A promise of a lifetime.

I understood the potential of a global network that transcends not just borders but generations, united by a common vision for what mankind can achieve. I knew that the seeds I planted then and there would bloom into friendships and countless opportunities, personal and professional alike, for the rest of my life. 

Looking back, I was not disappointed. 

What’s the one thing you wish you learned before graduating from AIESEC?

Back in the AIESEC days, I had low self-confidence. I was also quite shy. This kept me from leaping, taking more initiatives and leadership positions stepping outside of my comfort zone.

With what I know now, which took a lot of bone knowledge, I would have taken more leaps in the air, trusting that I’d learn to fly on the way down. Bone knowledge is wisdom that you learn the hard way through life experiences - things you know in your bones. 

It is this bone knowledge that makes me very good at what I do today. 

 

Quest and Finding Purpose

How and when did you find your purpose? And if you are still looking, what have you learned so far?

When you talk about purpose, what comes to mind is essence. Our essence is our natural way of showing up in the world that is, one, is effortless and two, adds value. Our essence is not our job or title. Those are just forms. It’s not quite our purpose but usually aligned.

I’ve been an entrepreneur since age 13. For the longest time, I thought that a tech founder was my purpose or essence. It was when I few words on someone’s Twitter profile that broke that illusion and started me on a quest. 

A quest usually starters with a quest(ion). For me, it was a short one. Is this it? Is there more to life? A fellow entrepreneur, who was in the same position: founder of a profitable tech startup in silicon valley had written in her profile: “Living the dream”. My life certainly did not feel like a dream. It wasn’t a bad life but not dream material. That plus a medical diagnosis help put things into perspective. 

I set off on a journey, a question and adventure and I can say that I’m much closer to figure out what my essence is. 

After making a successful exit from my 4th startups and then traveling the world, as one does, I am now an executive coach and I do powerful work that I love. I know that this container is much more congruent with my essence. Yet I also know that maybe tomorrow I may find something else.

I’m not attached to a particular outcome. A big part of my essence is serving others and connecting people. And this is what I do. The quest continues and I’m loving it.

Many AIESECers mentioned that they had this power of invincibility and passion at AIESEC, but they’ve never felt it again after getting their real world jobs. Have you felt this way? What is your advice?

Yes, I’ve known many people who let the sparks they had during the AIESEC days get extinguished. I guess my advice is to never give up. And to also reframe failure as a lesson.

When you feel stuck, hire a great coach. That’s what I did. 

I met mine on a plane to India. I was chairing the AAIC in India back in 2015. I didn’t know it yet but he was also an AIESEC and he was delivering a full train workshop at the IC which was happening in parallel. The reason why I chatted him up is that I suspected he might be French from the accent I heard and I wanted to test it by speaking to him in French slang. I’m a trickster that way. It turned out he was German, his name is Johannes Koen and the rest is history. 

He helped me see the power of coaching and it is thanks to him that I ended up on this path. 

I did not end up on this party directly, but by optimizing for serendipity, being curious, making connections, and reframing failure as a lesson.  

So go, try things, make new friends and remember, the worst thing that can happen, is a lesson.

What was the closest thing you’ve found to be like AIESEC after college, where you absolutely love what you do with a strong sense of purpose?

It is what I do now. I am an executive coach but I am also a cross-cultural expert. I work with clients I love, CEO, founders, C-level, higher performers, and change-makers. 

I have very specific criteria about who I work with and I only take on new clients only by referral from people I trust. They are spread around the globe and share the same hope and focus on Impact as AIESEC has. They often have goals that are so transformational that they require a level of personal transformation. I am an ally on that journey. 

So I’m getting the impact, working amazing and inspiring human being as well as the travel and social components. 

 

Parting Words and Offer For Our Members

if you or someone you know who has a track record of success but is now facing a challenge taking their success to the next level, introduce us! I'd love to meet with them and give them a 2-hour experience of how powerful a coaching conversation can be, gratis.

If it’s a good fit and if there is room in my practice, we’ll discuss next steps.

 

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