Francesco Di Gregorio
Francesco Di Gregorio
Currently: Executive MBA participant and Public Affairs and Public Strategies Manager, Telecom Italia
Why did you want to do an MBA?
My job with Telecom Italia is to make the future happen in telecoms and electronic communications; it’s a very dynamic sector. I’m asked to identify what future scenarios we should expect, which goals we should set and how to achieve them, and to describe the drivers and potential bottlenecks.
Moreover, I always had a great interest in strategies with a social impact, which led me to my present position of Public Strategies manager. But the financial aspects of public strategies – implying building models for bringing broadband and green ICT to schools, hospitals and underdeveloped areas – often pose a big challenge to a private company such as Telecom Italia since these strategies don’t always bring an immediate economic return.
In order to do my best for the benefit of my company and society in general, I needed more tools. I wanted to be able to speak the language of our Chief Financial Officer, to raise the right questions at the right time, to make the proper decisions. I knew I needed to improve my hard skills and my soft skills to be able to jump from my current management level – where I have responsibility but no full control – to the level of senior management.
The financial courses in this programme are of great interest helping me to improve my “skills toolbox” and RSM has a special emphasis on developing leadership qualities which will enable me to inspire and motivate people.
Why did you chose RSM for your EMBA?
I didn’t want to stay within those Roman walls, so I searched thoroughly for quality. This distance was not an issue as long as the results were guaranteed. At RSM I found an international dimension I could not feel at other European business schools. RSM is a child of the Dutch international environment and its multiculturalism is its footprint. This window open to the world and the strong emphasis placed on personal leadership development drove me to RSM.
Moreover, when attending some classes during the Open Day I had the chance to look at the people around me: these were indeed the classmates I was looking for. What I was not looking for, but happily found, was an environment in which people with such a variety of backgrounds and experiences assemble and exchange ideas, bringing different perspectives also to the problems I deal with daily. The very first case in the accounting course proved this to me. My ideas, that I was ready to fight for, turned out to be influenced by my cultural and geographic background. I had to face other aspects raised by my colleagues which were equally important and gave me a completely different view on the issue.
Does your work for Telecom Italia and a full life fit with your EMBA?
You have to sacrifice some of your time to achieve your results, but I’m definitely committed to this experience.
Actually I love the academic environment. I’m already involved in Telecom Italia’s own corporate university where teaching legal and regulatory aspects linked to the electronic communication sector are part of my job; I’m also happy to give lectures when invited at other universities.
Unless not having enough time, I love travelling as well, so I have become involved in the world of ‘couch-surfing’ (www.couchsurfing.com) which brings an international view of the world to me, at home, in Rome. It’s a community of people offering a couch or a spare room for international travellers and allows closer contact with the places visited. You guide your guests through the hidden parts of your place that no tourist guide will ever reveal and – at the same time – you learn from their travel experiences and get a taste of different cultures and views of the world.
I found the same kind of view of the world in Rotterdam: one more reason to be here. This is me; it is my style; the life I want to live.
How do you find the schedule?
The classes are very interesting, but you need to be prepared in order to get the full benefit. The coursework is definitely tough and the MBA itself becomes a lesson in effectively managing your time. Every available moment, e.g. the flight-time between Rome and Rotterdam, lunch time and evening breaks, become an opportunity for studying.
The workload is around 35-40 hours per week; but the interaction among classmates divided into small groups helps to make it lighter and gives us a better idea of what we need to focus on.
What has been the most memorable moment so far?
The evening social meetings in Rotterdam with the working group and EMBA mates are always fun and help provide a different perspective on the experience we are going through.
But probably the most memorable moments we had the chance to share have been during the study trip in Japan. When you have to cope with a different environment, different lecturers and culture, you feel part of a group… especially if the Netherlands’ football team is playing the World Cup final. Watching the match in the early hours of the morning, I have to admit I really felt a little bit Dutch!
Furthermore, visiting businesses in that country gave us a direct picture of their approach toward the employees, its organisation and their workload. The Japanese model had been explained in class, but I got the chance to see it applied in practice.
What do you think of the professors?
I really like RSM’s approach, that there are lots of routes to knowledge. I wanted a master’s degree to give me more skills – to add tools to my ‘skills toolbox’ and explain how to use them. I want to be able to implement solutions to financial issues, but knowing the theory only takes you so far. At RSM, the professor gives you the theory and also gives you an example of the framework for its practical use and how it applies in real life. This practical approach puts some order into my skills toolbox.
Actually the teaching at RSM is completely different from the one you find in the Italian academic system. The communication is not a point-to-multipoint (such as traditional broadcasting) but mimics the new paradigm of a peer-to-peer web based model. It’s a multipoint-to-multipoint communication: the information from the professors bounces around and the discussion involves everyone, yet it is still guided. I really appreciate this as it makes knowledge grow in an exponential way.
How would you recommend discussing your MBA aspirations with your company in order to get financial and time support?
It really depends on the system you are working in. In Italy, financial support from a company usually binds you for a long period after the course. Bearing the expenses on your own can give more freedom of choice afterwards. Support in the form of time is always advisable as our working schedules are very tight and study time is essential for obtaining the best from your efforts.
If you were to start your EMBA studies again, would you do anything differently?
So far, I wouldn’t make any significant change to my choices or to my approach. It happens that I may spend too much time preparing for some classes – but I think that’s normal, especially with issues or subjects which are new to me and require me to “invest” more time in preparation.
Have you been able to apply what you’re learning in your job?
In general I would say the knowledge I acquired thanks to the organizational behaviour classes helped me quite a lot; to better understand how to inspire my colleagues, how to understand the motivation of people working in my team, and how to influence my company’s dynamics.
I’d like to mention in more detail one recent achievement of mine, thanks to the skills provided by RSM. In our managerial science class we were asked to work on a simulation from our working experience. I focused on Telecom Italia’s development of a public strategy to bring broadband to industrial districts. The company was thinking of financing it through either public-private partnerships or by asking subscribers to contribute. Thanks to the simulation in class, I generated a model that was able to explain the options and the payback time, and it became very useful. My senior managers appreciated the model, and it has already been applied in practice to choose two districts where the strategy will be introduced.
Through similar practical cases, I’m now heading for a global personal and professional growth that will expedite my career paths. Ask me again in few years.