"Thanks, Ladies! Lessons learned from female bosses"
An interview by Alessandra Zocca
Alessandro, you mentioned to me that in your career you had the opportunity to cooperate with clever female bosses and peers, who taught you a lot. Could you please give me some examples?
Alessandro Musumeci, Direttore Centrale Sistemi Informativi (DCSI) at Ferrovie dello Stato Italiane (Italian Railways)
Mr. Musumeci – True, Alessandra! During my career I had the chance to work with some exceptional female bosses, who taught me ethics and management. Here are some brief personal stories:
a) In 1979 I started working as a math’s teacher in a school close to Rome; I was a student who was 23/24 years old, completing my universitiy studies to become a mechanical engineer. I had no clue about the work environment, but I was lucky to be coached by the school dean, a competent female professor called Gina Geissa, who inspired in me the importance of closely guiding young students along their curricula and who taught me how to work hard and fine tune my skills in order to gain the respect from my older and more experienced colleagues.
b) In 1982 I joined SOGEI (Società Generale d'Informatica), an Italian IT company and I was assigned to the team of Maria Carolina Ottaviani, a female manager and a mother of four children. She was a role model for me, showing me how to balance work and life wisely, and gain excellent results too. Ms. Ottaviani, with her example, motivated a number of young, newly-hired people in her company and taught them the attitude of never giving up, but looking at their professional future with confidence.
c) In 1989 I was recruited in a managerial position - at Accenture – by the company partner Cristina Molinari (at that time one of the very few female partners in Accenture). From Ms. Molinari I learned the rules of a big multinational company, she introduced me to the sales experience, she believed in my potential because I had no previous sales background. Ms. Molinari pointed me to the appropriate training in Europe and in the USA; she coached me so well that I can candidly affirm that I owe her my professional achievements which lead me to become an executive able to cleverly plan, manage suppliers and negotiate.
d) In 2002 I was hired as IT Director at the Italian Ministry of Education, University and Research by the lady Minister Letizia Moratti. She showed trust in my competencies by assigning to me the management of a crucial outsourcing bid valued at more than 300 Million Euros, which I lead successfully.
Ms. Moratti later became the Mayor of Milan and in 2006 she asked me to move and work for her as IT Director for the Milan Municipality. I can tell you, Alessandra, that Ms. Moratti was absolutely passionate about her mission and her work (to which she dedicated from 12 to 16 hours a day), she was for me a real role model of competency, determination, ethics and honesty.
Alessandra, to be totally frank, in my professional life I met female managers/executives who were on average professionally better than their male colleagues and who were more open to sharing their knowledge with others than the male executives/managers were.
I am not sure I would have been able to reach my current position, if I hadn’t met these invaluable ladies in my professional career.
Which are the skills/qualities of managerial women that are unique compared to men's ones?
Mr. Musumeci – In the professional women I have come across during my career I have always appreciated their determination and dedication to achieve their goals, from the big picture to small details, not leaving anything to chance! I could notice this determination in female managerial colleagues because, in order to be recognized, they continuously need to demonstrate their competencies and their professionalism.
I learned a lot from these lady managers, they showed me that success is not due to chance, but thanks to our abilities, efforts and professional honesty in our work.
On the contrary, based on your experience, which are the unique skills/qualities that a man manager can teach to professional women?
Mr. Musumeci – Unfortunately the fact that women continuously need to demonstrate their competencies and give the best of themselves could become for women an element of risk; as a metaphor it is like somebody always driving a sport car at its maximum potential, with the possible consequence of ruining its engine. This constant tension to prove themselves might bring women to make some mistakes.
Male managers are generally more relaxed in their role, because the labour market is still dominated by men; successful women are considered as “real gems”. Additionally, men are better able to balance family, work and personal interests, while women often cannot always control their tension and might become aggressive.
Male managers are more oriented to team building than female managers and succeed in keeping teams united, sometimes even with a strong arm; it might be an innate attitude in men or it can be developed through several experiences of camaraderie (football, military service, etc.), while women sometimes lack team spirit and might tend to be very competitive towards other women … sometimes without any effort to hide it!
Your career, Alessandro, had a creative evolution; this makes me think it has been based on transferrable skills: which ones? Could you highlight the key milestones of your career?
Mr. Musumeci – In my career I have always been careful to expand my professional horizons and enlarge my competency base at any potential opportunity, avoiding being assigned constantly to the same type of role (some companies try to do this when somebody performs so fantastically in a specific position).
In 1986, for instance, my boss – who, outside his job, was the editor of an IT review – offered me the opportunity to write some articles; I accepted this offer and in a few months I became a regular writer in this journal. This journalistic role opened many doors for me, both in the company I joined in the meantime and with clients and professional associations.
Another example is my involvement in the university: while I worked in Accenture it was proposed I give some lectures at the university (of course for free), in a few years this cooperation became a four year contract for teaching IT at the engineering faculty. It has also been thanks to this experience as a university lecturer that the Minister of Education & Research chose me to work for her, as I said before.
I could mention other “chances”, born as little things which developed into concrete opportunities, but the key message I want to share with you, Alessandra, is that money has never been my prime focus; money comes and goes, while your competencies and your professional/social network are your “true capital” in which to invest your energy. Financial satisfactions will come as a consequence of the network you have built and the skills you have accumulated.
| Short Biography
Born in Rome in 1956, Alessandro Musumeci graduated in mechanical engineering in 1980 at Rome University. He has developed his career in Italian and international companies (SOGEI, Informatica & Telecomunicazioni, Gruppo COS, Gemini and Andersen Consulting), mostly in the banking and government sectors (Banco di S.Spirito, Ministery of Justice and University of Naples).
In 2002 he became IT Director at the Italian Ministry of Education & Research, in 2006 he joined the Milan Province Administration as IT Director and was also in charge of the technological design/development of the Expo that will take place in Milan in 2015.
Since 2008 he has being covering the role of IT Director at Ferrovie dello Stato (Italian Railways).
Outside his job Alessandro has played a number of other roles:
• 2006- 2010 President of the Italian Federation of IT Executives (FIDA Inform), which includes 1.000 IT Directors
• Lecturer at the University of Rome for the Engineering faculty, at the University of "Tor Vergata" and at the University of Cagliari for the Information Technology faculty
• Currently he is part-time professor at the University of Salerno for the Organisation Development curriculum
• Journalist since 1991, he has published over 400 articles about information technology in the main specialized magazines
• Director since 2002 of the magazine “Idee e Traguardi” (ideas and targets)
• Author of the book "E-Government e Scuola" (e-government and education) in 2003
• Member of a number of committees and boards (AIPA-ASSINFORM-ANASIN,Consorzio Nettuno and GARR, Italian UNESCO, Forum of Information Society at EU Commission)
• Contributed to the preparation of the law Moratti/Stanca for e-learning universities.
Direttore Centrale Sistemi Informativi (DCSI)
Ferrovie dello Stato Italiane S.p.A.
Piazza della Croce Rossa 1
00161 ROMA - Italy
Tel. +39 06 44106774
Personal fax: +39 06 45590701
Mobile: +39 329 4205201
Disclaimer - Any views and opinions presented in this article are solely those of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of Ferrovie dello Stato Italiane S.P.A., nor do they constitute a legally binding agreement.