BBS alumni talk about themselves: what was before, what came after and the memories of life as a student, to offer a personal story and a narration of one’s own professional experience, for a history of our Community. The protagonist of the XVIII episode is Alexander D’Orsogna, Country General Manager at Vueling Airlines, MBA Part-time (formula Weekend)
Alexander’s soundtrack is: Born in the USA by Bruce Springsteen.
“When are you going to launch the Bologna-Pescara route?” Alexander is now a manager at Vueling for Italy and his former Master’s colleague jokes about his new position. The exchange of quips though reveals common roots, that Alexander holds dear. The provincial background, from the region Abruzzo, that his father left when, at the age of fourteen, he boarded a ship to move to the USA, remains the safe haven of family affections, the reference for lasting friendships. It’s the unit of measurement of distances and dimensions separating it from the international metropolises that Alexander has inhabited seamlessly, in a long journey that lasted a whole life.
Born in the USA
The arrival in New York with the awareness of a job that had to be built from scratch. A boy who got here and brick by brick – in all senses, through and through – established his building business, his American dream. One generation goes by and Alexander is an adolescent when he traces his father’s steps back, this time with a plane ticket. He was born and raised in New York. “A European city, but mostly Italian”. His parents talk Italian to him at home, he replies in English. “This language confusion is typical of immigrant families”. They made an educational choice aimed at not losing the roots in the Italian culture. And so, after fifteen years in the Big Apple, Alexander is sent to Lanciano to finish high school and start university “with the agreement to go back to the States for a Master’s”. European universities aren’t out of reach in terms of fees “it’s not just for a limited elite. In Europe one can access very high profile education”, without having to take out mortgages on real estate or assets. And it’s a cut above. “Harvard is pure strategy. If you work for Morgan Stanley it’s fine. Stock options, equity, stock exchange, I mean high finance. What’s missing is the link with everyday life. Precisely what I found at BBS”
Alexander arrived at BBS through the School’s business network. “BBS had trained many other Alitalia managers, ten to be precise. I was the eleventh”. As it happens, it’s a question of agreements between companies and BBS to train their employees in a holistic view of management. “Growth of knowledge”, that’s how Alexander summarizes it. “A manager who knew the School in and out and had taken me to heart, selected me for this experience. During the academic lectures, I remember a great level of concreteness applied to specific work cases. I learnt that top-down doesn’t exist, bottom-up does.” From the richness of the SMEs in the Emilia Romagna territory, Alexander took the best experiences, the freshest ideas, the innovations of the entrepreneurial labs. Innovation can only come from those, the innovation that surprises you. And at BBS it’s often possible to get in touch with excellence. Also in class. “That too is doing business networking: a network of colleagues with whom an excitingly enriching exchange comes to be, in a pleasant, friendly and serious environment, without it being authoritarian”. The relation may show its most touching side also when once the Master is finished and someone is in a difficult situation, they will be helped. The network is also social capital, perhaps the most relevant.
Alexander’s life is a series of crossroads where one road leads to a job and the other to a love. And Alexander, concrete, clear-sighted, what one would define, with an old-fashion expression, a successful man, without fail chooses love. To each his own path. “After the master’s, a job for a pharmaceutical company, then pure finance, then the conscription. I was part of one of the last batches of the compulsory drafting. And having the double citizenship I could have dodged it.”Then KLM, with an impressive job rotation, a sort of EMBA in the field. He travelled the world for professional reasons, then he joined Alitalia and stayed there for a while, advancing his career within the national flag carrier, and with sacrifices, he managed to attend the Master at BBS. “A real baptism of fire. This experience unleashed what was a potential and transformed it into something real”. Alexander started taking part in the business meetings no longer as a “rookie” but with the respect owed to a manager. “Then Qatar Airlines, the “Cartier” of air transport.”
Being a very resourceful man, having taken care of personal and love relationships strengthened his character rather than weaken his career. Indeed he organized priorities and choices took up a new meaning. A sentimental man. But with a great degree of wisdom.
Bologna and the Red Banana
“Bologna’s values: it’s Italy’s social and cultural lab, actually one of Europe’s most important. The university is not Oxford, and precisely for this reason, for many aspects, it’s better”. There isn’t a campus that locks the students in a golden cage. The contact with a context imbued with history, culture, experimenting, food culture, becomes a definition: “Quality of life”. And where there’s quality of life, results follow. “A lively context that really helped. My experience in Catalonia for Vueling made me discover an advanced region that used the fiscal leverage and wisely managed European projects, literally copied from Emilia-Romagna in order to produce excellence”. It’s the “Red Banana”, that curved area that goes from Tuscany, across the river Po valley, climbs up the Veneto region, that represents, in terms of entrepreneurial smartness, the Italian resource to count on, also the area where to identify new airport centres having an international attraction. “Red because it was wrongly considered a critical part in the development, versus other areas having a high concentration of big industries like Piedmont or Lombardy. Only later on people understood that if, let’s say, FIAT has difficulties then the allied industry will greatly suffer. While the Italy made up of little communities has its own strength in its territorial system made of networks and nodes”.
A piece of advice to a student
Alexander’s is rather multi-faceted: “Do a Master to grow. Head-hunters have started to increasingly appreciate your potential and not your past. At Yale they train you so that you can have a job. At BBS they keep their placement percentage high by helping you grasp the opportunities. Therefore, take advantage of an environment such as the one at BBS where a faculty member follows you for the fundamental part of the modules, all through the course. There are no professors that you see for some of the lectures and then disappear”. And, on a more informal tone “Don’t be afraid of saying silly things in class or to the professors. The friendly atmosphere is and advantage, because it doesn’t bring about inhibition, like in some Schools where institutional formalism is the rule and it inhibits intelligence. Learn to get to know your professors through an open exchange, get to know your colleagues better in the best possible way: with a glass in your hands. Results are guaranteed.”
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