My Story, Our Story: Giulio Cenci

26 July 2016

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 XXIV episode is Giulio Cenci, Performance and Accounting Management at Eurofilter, EMBA.

Giulio’s soundtrack is “Sitting in the dock of the bay” by Otis Redding.

Giulio Cenci, Performance and Accounting Management at Eurofilter, a company of the SACMI group, is also passionate about sailing. Therefore, it’s inevitable to link up his experience as BBS Alumnus of the Business Administration Executive Master with his participation to the BBS Sailing Experience 2016, which, as it were, he won with his team. And team is the keyword of our chat with Giulio. Because sailing isn’t just a pleasure and a moment stripped of any thought or concern. It’s also a good metaphor of the relationships that must be established among individuals in order to become a group and steer events (and winds).

“I’ve dealt with innovation and sales at an international level in the energy field, on topics related to combustion and hydrogen.” Giulio Cenci introduces himself this way. “I was born in Ferrara, where I studied as well. But I feel I’m a marchigiano [from the Marche region] at heart, because I love my origins from Sassoferrato, in the province of Ancona.” After his Ph.D. in engineering and a few years of experience in Computational Fluid Dynamics, Giulio furthers his experience in Genoa in sales for an American multinational corporation that deals with welding. Then, after a few years of growth in various businesses of the energy sector, he landed at the SACMI group, in a business unit producing plants for environmental cleaning. And landing is a very suitable word for someone who, like him, has got seawater running through his veins and whose idea of freedom is sailing. But we’ll talk about this in a short while.

“The reasons why I enrolled at the EMBA were the consolidation of managerial topics and the chance to exchange views with established professionals, managers, directors, owners. And also because there had been purchasing managers and engineers from various multinationals, from Toyota to Bosch, who suggested I followed such a path, in particular at the Bologna Business School. Because you guys have a hands-on approach.” And right through the international exchange of views, Giulio noticed that within multinational corporations, all executives had an MBA. “Even though my technical training gave me the chance to talk to them, I felt the need to align my language to theirs, especially concerning topics such as finance, balance sheet, cost calculation.” The first encounter with BBS was a delayed one: Giulio set foot in Villa Guastavillani two weekends after the beginning of the course. “This is because I chose at the very last minute to pay the fees personally and this caused my belated start.” The first impression was nonetheless a positive one: they immediately started delving deeply into the analysis of the balance sheet, of the finance and costs, which turned out to be easy to understand for Giulio thanks to his engineering background. But the course was no picnic, and it brought Giulio back to his university days. “It was a question of understanding what we were made of.”

Giulio sails, he’s an independent chap. He enjoys the sea. “At the BBS Master’s there were people who took part in regattas and others were part of crews. People with different experiences.” He discovered there were many in his classroom who shared his passion, after hearing about the Sailing Experience, the competitive regatta organized by BBS. “I must say that the screens scattered throughout Villa Guastavillani that broadcast the compelling images of the featured activities are quite a marketing tool. And on those screens I saw the images of the BBS regatta.” At his first year of the EMBA Giulio, invited by the School to take part in the regatta, was forced to turn down the offer. The appointment though was only postponed to the following year. “I used to think about it with those who had turned out to be great experts or with those who, like me, love sailing in a non-competitive way. It was my first regatta ever, but I was on my own, I knew what I had to do.” What Giulio particularly appreciated was the idea of consolidating the friendship with his classmates, putting it to the test on a boat.

We met the morning of the first regatta for a short briefing. Those who had no previous sailing experience were briefly taught the basics.” The first day of the regatta was spent like this, understanding what a boat is and what are the tasks of the team. For every boat, there was one team comprising five students of the EMBA plus a skipper and an assistant skipper. “The first day was devoted to a long distance easy regatta. A 28 mile route, the competition featuring a triangle, circumnavigating three islands off Punta Ala, in Tuscany.” There was a strong wind, at times dropping. “We tried to explain what to do actively, for each single activity, from the use of the winch to the boom, how to haul in the sheet and other basic activities. Those who were more experienced gave the others time to understand what to do with a serene and patient attitude. This allowed us to get to the end of the first day with a proper team, aware of roles and tasks.” The second day, the team was excited right from the beginning. People energised by the intention of winning, even without having a clear idea of the activities to be carried out. There was a competitive atmosphere, which normally Giulio shuns when he’s at sea, but it was all done in order to have fun. “It’s the magic of sailing: a person on a boat gets transformed versus how they appear normally.” During the first day of regatta, the team that included Giulio ranked third, but the second day they got off very well. The route was defined by two buoys, there and back. A low wind blew, causing several technical difficulties. A few mistakes were made but the group managed to recover positions. Then, towards the end, because of mistakes by others and a few feats of skill, Giulio’s boat got to the finish line comfortably and thanks to score differences and compensations, they won the Sailing Experience.

In sailing, individualism is not simply out of place, it’s detrimental to the steering of the boat. “One of the fundamental lessons of the EMBA turned out to be key: talents must express themselves to let the group achieve success.” Even though they hadn’t gathered the ideal skills for a regatta, everyone knew what they had to do and the group became a team. Even overcoming character flaws. “On board there were five managers. Together with me, there were Federico, Vincenzo, Matteo, and the most experienced as for regattas, Gilberto, each one featuring hard to smooth edges. It was fantastic to see everyone overcoming their limits in favour of the group. This is what happens when you sail. You’re forced to listen to those around you and you must have the sense of timing to understand and respond.” In the narration of a regatta, Giulio recognizes all the elements that are helpful to make a comparison with the corporate activity: the necessary steps to integrate and harmonise the team members. Understanding how they react in a stressful situation. Ensuring your help, explaining what the limits are and what the hierarchy is. But leaving people free to provide their creative input, to express their talent.


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