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Chartered Engineer (CEng)

Dr Michele Fiorini MBA PhD CEng FIET SMIEEE

Published: 10/06/2022

Education and qualifications:
MBA in Strategy, Programme and Project Management, Gdańsk University of Technology, Gdańsk, Poland
PhD in Electronic and Telecommunications Engineering, Università Politecnica delle Marche, Ancona, Italy
Dott Ing degree in Electronic Engineering, Università di Ancona, Ancona, Italy with Erasmus-exchange at University of Bath, Bath, UK

Job title:
Project Engineering Manager (PEM)

Leonardo S.p.A., Rome, Italy

What inspired you to become an engineer or pointed you towards an engineering career?
I feel myself to be a doer – I like doing things, making commitments and even taking risks to achieve concrete results. I very much thank my parents for supporting me, especially during the initial and most difficult period of my study. They always believed in me and I am now proud of my engineering education.

Engineering was a natural choice as engineers are those who make things and engineering is everywhere, in any sector. I always like to be competent in what I am doing. I like to quote Leonardo da Vinci to clarify the concept: ‘Those who love practice without theory are like the sailor who boards a ship without a rudder or compass, who is never certain which way it may go.’ (“Quelli che s'innamorano di pratica senza scienza son come il nocchiere, che entra in naviglio senza timone o bussola, che mai ha certezza dove si vada.”)

Please describe your role or position within your workplace.
I work as a Project Engineering Manager (PEM); this role requires managerial skills and engineering background knowledge. I am accountable for project outputs in terms of time and costs, and I am responsible for gathering teams of people (including subcontractors or partners abroad in international consortiums) to accomplish tasks. Team members normally work with me for the full duration of the project, which has an average length of a few years. Sometimes I am involved in more technical tasks as Senior Systems Engineer. In this capacity, I recently joined the European team of experts working on the implementation of the European Defence Industrial Development Programme (EDIDP), established by Regulation (EU) 2018/1092 of the European Parliament and the Council, aiming at supporting the competitiveness and innovation capacity of the European Union's (EU’s) defence industry. The EDIDP is a biannual programme aimed at supporting the efforts of the EU defence industry in developing defence equipment and technologies through co-financing from the EU budget. It is part of the European Defence Fund, launched by the Commission to help Member States spend money more efficiently, reduce duplications, and get better value for money by coordinating, supplementing, and amplifying national investments in defence research and development activities.

Can you describe a typical working day?
My straightforward answer is no, because I tend to have no day (or week at least) like another. My working day could start on board a military ship on exercise, in an air traffic control or coastal surveillance control room, or even in a laboratory or meeting room. That could be in Italy or, more often, abroad.

In order to thrive professionally, I have to take smart decisions with incomplete information and be able to pivot quickly and effectively when those decisions are proven to be incorrect. For a long time, there has been this view that you are either a strong and decisive leader or a warm and empathetic one. But strength and empathy go hand-in-hand.

Are there any particular challenges or unusual aspects to your role?
Being involved in international projects and spending a lot of time travelling between different countries in Europe and on some occasions to Asia-Pacific, I have the chance to interact with different people from around the world; dealing with different perspectives and points of view. It is sometimes challenging but always rewarding. There is always something to learn from others and the more diverse the people, the better.

What do you find most enjoyable about your job?
My job gives me the opportunity to work internationally, to put my skills to use and to continue improving them. The global network of contacts I have gained at different levels gives me the chance to interact with highly competent and qualified members of the profession from all around the world, working out of my comfort zone and pushing me to constantly improve.

Is there a great professional achievement or high-profile accomplishment that you would like to tell us about?
I was technically responsible for the Polish national coastal surveillance and border control system “Zautomatyzowanego Systemu Radarowego Nadzoru (ZSRN) polskich obszarów morskich” project for the Polish Border Guard, realised by SELEX Sistemi Integrati (now Leonardo S.p.A.) in consortium with local partners. The contract was for an automated radar surveillance system (ZSRN) for the Polish maritime border of around 534 km from Germany to Russia. The system includes a dedicated (restricted) border control sub-system for the EU border between Poland and Russian Kaliningrad. From 2005 to 2007, the project was being constantly monitored by a team of representatives from the EU Commission for the full admission of Poland into the Schengen Area.

The ZSRN contributed massively to achieving an adequate level of services to fulfil the rules of the Schengen Agreement. The Schengen Agreement gradually abolished border checks at common borders within Europe, allowing vehicles to cross borders without stopping. This gave residents in border areas the freedom to cross away from fixed checkpoints, and it allowed the harmonisation of visa policies. It was of particular concern that we completed the project to scheduled deadlines. I was accountable for the technical aspects of the project, including on-site acceptance activities, and received a special power of attorney to represent the company. These resulted in the system meeting the EU criteria for full admission of Poland in the Schengen area on 21 December 2007.

The ZSRN will always be special to me, it gave me challenges, responsibilities and remains among the professional achievements I am most proud of.

What contributed to your decision to become professionally registered?
Professional registration, as a Chartered Engineer (CEng) in my case, is an internationally recognised landmark in any professional career; it shows competences achieved through a combination of academic knowledge and industry or research experience. There are different routes to become professionally registered, but one criteria they all have in common is to demonstrate competence and to keep that up-to-date in order to maintain registration.

My decision to become a CEng was based on my desire to demonstrate my competence internationally – and to have my commitment to keep that up-to-date recognised – in order to compete in the global engineering market.

In what ways has registration benefitted your career?
Accreditation of CEng status presents some challenges to applicants from Italy, since the title of ‘Engineer’ (Ing) is legally protected in Italy, and follows a slightly different scheme. However, being a CEng has helped me considerably in gaining recognition from clients and peers internationally. When you move abroad from your own country, your national title may not be recognised or could be confusing, but professional registration is a proof of competence and illustrates to colleagues, peers and clients that you are committed to your profession.

How does your employer benefit from your professional registration?
My employer did not have an accredited training scheme set up for Italian engineers to pursue professional registration in the UK, however they acknowledged my application and I found a fellow colleague of mine who was very supportive and contributed to my reports.

Tangible benefits for my employer are firstly to illustrate their ethos of encouraging employees’ continuing professional development (CPD), and secondly it is an additional benefit when running projects where having a Chartered Engineer is either strongly recommended or mandatory. It is quite unusual for an Italian engineer to be Chartered, so it is definitely a plus for projects abroad, because it reduces consultancy or local partners’ involvement. In my case it has happened a few times; for instance, when we bid for a project in Hong Kong, my presence in the team guaranteed the possibility to bid directly and helped to keep costs within the budget.

Is there any advice you would pass on to someone considering professional registration?
Do it without hesitation, but don’t underestimate the time and effort required to find all the appropriate key people to help and support you to fill in and sign off the reports needed for your application. Completing your application diligently, with the appropriate level of detail, may feel long but it is worth the effort and it will pay off professionally.

Where do you see yourself in your career in five years’ time or what are your future ambitions?
I shall never stop learning and have the ambition to keep my childhood curiosity. Maybe I’ll be a graduate from Harvard or MIT in 5 years’ time? My greatest ambition is to bridge academia with industry and make it possible for people like me to come back to academia after spending over 20 years in industry, and be able to add value in that context too. Modern societies need cross-silo leadership, we need brave and ambitious people willing to work together to solve global challenges. I dream of being one of them. We are living an era of technology disruption, where technology significantly alters the way that consumers, industries and businesses operate, and we are also observing considerable shifts in the geopolitical landscape. Many of us are probably being forced to restructure many parts of both our professional and personal lives. I shall include space for uncertainties and back-up plans in my ongoing development, but keep developing an international archipelago of knowledge and professional relationships driven by customer satisfaction. Professional registration plays a role in establishing credibility in the international arena based on shared values, trust and respect for diversity. I have the ambition to act in order to inspire the next generation of engineers and engineering managers.

Outside work, is there any activity you enjoy doing in your spare time that relates to engineering? For example, do you participate in mentoring, volunteering or membership of other engineering groups?
I volunteer for The Institution of Engineering and Technology (IET) and the Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers (IEEE). I was the Chair of the IET Council for 2017-18 in London and I am the Treasurer of the Italian Chapter of the Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers (IEEE) Intelligent Transportation Systems (ITS) Society established in 2021 in Italy.

I am eager to improve my engineering management skills through the governance positions I am serving in, and to share my experience and knowledge – combining theoretical and practical approaches – through publishing articles, books and reports. I am also a serving member of the MBA Advisory Board at Gdańsk University of Technology in Poland and a Chair of Judges for the E&T Innovation Awards 2022 Chief Engineer of the Year in London, UK.