Education and qualifications:
MBA in Strategy, Programme and Project Management
PhD in Electronic and Telecommunications Engineering
Dott Ing degree in Electronic Engineering
Job title: Project Engineering Manager (PEM)
Employer: 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, expecially 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, however 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 am working 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 three to five years.
Can you describe a typical working day?
My straightforward answer is no, because I tend to have no one day (or one 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.
Whatever my working day looks like, I always tend to plan the main tasks the day before, and prepare myself in advance, making sure that the most urgent work gets done first. This approach helps me to figure out possible outputs and be realistic about possible achievements related to that particular context or situation. However, I am aware that no matter how well I might prepare myself in advance I must always be ready to change my plans completely because unexpected events or urgent calls are always possible and shifting priorities are a constant.
Are there any particular challenges or unusual aspects to your role?
Being involved in international projects and spending a lot of time travelling between Italy, the UK, Poland 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 push 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 (A Finmeccanica company) in consortium with local partners.
The contract was for an automated radar surveillance system (ZSRN) for the Poland maritime border of around 534 km from Germany to Russia. The system includes a dedicated (restricted) border control sub-system for the European Union (EU) border between Poland and Russia 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 zone.
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, residents in border areas freedom to cross away from fixed checkpoints, and the harmonisation of visa policies. The timely execution of the project to scheduled deadlines was of particular concern. 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 it was my first professional achievement to be proud of.
What contributed to your decision to become professionally registered?
Professional registration, as a Chartered Engineer in my case, is an internationally recognised landmark in any professional career; it shows competences achieved through a combination of academic qualification 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 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 to applicants from Italy presents some challenges since the title of “Engineer” (Ing) is legally protected in Italy and follows a slightly different scheme, however being 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 is confusing, while 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 employee continuing development and secondly is an additional benefit when running projects for which having a Chartered Engineer is either strongly recommended or mandatory. It is quite unusual for an Italian engineer to be Chartered and 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 recently 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 am focused on ongoing development and career growth. I am always open to opportunities to improve services to clients and my professional competence, strongly believing in Continuing Professional Development (CPD) and in improving an organisation’s results driven by customer satisfaction. I’d like to be a champion for inclusion and diversity and for cross-fertilisation between business and academia to inspire next generation of engineers.
Do you participate in any other career-related activities, such as mentoring, volunteering or membership of other engineering groups?
I am volunteering for The Institution of Engineering and Technology (IET) and have been appointed Chair of the IET Council for 2017-18. I am chairing IET Council meetings in London and contribute to the work of the Membership and Professional Development Board, Nominations and Succession Committee and Audit and Risk Process Committee.
I am improving my technical and management skills through the governance positions I have served in and am also aware of the governance principles of an international charity, understand the breadth of the international engineering and technology profession and make use of risk management and monitoring governance skills.
I am author (and co-author) of more than 40 peer-reviewed technical publications, have an international patent (EP2601647A1, 2015) and published the book Clean Mobility and Intelligent Transport Systems. I have been appointed as an editor to the editorial board of the Elsevier International Journal of e-Navigation and Maritime Economy published by International Association of e-Navigation and Ocean Economy and in June 2018 I was invited to deliver a lecture and give consultancy advice at Mokpo National Maritime University (MMU), Mokpo, Republic of Korea on navigation risks.
Outside work, is there any activity you enjoy doing in your spare time that relates to engineering?
I am eager to share experience and knowledge combining theoretical and practical approaches, delivering presentations in an engaging and informative way dealing with different perspectives and points of view. I am fully engaged with start-ups in Gdańsk and globally (such as: www.effenex.com).
I like to participate in lectures and seminars where I can give something back to the profession and help younger engineers appreciate what engineering is about. I feel it is also important to disseminate information learned from my work through publishing articles and reports, and do this through IET Member News and other publications.