Did your time at St. Stephen’s prepare you for your career?
It certainly did in many ways. And the time ahead, in college, prepared me in other ways. I think that St. Stephen's’ approach to the I.B. and the maturity with which they run the program gives students a sense of empowerment and a sense of independence. At St. Stephens, you're treated like a young adult, not a kid, which gave me a lot of confidence. I personally didn’t come from a really strong academic background before St. Stephen’s and I pulled my socks up [when I arrived] because of the approach St Stephen’s took to the I.B. I also benefited from the exposure to different ways of thinking and the different cultures [that are present at St. Stephen’s.] This is something that, for me, I have found to be so important in my day to day [life], working in technology companies where you work with people again from all over the world.
You are currently an “Enterprise Account Executive” at Slack. For those in the St. Stephen’s community that may not be familiar with your company, could you describe Slack and share with us what an average day looks like for you in your current role?
To give a quick overview of the company, if you don't know Slack, it's an enterprise collaboration tool. Slack’s goal is to make communication seamless and easy across groups of people, predominantly in companies, but growingly so in leading universities, in voluntary organizations, soccer clubs, and other organizations. The idea [behind Slack] is that the basis for communication, email, is quite ineffective when you think of communication at scale. Think of all the different email threads you have and how you keep on top of information. Slack aims to make that a lot easier by bringing communication into “focus channels”.
As an Enterprise Account Executive, I work in sales. Our job is to drive revenue for the business. Personally, I work with our largest clients in Italy, Spain and various other parts of southern Europe. My goal is to form strong relationships with our customers, to understand their pain points around collaboration and communication in the workplace and then to align Slack to those pain points to drive value for them and solve their problems. And then, ultimately, once you go through the motion of aligning Slack successfully to their business, you work on big product launches where you're rolling out Slack to a few hundred or even a few thousand employees who work anywhere from a tech company to a bank. One example of my day to day routine would be that on Monday’s I have forecasting meetings. Joke's on me here because I didn't think that math was going to be so necessary in my later life when I was back in school but it really is. I should have paid a little bit more attention in “Math Studies!” Forecasting is essential to the business. It’s important to let everyone all the way up to the Chief Financial Officer know how the sales team is tracking towards the targets that the business has set out. The rest of the week is very customer and deal focused. So I’m on the phone with customers, working on pitches and presentations. I also work with my extended account team internally to make sure that we're delivering for the customer on calls. And, finally, there’s the administrative tasks and the importance of keeping internal note keeping systems updated to make sure that you're letting the rest of the business know how your work is contributing to the overall success of the business.
You’ve worked at Google, Dell, Twitter, and now, for the past five years, at Slack. I imagine it must be an exciting time to work in the field of communication technology. What do you enjoy most about what you do?
Being at the forefront of so much change and being able to experience first hand the impact that has on the world. When I was at Twitter, it was a time when Twitter had to change a lot of its policies and the way it did business because of issues like online abuse. That’s become something at the forefront of how we think of what a good online experience is. I was part of the team that managed that side of the platform and it was really interesting to be there to see how you respond to different trends and how you have to regroup quickly internally to say, okay, there’s a problem and this is how we need to solve it.
At Slack, I moved into a sales-focused role. One of the things I have enjoyed most is working with leading companies over the past year [during a time when] we have had the privilege of helping companies to adapt to this new way of working where literally overnight they had to shut down their offices physically and go completely remote. In many cases, these companies turned to Slack and similar solutions to look for help and solutions to this global problem. [This past year] we’ve been aligning the product, the Slack culture, and the way we work internally to help other companies to adapt to this new world of work.
Within tech companies you’re always going to have the luck to be at the forefront of all of these changing global dynamics and you, if you’re lucky, will be part of some of those solutions that come. That’s one of the most exciting things. Things change all the time and you get to work on solving some of these problems through technology.
What are some of your other passions?
Having grown up in Italy and spent 18 years there, there are two strong passions that come directly from my upbringing. One of them is soccer. I'm an avid Romanista and I still watch as many games as I can and I occasionally play as well. Cooking is another passion. I love everything food related. And while I do like preparing cuisines from other countries, I love Indian food, for example, probably eighty percent [of what I cook] is Italian. I am still trying to perfect my carbonara. [Cooking] has been incredibly important in lockdown over the past year and I have enjoyed discovering new things and finding new recipes. Another big one is trying to keep fit and healthy. I have learned over time that keeping fit physically helps you to keep fit mentally thanks to endorphins and all those good things that happen when you’re exercising so running, yoga, meditation, and mindfulness are some of the things that I enjoy outside of work.
What do you consider your greatest achievement (personally or professionally)?
Professionally, one of my greatest achievements at Slack was being part of the founding sales team for Europe, Middle East, and Africa. There were seven or eight of us at the time and I’ve seen the office in Dublin grow from twenty people to hundreds of people. We launched what we call “Enterprise Grid” which is now the Slack solution that big companies use and I was the first one to sell an Enterprise Grid deal in Europe. At the time it was a record breaking deal in terms of size so that’s an accomplishment I will always be really proud of.
On the personal side, we had a baby boy just over a year ago, just before the pandemic started, and we moved to a nice house and I think our greatest achievement has to be the work that my wife and I have put in, working really hard, and creating a family and having house by the sea and being able to raise our little boy in a great space.
Has it been a straight path for you, or do you feel you have been tested along the way to achieving the goals you’ve set for yourself? Can you talk about what some of those challenges have been and how you’ve surmounted them?
So it certainly hasn’t been a straight path in the sense that. If you had asked me in school or in college, “what do you want to do?” I definitely wouldn’t have said, “an Enterprise Account Executive at Slack,” or even “sales in a leading tech company”. I suppose in many ways I have arrived here by chance and that's wonderful but that has also its ups and downs; I didn’t always have a clear path and things changed a lot. [For example], you might be working for a certain company or you might have a path that you think is the right one at university and then circumstance and life throws different things at you, anything from changing dynamics to a rejection from a job interview that you really, really wanted, or potentially, a move abroad that you thought was right--I was offered the ability to move to San Francisco when I was working at Twitter and for different reasons it didn’t happen but all of that has in some way or shape brought me to where I am today which is a good place and a place where I am happy. The journey has been somewhat serendipitous and somewhat lucky. The things that have helped me when there have been periods of adversity are: taking a step back and taking the time to reflect on where you are versus where you want to be and not just falling into the trap of going with things too much, it’s also important to seek advice from other people: your family, your peers, your mentors, people that matter to you. I certainly have made the mistake of wanting to be too independent, especially when I was a bit younger, and not leaning on my parents or my older brother more for advice.
What are some of the most important lessons from your professional experience that you would like to share with the next generation of St. Stephen’s graduates?
Enjoy as much and as fully as you can this moment in your life. I was certainly guilty of not doing this enough; I think we all want to grow up fast and when you’re in school you want to move on to next chapter and when you’re in college you want to get into the professional world and all of that’s great, ambition should be there and it should be rewarded, but I think we all look back on that time in our lives and wish that we had enjoyed it a little bit more and not wanted to race to the next thing. School is such a special time and that transition, whether you’re doing a gap year and going to travel or going straight to university, is one of the best times in life so, meet new people, have new experiences, just have a great time because it will enrich you and your future self will be thankful to your past self when you do that.
One thing that has served me well in my professional career is knowing languages. Learn as many languages as you can, double down on them and hone that skill really well. For me, I know Italian because I grew up in Italy, I did Spanish in the I.B. and I lived in Barcelona for a year when I did a gap year [after St. Stephen’s] and that has opened up a ton of doors professionally for me over the course of my life. If you’re looking to work in the technology space or finance or whatever it is, languages are going to be your friend and are going to help you.
I was a person who, I didn't have a really clear idea of what I wanted to be and that's totally okay; immerse yourself into lots of different situations, live different experiences and by doing those things you expose yourself to the ability to be lucky in different places and really good stuff comes from that luck; it certainly has in my career. So don’t worry too much if you don't know exactly what you want to be, just try new things, experience different things, and good things will come of that.