As of October 2020, Silvia Candiani, CEO of Microsoft for Italy, is president of the Bocconi Alumni Community. We at Tra i Leoni asked her a few questions about her new role and her experience at Bocconi as a student.
What does it mean for you to be at the helm of the Bocconi Alumni Community?
I am happy to be able to contribute to the growth of the Bocconi Alumni Community and to give something in exchange to the university where I graduated from. Currently, the Bocconi Alumni Community includes over 100,000 professionals, former Bocconi students who now work in Italy or abroad. There are three important aspects of BAC. On the one hand, the university helps alumni to stay up to date and develop skills for the world of work and allows for a support network, maintaining contacts between former students. On the other hand, alumni can help develop university research and create a mentorship network for Bocconians to facilitate the entry into the job market for students. Furthermore, the university together with alumni can create an impact on the world we live in, through the network it has built.
In your opinion, what distinguishes Bocconians around the world?
Certainly the value of merit and knowledge, and professionalism. However, I believe that we also have a positive and driving force to create an impact on the world around us, which distinguishes us former Bocconi students.
Is there a Bocconian alumnus that you admire in a particular way? If so, why?
There are so many, as I said before there are over 100,000 alumni all over the world! If I had to say a name on the spot, certainly a good example is Vittorio Colao. He has had a very important career in the private sector. Also, until recent times, he was part of the Bocconi University Board of Directors. Now, he invests his energies and his time to help the country digitize itself, as he is the Minister for Technological Innovation and Digital Transition in the Draghi government.
Why did you choose the Faculty of Economics and Commerce at the time of your choice of university and why Bocconi University?
I chose Economics and Commerce because I liked the idea of having a concrete impact on companies. Bocconi in particular gives a practical, as well as a theoretical, and international approach.
What do you remember from your experience as a student at our university?
I lived a lot in the university. I always studied in the library and spent time in neighborhood bars with my classmates. As for the courses I took, I remember that I immediately became passionate about finance and financial mathematics. During my exchange abroad, in Wharton, which at the time was done with the advanced courses of the MBA, I had the opportunity to further study the subject, taking advantage of the notoriously practical approach of the American university.
In your opinion, how has Bocconi University changed since you attended it?
Certainly the most significant differences are two. First of all, the university is much more international: when I was a student, most of the students were Italian. Furthermore, the spaces have evolved a lot and give a greater sense of community. When I went to Bocconi, it was not a campus as it is now, with the introduction of the new SDA buildings and the Castiglioni residence.
What were the most formative experiences after graduating from Bocconi?
After graduating in Economics from Bocconi University, I completed a Masters in Business Administration at Insead in Fontainebleau. Later, I worked as a consultant at McKinsey and had a long experience, 11 years, at Vodafone. I’ve been with Microsoft for 11 years.
How did you manage to become CEO of Microsoft Italy?
I think it is important to never set limits, always take on new challenges and have the desire to learn something new. My choice to enter a new sector, first telecommunications with Vodafone, and then with Microsoft the cloud and technology sector, was important in this sense. Furthermore, I have chosen very meritocratic companies, so the results I have achieved have led to recognition of my work.
Do you like your job? Which aspects in particular give you the most satisfaction?
I feel very lucky because I do a job that I am passionate about. Technology has a very strong impact on the world around us and working in this industry is certainly very exciting and rewarding as a manager.
What aspects characterize your leadership?
I think I am an inclusive leader: I listen to people and seek consensus on the most important decisions. However, at the same time, I want people to feel free to be able to disagree and express their opposition. I strongly believe in inspiring people to create a mission, a long-term goal for our consumers and for society. This sense of purpose is important because it encourages everyone to give their best.
The digitization process has accelerated particularly with the Covid crisis. How do you imagine the future?
Surely all companies are gradually becoming software companies and this will remain even after Covid. Digital is nowadays a kind of magic bullet for companies that completely redesigns business models. In the future, we will see more and more companies with more personalized and data-based services.
In conclusion, do you have a message / advice that you want to give to the students of our university?
I think the university offers many opportunities, from meeting companies on campus to doing experiences abroad. I would advise everyone to be intrigued and involved in the university life. In this regards, the relationship with alumni can also be important to better understand how the world of work works.