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An anniversary with eyes on the future: the Bocconi association JEME celebrates 35 years. 

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The Bocconi student association JEME, offering non-profit strategic and managerial consulting services to businesses since 1988, celebrated its 35th anniversary this year. On Saturday, a team from Tra i Leoni had the opportunity to attend and report on its anniversary event held at the Borsa Italiana.

Not many buildings can be said to characterize the entire financial history of a country across a century, but in Milan, such a building exists. Palazzo Mezzanotte has been the headquarters of the Italian Stock Exchange, Borsa Italiana, from 1932. It has been through fascism, wars, the “anni di piombo”, and other monumental events unscathed. This shines through its mighty appearance: large columns and statues gloom on the small square beneath, in a classical example of rationalist architecture. Yet, on Saturday, a touch of color invaded the square. A long, red poster fell on the front of Palazzo Mezzanotte, with the familiar writing JEME. 

Unsurprisingly, the venue was chosen by the Junior Enterprise Milano Economia association to celebrate its 35th anniversary. A wide range of panelists and speakers were invited in this marvelous setting to discuss the future of the entrepreneurial and financial system.

“To create something new” – these keywords came from Matteo Angelo Normanno, current President of JEME. A phrase that aligns with the enterprise’s endless hustle to offer their clients a different perspective on consultancy. What else to justify this better than the words of the Magnificent Rector of Bocconi University, Francesco Billari, who acknowledges how these young consultants fully incorporate the “Bocconi DNA”. Milan’s Deputy mayor for education, Anna Scavuzzo, assured everyone that the city was going to continue being a desirable place for alliances and to attract investments for future generations.

Just as Luca Pancaldi, Senior Partner at McKinsey and Company, stated: we are living in the kind of years in which centuries happen. And as history so often repeats itself, we went back and saw how similar periods in the past have turned out. We traveled through the years between 1944-1946 which brought: the end of WW2, the beginning of the atomic age, the rebuilding of Europe, and the USD becoming the main character on the currency market. These in turn were followed by a rapid “first world” growth, from an exploding population to the golden age of engineering. Similarly defining periods were 1971-1973 and 1989-1992. But what does our future have in store for us? China securing its spot among the top economies, AI shaking the world into a new tech era, huge demographic shifts, and climate change are just some elements of the long list that could be cited here. The comprehensive presentation was closed on a realistic note: “Nobody can go back and start a new beginning, but anyone can start today and make a new ending.”

After gaining some powerful insights, the area of interest was restricted to Italy. The panel discussion focused on the future of the country’s economy through the eyes of an experienced and diverse group coordinated by Gianmario Verona, President of Human Technopole. Professor Verona, former Rector of Bocconi, noted that the concept of university has changed and that Milan continues to have a central role in Italy’s economy. Barbara Cominelli, CEO of JLL Italy pointed out that while Italy’s population and general economic power is diminishing, Milan remains very attractive, thanks to its ecosystem of innovation and direct access to talent. From a real estate point of view, Milan is shifting towards becoming a 15-minute city, where commuting to your 9-to-5 job is becoming more and more obsolete. From BlackRock’s Managing Director, Luca Giorgi, we learned how the company aims to remain on top of the major generational shift capsizing clients’ approaches to private finances and investment. Companies have to stay on top of the new waves if they want to float; indeed, adaptability is key for business success. Interestingly, JEME and BlackRock were born in the same year. Valeria Brambilla, CEO of Deloitte Italy – dubbed by Mr Verona the “natural death of Bocconi laureates” – pointed to the importance of controlling what is done by artificial intelligence and similarly advanced systems for big data analysis. Both BlackRock and Neulabs – the latter represented by Mauro Giacobbe, its founder and CEO – agree that AI’s main task for now is to automatise operations and to process the vast amount of digital signals we’re surrounded by today. However, as JLL addresses the issue, the main question is not “What can AI do?” but “What do we want AI to do?”. On this note, the decision has to be made by the right people, and if Italy wants to have a seat at the discussion table, we have to start producing, rather than just using and regulating. And this is where schools and universities are of paramount importance. 

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The fascinating flow of ideas came to an end with a dialogue on “The meaning of excellence”, where we got to hear the outlook of Vittorio Terzi, founding partner at Terzi&Partners, and Ugo Orsini, partner at Linklaters. Mr Terzi defined excellence as the carefully composed mixture of humility, attentiveness, quality, and the constant desire to give more than is expected of one. Only the most excellent actions have people go ‘Wow!’, which is an important indicator. Mr Orsini added that excellence is not the same as perfectionism. In fact, the former is a journey, where you’re allowed to fall on your face sometimes, but you have to keep on going and learn new abilities, gain new experiences, to then be recognised as an excellent individual by your peers. 

Interviewing Matteo Normanno: president of JEME.

Matteo Normanno, JEME’s President, had a conversation with Tra i Leoni on a range of topics. In particular, he was asked how JEME managed to stay afloat for multiple decades, considering that inevitably, it being a student association, its members have a very high turnover. “The value we created over all these years allows us to offset the risk of excessive ups and downs in the association,” Matteo noted. “Clearly, though, there are cycles,” he added. Another strength of the association is the extensive alumni network, which is a point of reference in times of need. When asked whether JEME interferes with university life, Matteo was mindful of how  “studying is always the priority.” Sometimes, though, “obligations towards clients or events like this one can cause issues for some students. In the end, time management is key: this is why we have a three month trial period to see if students can manage the workload.” 

According to Matteo, a sense of community is what keeps JEME together. Leadership, resilience, and accountability are the main values which stay with students even after their journey in the association is over. “Keeping members accountable is very important. We give out responsibilities, things go well, and this in turn fosters a trust mechanism.” Our team also wondered whether JEME had a symbol, since Tra i Leoni is recognised by its unmistakable two Lions. Maybe, a red tie, we suggested. “I had never given this much thought, but, yes, that sounds quite right,” Matteo concluded.  

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Interviewing Federico Pascolini: JEME alumnus, now Bain & Co. member. 

A question that many people ask about associations, and JEME in particular, is whether they were actually meaningful in the future work-life of students. We asked a JEME alumnus about this. “This association has been very influential in my career, not only to understand my disposition, but also more concretely the workplace. I noticed during my internship at Bain that I had been through much of what was happening.” 

According to Federico, the most important quality of consultants is their interest in the association, rather than their past experiences. “You have to show a kind of love for the association, your commitment is what defines your role in our association. Even though the consulting industry has become more enjoyable in recent times, missed classes and sleepless nights are still a part of the game. That’s the price to pay if you want to be successful here.”

Interviewing Ugo Orsini: partner at Linklaters.

During the coffee break, Mr. Orsini was briefly interviewed by one of our members regarding the alter ego of excellence: presumption. “While it is true that, especially at a young age, one may be more easily tempted by arrogance, the workplace tends to adjust this quite rapidly. I, too, was more proud in my early twenties, but soon learned to seek excellence without forgetting humility.” Indeed, in a goal-oriented environment like Bocconi, where many students pursue multiple activities at once, it is easy to fall prey to a sense of superiority. However, the risk is that one may get burnt. 

Interviewing Valeria Brambilla: CEO of Deloitte & Touche S.p.A.

Upon leaving the venue, our team got the chance to interview Valeria Brambilla, CEO of Deloitte in Italy. Brambilla told us: “participacion in this kind of student associations (like JEME, ndr) is really important because it gives you the chance to discover what you may like to do in your future career. Their importance lies in qualitative rather than quantitative reasons. It’s not how much experience you have, it’s how these experiences are matched with your employer that matters.”

According to Ms Brambilla, student associations have the power to bridge the gap between students and the business world. There is both a huge demand for employees and an equally extensive supply to fill all working positions, but there’s no connection between the two bubbles. That’s where JEME comes in. 

JEME’s thirty-five years of history are representative of the great feats of endurance and perseverance that characterize the association. Our team got the chance to meet and interview some of its current and former members, perusing through the association’s past and present. The two, in fact, are inevitably tied by the association’s mission, that of bridging the academic sphere and the job market. It is this way, with a sight on the future, that Bocconi students are seen building valuable skills and interacting in real-life business scenarios at JEME. Similarly, the 35th anniversary celebrations embodied this outlook, with an eye on the future, panelists examined what lies ahead for the Italian economy, what it means to look at the future by reinterpreting the past, and how the search for excellence is an endeavor to change our world for the better. Perhaps, looking at the legacy of JEME, the words of Matteo Angelo Normanno come back to mind: JEME is an association that has managed to thrive by continuously reaching “to create something new” and, in that, allowing its members to carve out their futures in a world outside university. 

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