Filippo Comelli has finished the bulk of his MBA program at EMLYON, the French business school, and will graduate in a few months’ time.
He is from Udine, a small Italian town in the north east region of Friuli, but has spent the past decade studying or working in Belgium, Denmark, France, Spain, Sweden and the US.
He spent years working as a project manager based in Copenhagen for a European renewable energy firm in the wind and solar energy sub-sectors, but decided to pursue an MBA in France to re-think his career path.
He has wasted no time in securing a new career – he has just flown out to Cape Town in South Africa, where he will join the ranks of a renewable energy company.
You worked as a project manager at European Energy A/S in Italy (although based in Copenhagen) – what was unique about working in the wind/solar energy sectors?
Industry-wise, it is definitely unique and exciting. It’s in its very early stages, compared to [the] oil and gas [sector]. Governments have to take action to make our planet more liveable, and companies need to be more environmentally responsible.
Everything still needs to be shaped. Players can be all sizes and from all countries – you can really have quick and rapid career [growth], and an opportunity to differentiate yourself from the crowd.
It was great to see both sides of the coin – the punctuality and rigorousness from Denmark and creativity and positive spirit from Italy.
Why did you decide to begin an MBA program?
Between 2010 and 2012 the industry, especially in Italy, underwent tremendous changes. The government changed its mind quickly on how the green economy should be implemented in the country.
Many foreign investors left the country; European Energy A/S also had to reassess its investments in the country and utilize its funds more wisely somewhere else.
Instead of waiting for others to decide what to do next, I thought it was a good idea to rethink life [and] rethink my career. Why not go somewhere warmer, and close to the Alps?
An MBA program sounded [like] a perfect opportunity to fine-tune my skills and competencies.
Why was France attractive as a destination, and what made EMLYON stand out?
I was interested in learning French. I already speak Spanish and English. I thought that learning French would give me [the] upper hand in my my next career, as it is widely spoken and could bridge me, eventually, to some emerging African economies.
Secondly, I looked at very international programs, and I looked [for] programs with few students per class. In my opinion, the knowledge and experience you gain from a small cohort is unmatchable.
Obviously life outside the classroom is also very important. EMLYON is physically located in a good-sized city. As a new French resident, you have the opportunity to experience the French culture in full.
Lyon [the school’s base] is very close to some of the best ski spots in Europe, and also to some of the best wine areas in the world.
The strong focus that the school has on entrepreneurship: this is certainly an important skill to enhance, whether you work in a corporate environment or as approximately 20% of my classmates do, in a start-up incubator with a new business opportunity.
What has been the highlight of your MBA?
Many [people] always say that it is about the people they have met during the MBA. I have to agree with that; they really make the difference in your life and in your learning.
The highlight was working on the six-month consulting project. I carried it out with three classmates from other countries. The project helped me understand how to work in different cultural environments at the same time.
You have majored in corporate finance – is this a path you intend to pursue as a career?
Never say never. The finance professors at EMLYON are among the best. However, for now, no.
It was part of my plan to have a more rounded understanding of business. A BSc in business administration, an MSc in international marketing and management, [and] an MBA in corporate finance were a needed set of qualifications [that] I wanted to add to my profile, in order to enter the job market as a rounded manager.
You said you are on your way to your next job in Cape Town, South Africa. Tell us about it.
I am currently sitting in London Heathrow airport waiting for my flight to Cape Town. It will be an adventure. That was the plan I had with my girlfriend – to explore some new places in the world where things are not as foreseeable as in Europe.
I will be working for a South African company in Cape Town that wants to become the leader of renewable energy production. What else would you wish to do post-MBA, if not enter a very exciting [and] changing industry, and a company that is eager to grow?
How well has an MBA at EMLYON prepared you for an international career?
It has certainly prepared me very well for an international career – it gave me [the] opportunity to learn and understand how to work across cultures and [with] teams from all over the world.
Furthermore, the various case studies and projects which were related to different business environments gave me a solid basis for international business.