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An Interview with Michela Addis, Professor of Marketing at Università di Roma

SDA Professor di Marketing and Sales della SDA Bocconi School of Management

Michela Addis is associate professor of economics and business management at Università degli Studi di Roma Tre, she is also professor of Marketing and Sales at Bocconi SDA School of Management. She has since coordinated important research projects, at a national and international level. Her research is focused on the analysis and management of the experience of consumption, consumer engagement, customer relationship management and customer loyalty.  She is the author of two books on experiential marketing published by Prentice Hall Financial Times, and Pearson Education, as well as many articles in important journals in Italy and abroad.  She has spent many years doing research abroad at prestigious institutions such as the Helsinki School of Economics, Columbia Business School and ESADE Business School. She has also collaborated with Harvard Business School, the resulting work produced the Eataly business case.  Michela got her bachelor’s in Economics and Commerce at the Università Degli Studi di Roma Tre and her PhD in Business Economics and Management from Bocconi University. We were able to catch up with Professor Michela Addis and ask her a couple of questions regarding opportunities and obstacles students face nowadays.


Q:How important are international experiences for students today? If you were a student now, which internships or opportunities would you pursue and where?

            A:International experiences are crucial, today more so than ever before. Open markets, and the globalization of markets, shape young students into citizens of the world. This is not only visible in social phenomena, but also in the demands made by firms in searching for talents able to deal with growing complexity. The challenge of integrating a young recruit in a new work environment requires not only a strong program, but also strong networking skills, and furthermore a willingness to take risks.

For this reason, my advice to students is to look to emerging markets. In my day, we looked to the United States as the place that could teach us to face and handle challenges. To someone, passionate about marketing like myself, an internship with P&G in the US was the best opportunity in the world. If I were to choose today, I would pick emerging markets, possibly via a program with a large multinational that could give me a well rounded experience, thanks to the efficiency of consolidated processes and the excitement and fast growth present in those countries.


Q: How did you discover what you wanted to do in life? How would you advise your students to look for their inner passions and talents?

            A:In my case, two things were particularly useful. The first being experimentation. I tried to take advantage of opportunities as they made themselves available to me, even if it wasn’t my dream job. When I was young, only one thing was clear to me: that I didn’t know what I wanted to do. So, I strove to get to know myself better, my strengths, my weaknesses, but most importantly my passions. At first, everything seemed interesting to me. Experimentation helped me understand what didn’t work for me. The second thing that was very helpful was sharing ideas with others. I believe that through dialogue and debate it’s possible to broaden your horizons, and multiply your perspectives. Everyone around can offer you a distinct perspective that you may not agree with,but is definitely worth listening to.


Q: Have you ever studied abroad? If so, how did this experience affect you?

            A:Yes, in total I’ve spent a year and a half abroad, if I combine the time I spent studying in New York and Helsinki. My thoughts about that period have evolved over time. At first, I considered it a rich experience that I absolutely wanted. As time went on, I gained some perspective, I began to understand the sacrifices that are made when you go abroad. Every time I left I was aware of, not only the fruits of my labor, but also what that time outside of Italy had cost me. Now, these memories serve as a breath of fresh air, they are fundamental. International experiences are an incredible source of wealth. Today, every chance I get, I leave. Then I come home, but sure enough, I leave again soon after that.


Now, after 20 years, I'm convinced that the market for brilliant students is active and ready to receive them. Excellent students, that are keen, with strong soft skills, will not suffer when the labor market goes through another crisis. This is true abroad, and in Italy. There are plenty of companies able to recognize talent. The intensification of competition across all markets makes investment in great talent even more important. This is why we are seeing companies pay more attention to the kinds of profiles that will excel in these environments. Recruitment methods are changing because they have to adapt to the new skills that are in demand.  Companies are investing to update their recruitment systems for this reason.


Q: How do you see the future of your most brilliant students in Italy (and elsewhere)?

            A:If the problem affects anyone it affects students. Over time it seems to me that talent is becoming rarer. There seem to be fewer and fewer truly brilliant students. The ones that are found are quickly assimilated into the labor market. The problem is that students don’t live up to companies’ expectations.  I don’t mean that they aren’t developing the right skills in their studies, but rather the skills that should be developed starting in early childhood. It’s ever more common to find a good academic record with a poor level of education, a mediocre level of English, and poor quality writing. In the past these kinds of skills were commonplace, unfortunately, today that is no longer the case.


Q: Have you ever had a brilliant student who did not live up to their potential due to the lack of opportunities?

            A:As I mentioned earlier, I wouldn’t say so. We need to agree on what we mean by “brilliant students”. From my point of view, a brilliant student isn’t one with a great academic record, or the best grades, or even the best degree. These are only clues. I have had students with all of these characteristics that later did not live up to expectations because they don’t adhere to deadlines, they don’t communicate effectively with their superiors, they don’t speak English, were not able to present in front of the general manager, did not understand when to ask for forgiveness, didn’t work well with others, were unwilling to relocate (even for brief amounts of time) nor were they proactive. In my opinion, these students were not brilliant, they simply accomplished the goals that were set for them in university, which is not proof that they will bring valuable contributions to a business. These people take everything for granted.

What you say is true for these students, they don’t have great job prospects, but they also don’t have very much ambition. On the other hand, for students that can really make a difference, the answer is no. I have never had a student with this kind of profile that found themselves in an unsatisfactory job.



We would like to thank Professor Addis for taking the time to speak to us about the challenges and opportunities faced by students today. We wish her and her student the best!  


- NUMA Barcelona &HeySuccess

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