10 days ago I celebrated my birthday, marking my transition into the later years of my 30s. Since my birthday falls on the 1st of November, 10 out of the 12 months of the year have already passed, and I’ve made it a tradition to reflect on my personal journey and jot down some thoughts.
In the previous year, my goal was to experience a stable and uneventful 12 months. And following two job changes, navigating a global pandemic, purchasing a house, and welcoming a daughter into the world between 2019 and 2021, 2022 turned out to be as ordinary as I wanted it to be. Now, as 2023 comes to an end, I’ve been back at facing major life changes again.
The passing of a senior member in my family signified the start of a new chapter for all of us. I’ve recently experienced chickenpox (yes, I somehow managed to avoid it as a child!) and had my first encounter with COVID (late to the party, I know). Various members of my family underwent medical emergencies or procedures during this period. We’re all fine now, but it wasn’t fun, let’s just say that.
The significant shift for me this year was embarking on my MBA journey. This was a goal that had been in my radar for such a long time, but this year I felt that it was now or never. It’s a 2.5-year programme, which means that I should be able to finish it before turning 40. I like the idea of concluding what could potentially be my final structured, long-term education programme while still in my 30s. And with all the changes in the previous years, starting it before was impossible. Yes, it was now or never.
So far it’s been great. There’s a lot to learn, and the interactions with other students have been productive. I’m a bit of an unusual MBA student—if you read r/MBA the picture you get is horrific. Everyone does it for the status, the social clout, the networking, getting into management consulting and the likes. It’s nothing like that for me. While I appreciate the networking effect, I’m essentially going back to university.
Everything I know about managing products comes from doing the job, a few courses and certifications here and there, conferences, and engaging with mentors. Back in the day, I invested time, intellectual energies and resources into a degree I now consider pretty much pointless. Back in 2003–04 I had a vague idea that I wanted to work in tech, although I didn’t know that working in tech was a thing—it’s hard to explain, I know. At the high school I went to, in a small village in southern Italy, my peers’ style of thinking was rather linear—the rumour was, if you have 100 (highest mark in Italian high school system), then you’ll sign up to math, engineering or IT, then you’ll go work at Microsoft, which was seen as la crème de la crème of the industry. All the others, good luck to them. I was never a 100-student. On the other hand, my adult support system back in the day had people who either had been in the same industry for decades—and therefore didn’t have much to offer about more than their career—or, frankly speaking, maybe did have something, but never ended up having conversations with me about my future at the right time.
Doing an MBA now for me is almost an act of reparation. To take everything I know about managing a business and giving it a structure. To fill any gap I’m sure I have. I’m not just “doing an MBA”, I’m “going to a business school to hone my skills and become better at what I do”.
At the same time, whenever I can, and exactly because when I was choosing what to do with my life I had no one to guide me, this year I’ve been spending some time giving advice on a few Italian-speaking subreddits about work and careers, in the spirit of “be the person you needed when you were 18”. It’s been rewarding getting DMs from people telling me that my advice helped them landing interviews and even jobs.
Between working with a company whose mission is to empower people to better a build employee experience, contributing to career advice subreddits, improving myself going back to school, I feel like the place I’m in right now and everything I’m doing goes towards making this world a tiny bit better, and I’m proud of that.
What do I want from 2024? It’s difficult to say. I’ll be in the midst of my MBA while Vinnie will turn 5 and if I could have a bit of calm in the health space, it would be much appreciated. Something I’ve completely neglected since kicking off the MBA is music—I still need to find a good balance between work, MBA, fatherhood, and finding some time for music, but the idea I’ve had for a while now is to put together a strong 30′ set of solo bass music (me, my basses, my pedals and computers), bring it wherever feasible, and see where it goes. But I feel it won’t be simple, and unfortunately, so far, playing music was the battle I chose not to pick right now.
If you’ve made it this far—thank you. I am far from perfect, but I’m trying my best, and I feel fortunate to have the best friends, exceptional colleagues, and a wonderful family accompanying me on this journey.