31 January 2023

A Purpose-led career


An alumnus who is extremely active in his work on behalf of communities in far-flung locations, our International Full-Time MBA graduate, Stefano Barazzetta, exemplifies a purpose-led career, which involves a series of projects for the benefit of populations around the globe.

Here, he recounts his time with us and his career, both before and after his time at the Politecnico di Milano business school.

Could you please give us a bit of background about yourself, your studies, and your work?

I graduated in Environmental Engineering at Politecnico di Milano in 2001.

I then started my career as an environmental modeler, but as I was not seeing much real-world impact from my professional activity, I started looking for opportunities in the development sector, which has always fascinated me.

In 2005 I moved to Sri Lanka to manage a reconstruction and resettlement project on behalf of an NGO following the Tsunami that hit the country in late 2004: it was a life-transforming experience, both from a professional and personal point of view. I had the chance to lead an international team working on a challenging project in a multicultural setting, and this really allowed me to test my management skills and to better understand the development sector and its limitations.

Back in Italy, I then decided to move away from the development sector for some time and to test myself again in a completely different environment, the financial sector: I spent  four years working as a consultant for a private equity fund investing in renewables and cleantech, and this again changed my perspective and made me understand that my ideal job would probably need to be one where I could apply traditional business skills to solve social and environmental issues.

While I was trying to discover the next step in my career I also decided that I needed to complete my education, and that’s why I decided to go back to Politecnico di Milano to study at the business school for my Full-Time MBA.

After that I entered the impact investing sector, which looks to tick all the right boxes for me, as it allows me to use my personal and professional skills to tackle some of the most challenging issues that the world is facing today: climate change, poverty, and access to energy.

I then spent approximately four years as an Investment Manager for a small foundation active in impact investing in East Africa  ̶  we were investing in local SMEs  ̶  and another three years at an Italian incubator, where we launched an impact investment fund focusing on Italian social enterprises.

Finally, since mid-2019, I have been working as a Senior Investment Consultant for UNCDF (United Nations Capital Development Fund), a UN agency which provides “last mile” finance to reduce poverty and support local economic development: I support UNCDF in investing in companies and organizations operating in the developing world (mostly in Sub-Saharan Africa) and active in areas such as access to energy, clean cooking, sustainable agriculture, etc.

I would say that my current occupation summarizes my experiences and what I have learnt in the last 20 years, and is a good fit with my passions and my expectations.

What factors led to your choice of studying for an International Full-Time MBA at the Politecnico di Milano business school?

After 10 years of work, I realized that I wanted to complete my education by adding business and management skills to my toolbox, and that I wanted to do it in a truly international setting.

I was attracted by the school’s curriculum and the diversity of its students, who come from a variety of backgrounds – also geographically; it is rare to find this somewhere else.

Your work has involved assistance to less-developed countries and several sustainable energy projects. What would you say has determined the direction of your career to date?

I had always thought that emerging countries would become more and more relevant, with energy and natural resources – and climate change – becoming the key issues in the economic and political debate, and I would say that this is the world we are now living in.

I also think that it is a world where the old-style Western-centric approach is progressively losing any meaning: Asia and Africa will lead population and economic growth in the coming decades, and I am convinced that the key going forward is a collaborative approach in tackling the great challenges that we all have ahead.

What is the most notable change you have seen in working practices in recent years, and to what do you attribute this?

I think that an increasing number of people are looking for a deeper purpose in how they spend their days at work, and this is even more true among young professionals.

The world has become much “smaller” than it used to be only 20 years ago and being aware of the challenges that we, as humanity, are collectively facing might be behind the desire to do things that make a difference – even a small one – during our lifetime.

31 January 2023

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