Andrea Soffiati on "Finding Happiness in your Development Efforts" - The SmarTalks Show
Have you ever felt a mix of excitement and tension when you enter the Corporate world? If it happened to you, you are not alone.
I was delighted to welcome my friend Andrea, Financial Management Consultant at KPMG Dublin, to the special edition of the SmarTalks Show. In the Episode, we explored the jump from the graduate world to the first job and much more.
Andrea's journey to Financial Management Consultant in Dublin
Andrea accomplished a BSc in Economics at Cattolica University in Milan and then decided it was time to see something new. He therefore moved to Dublin to study at University College - Michael Smurfit Business School, that offered a very high quality/price ratio between the various universities in the English-speaking countries.
He loved the city and the Irish culture and decided to look for jobs in Ireland, where he ultimately accepted an offer as Financial Management Trainee at KPMG. Consulting is a target for most business students/graduates; they see it as something that gives a solid base of skills and an edge to their CVs. And of course it offers exposure to a wide variety of clients in different sectors.
Accepting a job in Ireland is a brave choice because when you decide to work in a place, you are basically planning to be in that country/city for at least 1-2 years of your life!
Numbers: what is so exciting about them?
Andrea fell in love with numbers while he was studying Economics in Milan, and then realized, while studying Management in his MSc, that he was missing the numbers’ perspective. Given his passion for Finance, Financial Management Consulting was a dream job because it merged the passion for numbers and his Management foundations.
As a Coach, I am definitely more interested in people rather than numbers. But Andrea offered such an interesting perspective on the topic. In the podcast he explained that organizations are amazing social machines, made of people and processes, and what we see is just the outcome of what organizations produce. One of the questions he asked himself was “How can I quantify the efforts companies make? How can I keep track of everything that is happening inside a big organization?” That’s when he realized that behind the processes there is always some measurements needed to stay with the feet on the ground. Besides the Vision/dreaming part, numbers help you stay grounded, they help you keep track of progress and making sure you are heading to the right direction.
Now that I am launching my own business, I realize that if the numbers do not look good, the company will fail. And it sucks because I have to admit that Andrea was right since the beginning! :) I did not even want to run the financials for my company, but I am so happy I did it because it made me realize that after paying all the experts who work with the Academy and after reinvesting the profits in social impact projects, I had no money left for business development! I could not even hire a sales professional.
Andrea went on explaining that Finance sounds like a very complicated world. It may seem terrifying to an outsider! However, from an entrepreneur point of view, the finance needed is pretty easy, especially for a young business or for private individuals! It is pretty easy to identify some key indicators to understand how the business is doing.
From my perspective, I find interesting that Finance has so much to do with people! I never thought about this before. The financial market seems difficult to understand, but if we boil it down to the basics it is only people who think something will happen and they react to it.
As Andrea explained it, the underlying concept is behaviour. Behavioural finance, choices, ideas, are behind the fluctuations of financial markets. Which many times are biased, but that’s a topic for another episode.
Andrea and I met while we were out with two different groups of friends. The very first moment when we spoke we realized we could be very good friends. It was a very quick connection we made at Nolita. We chatted about some philosophical concepts and we immediately laughed before ending up at Wow Burger.
I am a true believer that energy is key; if you are at level 9/10 and meet people who are a 5/10, you either bring them up or they bring you down. Energy is very contagious, and I am very picky about the people I want in my life. When I choose my friendships I want people who have good energy. With Andrea, we connected on the same level of energy and people asked us if we had known each other for a very long time! And we were like “Ehm no we have just met”.
Balancing social life, work and chartered accountant studies
It is rather difficult to find people who are purposeful, very focused and determined to accomplish their goals, and also have fun. I asked Andrea how he manages both work and enjoyment.
Andrea puts a lot of efforts on what he does. Living a balanced life and seeing friends is not always easy and at first Andrea sacrificed a few hours of sleep for friendship and fun. However, he then realized this was not a very smart idea because being tired erodes your energies and prevents you from reaching your goals. He ultimately was able to balance social life, study and work, by surrounding himself with people who motivated him! Most of the things he accomplished are due to the people who kept his energy levels high and helped him reach his goals. These friends prevented him from being tired and inconclusive.
I remember Andrea working, studying and partying very hard and asking myself “How the hell does he do it?”. We have one life and it is important to manage it well, with the right friends and the right moments.
Focusing on the end goal and finding happiness in the process
In terms of the learning part, one thing I admired about Andrea is that he is not only a Financial Management Consultant, but as it is quite typical for KPMG, he is also studying for the Associate Chartered Accountant certification. This means that besides work he has to study to pass the various exams. It is almost as if he was back to school with the addition of a full-time job. When I finished my studies I did not want to study anymore. What drove Andrea to choose this path?
The position at KPMG came together with the ACA certification. When Andrea read the contract he was happy but scared; how do you find the energy to keep going for another three years? His parents were really helpful giving him the right perspective and motivation.
Keeping the focus + stop comparing yourself
Andrea looked at his end goal: succeeding in a career in consulting or finance. He realized this was an opportunity for the long run because the qualification would have differentiated him from many others and would have given him the knowledge he needed to get there.
So, even though the effort was a lot, if the effort is properly used it always brings the right fruits. It always brings the right benefits!
And this is why we should never compare ourselves with other people: even if it seems like that Andrea could be “behind” if compared to other people, this certification will accelerate his growth later in terms of salary and career progression!
As his parents always tell Andrea, “Do not compare yourself to others”, which is a very simple idea but it works! If you keep comparing yourself to others, you will always think you are either forward or behind, never find peace, always be hungry but ultimately feel “sick” because it seems like you are not progressing fast enough.
The ideal thing is to keep the focus. Three years are a very long and stressful time. But if you focus on yourself you will find the motivation on your own. And this, when combined to surrounding yourself with the right people, is a recipe for happiness.
Andrea is playing the long run and it will pay off.
Advice for MSc students/young professionals
I asked Andrea “If there was one piece of advice you would like to offer to young professionals and students who accomplish MSc, what is an advice which could make them happier when they work?”
Make sure you are learning and growing. The moment you feel stuck and doing the same thing all day long, is when you start experiencing sadness. See work not as a prison, but as a way to enlarge your family and connections.
Some people have the luck of having lots of young peers, some people do not, but even if you don’t, still try to make positive connections with superiors or older peers. Having an outside network of young peers is important to recharge your energies. When you have accomplished this, you can be happy at work.
Remember, no one really likes what they do at the very beginning; it is a learning process! Something I find surprising is that what you study is never what you do at work. These are two completely different things. You might be unsatisfied when you start, but when you see the learning curve and your progression, here comes happiness and satisfaction. It’s about the little steps, there is never a huge step that makes you say “Ok I am happy here”, it is a daily process! You must learn to be patient. Being patient is key, and it comes from someone who committed himself to complete a 3-year process. Happiness is not a sprint, it’s a marathon.
Knowing your worth vs being entitled
Nowadays, we are so used to have everything, and have it now; in the workplace, there is the risk of seeming arrogant. Some people state “I have worked here for six months, now I deserve a promotion, a salary increase”. Of course some people accomplish fantastic results and companies must value their contribution, however from the perspective of a young professional it is important to be grateful, not entitled. Understand you are learning.
And if you make a demand to your Manager, never say “I am so good I deserve a promotion because I am better than anyone else!”. That is the wrong way of asking for a promotion. Instead, phrase it like “I really enjoy what I do, I feel like I am learning. I would like to contribute even more and I have this career aspiration, how can we make this possible? What’s something we could do for me to get greater responsibilities?”.
In Andrea’s situation, the consulting career path is structured. After a certain level you must speak to the right people, however when you are young the career path is structured and career progression comes with your results, by studying and complete the various steps. Regardless of your career, you should never go there and pretend something and assuming that what you want will be given to you. It’s a matter of sitting down and figuring this out together.
There is such a thin line between knowing your worth and being entitled. Know your value, but do not expect that because you are valuable things should be automatically given to you. It’s very difficult to understand for most professionals!
It’s a tough topic because it is about engaging with people and effective communication. Andrea says that we earn the respect of our peers and superiors by putting in the effort, showing passion, engaging with positive vibes. It’s not really a matter of being entitled, it’s a matter of gaining that level of respect by working in the right way and engaging properly with people. You need to create your own brand. You are not born with a brand, you do not have a brand when you come out of university, you need to create that. It’s a step-by-step process of getting to know people, learning from them, and once you do it in the right way you can shine bright.
Growth mindset, curiosity and ambition
Andrea mentioned growth mindset. The work he does on himself is admirable because he is always looking to discover his blind spots. I asked Andrea to tell me more about what pushed his growth: ambition? Family? Personality? I noticed, for instance, that Andrea does not have an ego problem; for him it is very normal to call me and ask for help: “Hey what do you think about this? How can I do more, be more?”.
Andrea was fascinated by Dublin, a very international city where you get to know wonderful people. He realized how much each of them could bring to his growth. Even in terms of simple things such as “how to organize your time efficiently”. His drive to grow is driven by curiosity and ambition, it is a mix of things; Andrea gets bored when he stops learning. Therefore, being surrounded by interesting people who can bring different perspectives is fascinating. Dublin is a city where many people talk about business, however Andrea has friends in the medical sector, childcare sector, very different fields! He enjoys talking to them because it gives him a shift of perspectives and points of view.
That’s powerful! To our readers, if you are thinking about a career in Corporate, Dublin is a fantastic place, such a vibrant and energetic city.
That’s what we have got for today’s article; if you liked it, please share it with a young professional who could benefit!
Make your life a masterpiece, see you next week, we appreciate you and we hope you have an amazing day.