Many Engineering students at the Politecnico are required to do an internship at the end of their Bachelor's degree. However, in the last two years, the Management Engineering course at the Politecnico di Milano has launched an even more effective initiative of project work that helps them familiarise themselves with professional life within a company. The special thing about "Training on the Jobis that, unlike normal work experience, there is the direct and significant involvement of Alumni in the process. The programme involves each student being assigned a mentor/tutor chosen from a pool of experienced Alumni, who hold regular meetings online and at the company with the students, providing interim and final feedback on their progress.
The aim is to offer students the opportunity to get involved directly in real projects within a company; to get their hands dirty and apply the models and methodologies that they have learnt in the classroom to real-life contexts. This is a way for students to reflect on their academic career, approaching it from a different perspective and getting professional advice from the experts: the Alumni.
The students are part of a specific team and work on a real-life situation. In most cases, it is not a time of transition to the world of work; the majority of students choose to continue with postgraduate study after their Bachelor's degree. So, why stop studying for several months to "go to work"? We asked some of the students who have taken part in the programme.
"It taught me how the world of work works, which is very different from what we are used to at university," says Daria Tortora. She completed her training at Europ Assistance, under the supervision of the CEO Carsenzuola and Ezgi Dogan, MSc Management Engineering Alumna.
“The goal of my project was to identify distinct customer segments, so that we could apply customised business strategies to each group. Using the data available in the company database, we designed and implemented a customer analysis and segmentation model using RFM analysis (which stands for Recency, Frequency and Monetary). We then built the model and interpreted the results obtained, identifying possible actions to be taken for the different types of customers identified. We used an innovative approach that, on the one hand, provided us with a significant overview, as informed an concise as possible, of the customer base, improving our understanding of the company's customers and their characteristics. On the other hand, once integrated with the results of the RFM segmentation, we could refine and improve the customisation services to be developed for each group identified. The experience far exceeded my expectations. The team and the work I was assigned allowed me to use the knowledge that I’ve acquired throughout my university studies in a real-life context. Theoretical skills are not enough if you are unable to apply them; work experience is crucial to understanding how these techniques should and can be applied to help and give value to an organisation. In my case in particular, I saw all the concepts that I’d learnt during last semester’s Business Data Analytics course applied in practice. As my first work experience, it has been of enormous value on a personal level. I had the opportunity to work alongside very highly-skilled individuals who were willing to give me a hand or some advice, who welcomed me with enthusiasm and who were genuinely interested in my work. I also learned that working in a motivational environment is paramount to achieving results. I watched my team work with passion and enthusiasm, making my job engaging, exciting and productive. Especially with our victory in the World Care League company competition - an ideas competition organised by Europ Assistance - I had the satisfaction of seeing my efforts recognised and achieving results that are not only valuable for me, but also for the company. You realise that, with hard work and commitment, you not only can you achieve your own results, but also that everyone shares the same goals and your contribution therefore becomes important for everyone you work with.
Riccardo Bertelli was also supported by Carsenzuola and his team at Europ Assistance, in particular Cecilia Perri. “I immediately felt at ease in my assigned team at the company, namely the Project Management Office. My Training on the Job lasted from mid-March to the end of May. I put a lot of effort into completing my project on time in order to be able to graduate in July 2022 , says Riccardo.
"My project was divided into 2 objectives: the first involved analysing how the PMO team currently manages the project portfolio and the idea was to introduce a tool that could replace and improve this current management. The second objective, which was more of an in-depth study, was to identify an indicator to be introduced in the initial set-up phase of each project to analyse end-user satisfaction. Through this experience, I expected to grow personally and learn about the pace of work. And that is what happened. I learnt a lot about work dynamics, how different the working world is from our university routine , and how the soft skill of flexibility is essential to deal with everyday problems. In terms of a Master’s degree, I was already planning to continue studying Management at the Politecnico - the Training helped me to get a clearer idea fo which areas of specialisation I want to pursue. This was thanks to a feedback session with the entire PMO team and then also with the CEO Carsenzuola personally, during which I received advice that I’m sure will come in handy later down the line. The individual courses I took throughout my Bachelor’s were not essential to my success in the Training, but the methodology I learned at the POLI was very useful. With which, I mean a very structured and critical way of thinking and reasoning which enabled me to handle this experience in the best possible way.”
Nicolò Guglielmetti was supervised by Roberto Pancaldi, CEO of Tenova (Mechanical Engineering Alumnus), Enrico Malfa, R&D director (Aeronutica Engineering Alumnus) as well as Marta Guzzonsenior scientist for the circular economy (PhD Alumna). Nicolò worked on the methodologies and tools used for assessing the environmental impact of the steel production cycle, analysing possible ways in which the technology could be evolved, including from an economic standpoint.
"My mentoring started in December 2021 and ended in June 2022," he comments, "in a combination of work at the company and from home. In the more intensive part of the mentoring (from February to May), I went into the office once a week for about 8 hours, with the addition of work I had to complete at home, which amounted to around a couple of hours a week. The experience exceeded all of my expectations. Personally, my two main hopes were to be supervised by the company, and not left to my own devices, and to work on things that I had not covered in previous academic courses, so as to enhance my cultural knowledge. Both hopes were fulfilled: I was mentored very closely and I gained knowledge on topics such as ETS, LCA, CO2 calculations and steel production, which I had only ever touched on briefly in academic courses.. Thanks to the mentoring, I am now thinking of continuing with postgraduate studies in circular economy."
Pancaldi and Malfa, together with Chemical Engineering Alumnus Mattia Bissoli, R&D Specialist, also mentored Gabriella Caputi:
"I am currently enrolled in a Master's degree in Management Engineering at the Politecnico di Milano. For my Bachelor’s degree dissertation, I wrote a report on the Training on the Job that I did at Tenova S.p.A. during the second semester of my third year. My dissertation title was The measurement of innovation in industrial growth and I worked on developing a performance measurement system for the Research and Development division. I decided to enrol in the Training on the Job to get a taste of the world of work and apply what I had studied in a real-life context.I expected to be treated as a student and to have to shadow my supervisor in their activities. On the contrary, I was assigned a new project for which I was responsible for deciding how to proceed, according to my experience and studies, naturally with the support of my supervisor. It was a very welcoming environment and I was always treated like a colleague, with a lot of respect for my effort and my needs. This experience definitely taught me how to interact with colleagues in a work environment and to have more confidence in my abilities. I think that, in general, work experience helps you to see your studies from a different perspective: you have to tackle things that you have learnt on a theoretical level, but in a new version and not always "perfect" like you see in the textbooks. This experience has most definitely motivated me to continue my studies in order to learn even more about the different dynamics of the working world. It also informed my choice of postgraduate study because it allowed me to understand what I find most stimulating and what, instead, doesn't interest me as much."
Each student therefore had an "official" mentor, but in fact was supported by a whole team of alumni who showed them the ropes in the different areas of the job. "If there had been such an opportunity in my day, I would certainly have jumped at it," says Carsenzuola. "It comes at a very opportune moment: these young people have sufficient intellectual maturity, but they are still in a transitional phase, where they have to confirm the choices they have made up until now or change direction. Work experience helps a lot in this respect.”
It’s not only the trainee who benefits. Indeed, it is also an opportunity for the hosting companies, as Pancaldi explains: "I welcomed the initiative with the view of giving-back to the Politecnico di Milano, to which I owe so much. But, in doing so, I realised that having bright, well-prepared young people available, who are external to the everyday goings-on, also allows us to study aspects that, in our daily routine at the company, we never manage to get round to, due to a lack of time."
The work these young trainees do do has a long-term impact at the companies in which they "train". This was the case with Gabriella, for example, Pancaldi continues: "We were using an outdated set of KPIs to evaluate the results of research and development activities and wanted to update it. Gabriella's work involved the bibliographic research, selection and rationalisation of the most commonly used KPIs in the world, then together with her we selected what has become our new set of KPIs. Nicolò, on the other hand, compared the various tools for assessing the environmental impact of our technologies. He compared 3 tools that calculate CO2 emissions, helping us understand the differences, pros and cons of the various approaches. This is a very topical issue for us because we are engaged in energy transition and decarbonisation at all levels. Each of these tools produces different results, so understanding them properly is important for making strategic decisions.”
Carsenzuola also agrees on the impact of his trainees' work on business processes, including in the long term: “We placed Daria in a team that deals with customer experience, which is a key component at Europ Assistance, as can also be seen from our pay off: You live We care. In particular, Daria worked on the commercial and marketing aspects of our customer relations. She used statistical and analyticaltools, which in the classroom she had seen applied to very different subjects, to develop a tool to assess the probability that a customer will decide to terminate their relationship with Europ Assistance, and above all understand the reasons for this and consequently define concrete actions to strengthen the relationship, improving the overall customer experience. Her project also won an ideas competition, the World Care League- which we hold internally every year, aimed at developing new ideas and financing their development. Daria was so well-integrated into the team that developed this idea, that she was selected as a project spokesperson.