Learn about Vittorio's journey with In Touch in our latest member success story
In an impressive senior career spanning over 35 years, In Touch member Vittorio Pataia has worked for some of the world’s biggest consumer brands, including Procter & Gamble and Johnson & Johnson.
Prior to leaving his final executive role at British American Tobacco, Vittorio joined In Touch’s inaugural Ahead of the Curve (AOTC) programme, designed to guide aspiring non-executives embarking on a new career journey. Soon after, Vittorio began to build a portfolio career and now holds three non-executive roles. He spoke to In Touch about his time on AOTC and the network’s role in his transition.
Why did Vittorio Join In Touch?
Vittorio spent 35 years in the corporate world, working in Research & Development and marketing for Procter & Gamble, first in Italy and later in Germany. After that, he worked for 12 years for Johnson & Johnson in France (Paris), still in R&D. Finally, he moved on to British American Tobacco where, in his final year working for the company, he realised that he wanted a change in direction in the near future. Vittorio says: “I started to look at how to continue my professional life after I left the company and that’s how I came across the idea of developing a portfolio career.” He adds, “I was certain that I didn’t want to retire but rather concentrate my expertise in different avenues.”
Vittorio realised that although his professional experience was both extensive and impressive, he would need guidance to be able to translate this into a portfolio career.
Whilst researching organisations that could help him make the leap from the executive world, and develop the skills and behaviours needed for a non-executive role, he found In Touch and its acclaimed AOTC programme.
What did Vittorio learn on AOTC?
Vittorio found “AOTC very enjoyable and really useful” in a time of transition and uncertainty and describes how the programme made him assess and rationalise the move from “a world where you are an executive, used to making decisions operationally” to a world where you have to engage a very different skill set. Vittorio describes the most difficult part of embarking on a portfolio career as the readjustment and acclimatisation and states: “AOTC really helped me to cope with this change in mindset”, acting as a stepping stone and helping him to form expectations of what a NED role entails.
While Vittorio learnt that his skills and experience could be of use in any industry as a non-executive, he consciously chose to stay in the consumer goods sector, securing roles for a sports drinks company and an agricultural flower business. Vittorio explains: “ I thought, at least at first, that the difficulty of going for a whole new kind of role would be compounded by also entering a new sector”, though he adds that Anne and AOTC made him realise that with a little more time, and with it confidence, he could take on any challenge. Vittorio implores aspiring NEDs to start thinking about their portfolio career before leaving the executive world and to research as much as possible about what it will entail.
He also strongly recommends joining courses such as AOTC to “build the skillsets and attitude”’ needed for a portfolio career, ahead of embarking on the next step and describes the areas in which the course developed his non-executive skills, saying:
“It was great at signposting the legal aspects, obligations and responsibilities of a NED.” and he points out that there are often specialisms that won’t have featured in an executive career, but are expected of NED’s. He explains:
“I always worked in the interface between marketing and R&D so never had to be too involved in finance. It’s about finding the gaps you have in your skillset. AOTC gives you a great head start on this process - it helped me assess myself and look at my weaknesses.”
“Most of all, utilise your network and just get out there and try - you have to throw yourself into it.” Vittorio’s approach is one of scope and consistency. “Start making calls, get active on LinkedIn. Keep the discipline with regard to networking, finding connections with the right people and sustaining those relationships.”
What are the challenges of being a NED and what does the future hold?
Vittorio explains the difficulty in having to exert his influence on others as an independent director, without the executive ‘powers’ he previously enjoyed:
“You know what you would have done, in your time as an executive but you realise that you have to influence others to share your view so they, not you, can take the action and implement the strategy.” He adds that, the delicate balance between “being involved but not being in charge is a real readjustment”.
Vittorio is currently starting his own company, but is looking to a future where he holds three non-executive roles in addition to being a business owner. “I want to build on the learning I have done and the two non-executive roles I already have.” His ambitions are to land an independent board role at a larger company than his current start-up positions, building on the confidence and skills he’s gained so far.
And Vittorio will be taking his own advice to achieve this: “I will work my personal network, In Touch’s professional one and the people on AOTC. Keep building on your skills, contacts and knowledge and, eventually, you’ll be successful.”