Claudia Persico, Persico Group: never give up!

In this Women in Composites interview, Claudia Persico, vice-president and rotational director at Persico Group, discusses joining her family’s business, the changes she’s seen in the workplace over the years, and why it’s important to keep learning every day.

Claudia Persico, Persico Group: never give up!

5 minutes, 30 secondes

Learning is an essential part of Claudia Persico’s life.

“I think that if we want to grow we must study every day of our life from lessons, from other people, from the situations around us”, she says.

She has amassed an impressive list of qualifications over the years. After graduating from university in Milan, with a degree in marketing and business communication, she went on to obtain a master’s from Istud Business School, Stresa (1999-2000), and completed a programme in Business Planning, Female Leadership, Corporate Governance at Bocconi University, Milan (2010-2014). More recently, she joined an online course in Digital Transformation and Leadership and Innovation at MIT (2021-2021). She is currently completing an Executive MBA at Politecnico di Milano Business School.

“I always want to learn more, because I always think I don’t know enough. In some ways this is a problem because I’m never satisfied with what I’m doing, but on the other side, I really believe it’s important to never stop learning. This is a message I pass on to other women. Never think that you know enough.”

Her second piece of advice to anyone planning to join a family business is to gain more work experience first. While her father wanted Claudia to join Persico immediately after graduating, she chose to spend a year in the U.S., working in sales and marketing roles at two companies before joining the business in 1999.

A creative environment

In her first job at Persico, Claudia worked as an administrative assistant.

“If you want to become a leader, you have to start with ‘easier jobs’”, she notes.

While this type of work did not suit her personality, it was a valuable learning experience. Over the following years, she progressed in the company to her role today, where she is able to develop her passion for people and understanding different cultures and markets.

“I am not a person that likes routine! I am a dynamic person. I have to think about a variety of different things at the same time, and my role gives me the possibility to express my creativity every day of my life. I discuss different topics and I cooperate with my team. We must be a strong team if we want to win our business championship! I believe in gentle leadership, focused on people first. I must guide the company in change, through innovation.”

Persico’s rotomoulding division provides a complete range of services: from concept to design, engineering and manufacturing of prototypes, models, moulds and automation systems

As VP and director of the rotomoulding division, Claudia’s responsibilities include managing the budget of the business unit and developing the strategic plan. In addition, she heads global sales coordination, directing ten sales managers, and handles enterprise resource planning. She is also a board member of the JEC Group and several business associations.

“I would say I enjoy most developing the strategic plan, to be innovative, and try to build a leadership position for Persico in select niche areas. Over the years, I have helped steer the group’s growth strategies toward a decisive manufacturing leap, marked by technological neutrality, environmental sustainability and circular economy, investing in processes to reduce consumption and use renewable sources in sectors such as automotive, aerospace, marine, urban mobility, and biomedical engineering.”

Persico’s SMART H2 rotomoulding machines are used to manufacture liners for hydrogen storage tanks

“The composites industry is evolving day by day, Claudia observes. We are always discovering something new. We must be a few steps ahead of competitors to surprise our customers and find new solutions to their problems. This is what I love about working in composites.”

Challenging stereotypes

The workplace has also evolved since the start of Claudia’s career, when women were often only seen as capable of working in administration, human resources and sales assistant jobs.

“When I joined the company I experienced many obstacles: in general, due to the preconceptions associated with new entrants, and specifically, for the preconceptions related to women. In those years the individualist spirit prevailed, to the detriment of the group. The senior figures hardly revealed the tricks of the trade, because from their point of view everyone had to ‘sweat’ to learn the knowledge. To make it even more difficult, it was a predominantly technical and male context which I entered.”

Claudia and her team at the Persico offices in Bergamo

“Today, however, things are changing and must continue in this direction. Seniors are more predisposed to teaching and young people listen in a different way. It is no longer a question of gender. Corporate managerial roles must be covered by women too.”

Claudia is vice-president for diversity at Federmeccanica, the association for the Italian engineering industry. She believes promoting more flexibility in the workplace will benefit the next generation of female workers.

“One of the biggest difficulties for a woman is work-life balance management, she explains. I have two children and know what it means to be at work and to also look after the kids. If companies are able to grant more flexibility in terms of time to women, I am sure it will be easier for them to express their full potential both at work and at home. This is especially true after Covid, not only for women, as young people also seek more flexible working. Another topic I want to develop in Persico involves working by task, by target, rather than by hours. I want to test this approach and then try to promote this business model through the different associations to other companies.”

She also believes that some industries still appeal more to men, which means there are fewer women leaders in these sectors.

“Based on our company current experience, I can say that the high-level technical and sales profiles are covered by men. Honestly, I’ve never interviewed a woman for these jobs. I think it’s because the products we make appeal to the male gender more.”

However, there are a growing number of successful women leaders in industry, who are showing other women what is possible. Claudia talks about some of the women that inspire her.

“Gabriella Pasotti is Group president at La Leonessa SpA, a company operating in the metallurgical sector. In 2022 she received the honour of Knight of the Order ‘Al Merito della Repubblica Italiana’ and she is also president of the Mechanics Sector of Confindustria Brescia [Industrial Association of Brescia].

Another woman I spend time with is Miriam Gualini, CEO at Gualini Lamiere International SpA and ambassador at GammaDonna [an association which supports female entrepreneurs]. Over the years she has established herself in a male-dominated industrial sector. She received the 2020 GammaDonna Award as the best innovative female entrepreneur in Italy.

I can mention also our president in Confindustria Bergamo, Giovanna Ricuperati, who comes from a marketing and communications background and now deals with industrial companies, which is not an easy mission.

Last but not least, Clémentine Gallet is another fantastic woman leader, I can say one of the best. Clémentine Gallet graduated with a mechanical engineering degree and co-founded Coriolis Composites in 2000. She is a member of the GIFAS Aéro-PME Committee, the French Fab, and the BPI SME accelerator, and sits also on the board of directors of several industrial companies, and the ID4CAR competitiveness cluster.”

Claudia talks about Persico’s business in this interview at JEC World 2022.

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Mola mia!

Claudia’s advice to other women is focus on what you are trying to achieve but be prepared if things do not go to plan.

“Set yourself a goal and never give up! Always think of a ‘Plan B,’ which bypasses the obstacle, but which takes you to the goal. In the marine world, you have a roadmap and you must always keep a compass at hand: go around the storm, lengthen the route, but never lose sight of the final destination. And as we say in Bergamo: Mola mia! Never give up!”

More information www.persico.com