Keeping your brightest stars

Is talent retention a bigger challenge in smaller companies? Eugenio Ferrante, Vice President and General Manager of Cross-Platform Applications for Parallels Asia-Pacific, shares how working in lean teams can improve staff engagement and retention

Could you tell us more about your rise to the top?
I grew up not afraid of trying new things and moving to new places. In 2007, I spent six months working in management consulting in India, for example. After that, I moved from Italy to Canada, the US, and now Singapore. All these experiences have helped define me as an individual as I moved through the various stages in my career. Of course the big part is the willingness and strong motivation to work hard (and smart). You’ve got to invest time and all you’ve got, to the best of your ability, to deliver excellent results.

Also key is having the openness to embrace the opportunities that come your way and enable you to gain new skills. For me, you don’t need to think so much about rising to the top; just do your best to deliver what’s expected of you and you’ll get there. Another part of the equation is working with people who give you the opportunity and the environment to grow, even as they move ahead on the corporate ladder. So it’s a combination of ‘you’, your work environment, and an open mind about where the next opportunity may be.
 
What are some of your earliest challenges as you transitioned into a leadership role?
Learning to work well with a variety of people, of various nationalities and cultures, and in different geographic locations present big challenges, but it’s also an exciting opportunity to learn from them – and grow the business with them. Living in Singapore, we are lucky to be exposed to a multicultural environment.

Another challenge is that transition from doing everything by yourself to letting your team deliver. If you are very detailed-oriented, this may be hard at the beginning. You have a clear idea of how something should be done, and you may think that you can get it done faster or better than someone else in your team. That’s not the point though.
 
What is the biggest thing that you’ve learnt about people management?
Treat people in the same way your best manager treated you in the past. Think of experiences that you had and what that manager did right. Give them a chance, help them, and motivate them, in a similar way to how someone else did for you – and they’ll give you their best shot at what they do.
 
How would your employees describe you?
They might not say it directly, but I suspect they might describe me as an introvert, quiet and serious, but I’m glad that as they come to know me more, they’ve become more open and find out I am actually quite fun and easy to work with.
 
How do you attract and retain the best talent?
Recruiting and retaining the right talent is always a challenge, especially for a smaller company like Parallels. At Parallels in the region, we are fortunate to have high retention – and key to this is keeping employees engaged. They need to have a strong conviction that they have a stake in that growth in their professional careers. And that’s why we put emphasis on growing effective and successful business leaders.

The advantage of working in a small team is that you can take on more activity across a number of different functions and roles. You need to be able to make decisions on your own, for the benefit of the territory you are managing. And you need to be able to wear a few different hats.

I believe that coaching goes beyond sending someone to a training class. We ensure continuity of experience and exposure as we groom high potential staff to take on more responsibilities for the business. In addition to this, HR can play a really big role here. I believe that designing and implementing customer satisfaction programmes is pretty much the same as looking at employee satisfaction. From my previous experience, I brought the NetPromoter score methodology to Parallels, and today we use that both for customers and internally.
 
Can you share a key staff development programme and the rationale behind it?
Leadership and self-development for all levels of staff – we’re a lean team, everyone needs to be able to lead and drive their own goals with minimum supervision.
 
How do you incentivise and motivate employees beyond monetary rewards?
 Beer and wine! Or on a more serious note, keep them engaged, and give them visibility into the big picture and how what they do relates to that.
 
With teams spread across different geographies, what is your top tip for cross-border collaboration?
At Parallels, we maximise use of technology to our advantage – whether via the phone, WebEx, Skype, or Facebook (we have an employee-only group on that platform). In addition to that, especially when you are building a new team, periodic face-to-face and all-hands team meetings are crucial. I gather my whole team together every six months.
 
Your proudest moment
When I can convince someone that there is light at the end of the tunnel and we can make changes to an otherwise bleak situation.
 

Bio brief
Eugenio Ferrante is the Vice President and General Manager for the Cross-Platform Applications Business Unit in Parallels Asia-Pacific, a virtualisation technology company. In his current role, he is responsible for driving demand and sales for Parallels Desktop for Mac, the market leading desktop virtualisation product, and for the rest of the Cross-Platform Application portfolio, in the Asia-Pacific region.

Ferrante joined Parallels in 2009 as business manager to the CEO. Shortly after, he was appointed as Director of Customer Satisfaction and Knowledge, where he designed and implemented customer satisfaction programmes for service providers and consumers, and launched Parallels SMB Cloud Insights, the company’s first initiative to share expertise about the cloud and hosting service business with its partners.

Prior to joining Parallels, Ferrante served as a Case Team Leader at Bain & Company, a leading management consulting firm.

Ferrante holds a degree in Business Administration from Università Commerciale Luigi Bocconi in Italy, and a Master of Business Administration from Washington University in St. Louis, US.

 

Me-myself-I
  • I love: My newborn son, who is now four months old
  • I dislike: Very long flights
  • My inspiration is: Immersing myself in a multicultural environment and getting to know people from different cultures and backgrounds
  • My biggest weakness is: In my previous job in consulting, people were more self-motivated. We spent less time on communication and more time on doing things. Now I must constantly remind myself to over-communicate.
  • In five years’ time I’d like to be: Still living in Singapore and involved in the technology field
  • Favourite quote: “Strive not to be a success, but rather to be of value.”

Contact info

HR SUMMIT 2017

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