Published: 18 May 2016

Meet the academic: Dr Marco Mongiello

Dr Marco Mongiello, Executive Director of Surrey Business School MSc and MBA programmes, explains why he's passionate about teaching business and of the impact Surrey Business School is making on the world.

Please introduce yourself – perhaps you could tell us something that isn’t on your staff profile page?

I am Deputy Head of Surrey Business School, with responsibility for our Masters programmes and MBAs.

I see myself as an intrapreneur (as opposed to an entrepreneur), because my passion is to deliver change and innovation within organisations. I've been lucky enough in my career to ride the right waves, and be able to count on fantastic teams who wanted to succeed and achieve very ambitious goals.

I like to make sure teams are driven by a sense of purpose, leverage their enthusiasm and passion, and realise that when we achieve success it's because we have worked for it with intelligence. This is the way of getting much more from people than just telling them what to do.

What’s your favourite memory of being a student?

I have fantastic memories from when I was a student at Università Ca' Foscari in Venice, Italy. Back then, universities were quite different, especially in Italy; we would learn from the best academics, but had very little student support and the facilities were constantly overcrowded!

Due to the University having classrooms all over the city, and being in Venice, we would walk from one corner of the city to another between lectures. Some of the classrooms were on the ground floor of stunningly beautiful palaces, but they were not designed to be classrooms! And, because they were always over capacity (no health and safety back then) we often ended up attending a lecture as we were standing outside the classroom, on the street, in the rain.

The great memory I have is that immediately we would create a team. One person would hold the umbrella, one person would listen to the lecturer and repeat it to those around, another person would take notes... This taught me a lot about teamwork and collaboration, but also it's where I started to think about universities and their role in society. I started to think of students as universities’ clients, whom we want to treat well. Caring about students started there, for me.

How and why did you arrive at your current role?

What I saw in Surrey Business School is huge potential, which is being leveraged. Prior to joining Surrey in January, I saw something unique in this Business School that other business schools don't have. Here there's the Centre for the Digital Economy, there's the 5G Innovation Centre, there's the Surrey Research Park, which make this business school a unique proposition for students.

Yes, there are also other business schools that - like Surrey - are part of wider universities (including Imperial College, where I spent eight fabulous years of my career), but Surrey takes the integration of the Business School with the other departments to a completely different level! At Surrey there is the expertise and the 'clout' to create substantial and valuable innovation, but we're not burdened by too long a history that creates a certain 'stickiness' in some institutions.

Having been here five months, I realise there's even more potential than I initially thought. All the heads of department come from very reputable places, bring incredible experience and a real willingness to do things differently. It's really uplifting to see how everyone brings their experience to Surrey Business School, and is proud to be here, to create a different and new way of impacting society through education and research.

One of my colleagues said that we're going to be the 'naughty kids' of the business-school world, because we are the new ones and we can do things differently. This confidence is the most inspiring, because it's confidence without arrogance.

What excites you about your current role?

What drives me is seeing that we make an impact, on our students and on society, by helping people develop skills, knowledge and values that make their career successful and the whole economic system sustainable.

I have been a programme director for many years, and I'm very proud that many of the innovations I have pioneered in my MSc and MBA programmes have been adopted by others in the same school or other schools. This gives me the drive to keep improving and developing my programmes, so that I’m always a step ahead of the others; MSc and MBA programmes are like live organisms that have to keep developing. We can be really happy with the programme one year, but we can't be satisfied if it is exactly the same the next year. It has to improve every year.

So, to answer your question, in my role at Surrey Business School I have the opportunity to lead the continuous development of a comprehensive portfolio of MSc and MBA programmes, and see many students fulfil their aspirations and move into successful careers.

What is your particular area of academic expertise, and why are you passionate about it?

I'm an accountant. What I like about it is that accounting is the language of business, and we need to know it in order to be able to understand the economics of businesses and to express ourselves to each other. What I do in my accounting research is to look at financial information and try to make sense of it from a corporate strategy point of view.

My aim, when teaching to students - apart from that they enjoy the lectures - is that by the end of the course in accounting, they can read what a senior executive says about his or her company, look at the numbers, and ascertain  if that executive is trying to tell us something that is not correct. That is the critical awareness that we want our students to develop, because we want them to become leaders  who use that awareness when making decisions that will impact on many other people and their own career.

Why should people study at postgraduate level at Surrey Business School?

Joining a Surrey Business School MSc or an MBA (depending on the career stage a person is in) equips a person with a unique combination of theoretical knowledge and practical skills that gives him or her a real edge in the business world. We help people develop the ability to apply theory to real scenarios, the insight to spot opportunities and the acumen to leverage them.

Our range of programmes represents a way of expressing how Surrey Business School is helping society to develop. We want students to feel that they are part of a bigger project aimed at making a positive impact on people’s careers and the world.

A business school can have a tremendous impact on making people understand, develop and be proud of the right values. Sometimes younger people are shy about values - they have been lured into thinking that it's all about profit, and return on investment, because it's what they think is expected in the business world. In fact, no! The most important thing for a successful career is building it on the right values, in the business world more than anywhere else, because when businesses do the wrong things, all of society suffers. People's families and homes depend on businesses leaders taking the right decisions. So we have a mission of trying to make the world a better place through developing responsible leaders with the habit of looking holistically at decisions and their effects on others and the environment.

With the help of our colleagues and students, we can translate the values of Surrey Business School into a strategy, and the strategy into something that actually impacts the world. So students aren't just learning; they're participating in this project and contributing to it, and when they leave Surrey they will achieve success while making the world a better place. That's what really excites me.

What are you looking for in a postgraduate student?

Energy. Willingness to grow. Any student who approaches a university (especially at postgraduate level) for the sake of ticking a box, for the sake of having a particular qualification on their CV, for the sake of having a degree because everyone else has it, should go to another university - or perhaps they shouldn't go to university at all.

A postgraduate student has to go into their studies with the willingness to contribute their experience, their understanding, their critical awareness, for the purpose of having a better impact in society, whether through business, through creating a vision within an organisation, or through creating new ventures. The purpose has to be having a beneficial impact on society. And, by the way, this will make you also rich and wealthy, which is a very welcome by-product of that purpose!

So, yes, we want our students to be successful, but financial rewards have to be the result of being a good leader, an effective manager, an innovator in an organisation.

Does a particularly good memory of your time at Surrey stand out for you?

I've only been here for a few months, so I'm still building memories; I'm having a great time! Ask me again in a few years’ time and I’m sure I’ll have plenty of good memories to report!

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