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Creating the next generation of digital superstars

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In this interview, Fulvio Panariello shares his experience delivering Ericsson’s Digital Lab education program in Italy, and his views on how we can effectively coach and inspire the next generation of inventors and innovators.

Customer Project Manager

Creating the next generation of digital superstars

Customer Project Manager

Customer Project Manager

Could you introduce yourself?

Hi! I am Fulvio Panariello, 47 years old, and I was born in Torre del Greco – a coastal city of around 85,000 people near Naples in Italy. I moved to Rome in 2000, and I live here with my partner and their son.

Could you tell us about your career with Ericsson?

I first started working with Ericsson as a consultant in 2002, and later became an employee in 2008. I have a technical background, but over the years  my focus has shifted towards project management roles, and I officially became a project manager in February this year.

As a project manager, I am in charge of overseeing projects with our customers. It is my responsibility to ensure that when our customer buys something from us, it is delivered on time and on budget. Currently, I am in charge of managing projects with Telecom Italia in here in Italy, but in the past, I worked with a number of operators.

In this role, building a good relationship with customers is essential to ensure trust throughout the project delivery process, and make sure they want to come back to us in the future.

Outside of project management, I continue to look for new opportunities to develop, with a recent example being my involvement with Ericsson Digital Lab.

Tell us some more about the story of the Digital Lab project in Italy

Students taking part in Digital Lab

Ericsson Digital Lab is an innovative education program targeted at children aged 11-16 to support them as they enter the world of programming, robotics, and automation. It's a great learning experience for students interested in STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics). For the 2022-2023 school year I was asked to coordinate the Digital Lab for Italy, and I excitedly accepted the challenge!

So, I recruited colleagues to help as volunteers. I found both people with previous experience with Digital Lab, as well as people who were completely new to the program.

Thanks to the hard work of our volunteers, we were able to deliver three modules for the students, covering robotics, electronics and artificial intelligence. We delivered the program to three different schools, and all their feedback has been extremely positive.

That is fantastic to hear. How do you think this project benefited those involved, and what impact do you think this might have on their lives?

One of the most important aspects of this program, in my opinion, is not only on the academic content of the modules, but also for the development ‘soft skills’. Also known as ‘power skills’ or ‘core skills’, these refer to a person’s ability to solve problems, communicate and work effectively with others. These skills are absolutely crucial, not only in the in the workplace, but also in life generally.

At the end of each module, I witnessed a remarkable transformation in the school children's approach. They began embracing knowledge sharing, troubleshooting, and collaboration, which was also affirmed by their teachers. As a trainer and coordinator, this was truly gratifying. It's not always easy for students to naturally come together and cooperate when faced with challenges. Therefore, our primary focus was to inspire them to work as a team in such situations.

One of our ‘guiding stars’ when developing the learning structure was to foster empathy among the students, encouraging them to freely exchange ideas. This not only enhanced their effectiveness but also empowered them to tackle problems more efficiently.

So, what was this experience like for you?

When I reflect on this experience, I'm filled with a great sense of fulfilment. I received a lot of positive feedback on how the program was coordinated, and it was so inspiring to see the creative spark from students engaging in the content.

Watching them tinker and experiment with the robotics and other course materials, I could see the next generation of inventors and innovators right in front of me, and I feel very proud to have played this small role in their academic development.

I would also like to extend my gratitude to all my colleagues who were involved. Without them, the goal would have been impossible to achieve.

Fulvio coaching students at Digital Lab

How do your family feel about the work you have done with the Digital Lab program?

I asked this question to my family, because I’m always looking to grow and their feedback is very important for me. Their answer was: “You have put yourself on the line and invested a lot of time in your work and volunteer efforts, and we are very proud of you.” That made me immensely happy to hear and reaffirms to me that I am on the right path!

When you joined Ericsson did you imagine that you would help create this kind of impact?

To be honest, no. Coming from a technical background, my career focus has very much been around delivering telecommunications products to our customers. The Digital Lab project was such a great opportunity to share my knowledge and give back to the community, but also to develop other areas of my experience, such as teaching and mentoring. It is something I would be very interested to do more of in the future.

Fulvio speaking at an event

I think that mentorship is very important, because we should absolutely be supporting the younger generations with their growth and development. Receiving guidance from someone that has gone already gone through academia and the world of work can set you on the right path and provide advice about the obstacles we face throughout life.

What are some of the things that you're passionate about outside of outside of your work?

If I had to summarize in three words, they would be photography, running and BBQ!

Fulvio running in the marathon

Nowadays, having a smartphone makes it very easy to capture special moments in life. I enjoy taking pictures during holidays with my family, but regardless of the occasion I am always looking out for moments to capture. A picture is something we can take with us forever - a moment in time that we can collect and look back on in the future.

In 2016 I founded a running group called ‘CrewRomanaMMXVI’ because I much prefer to run with friends. We are now quite a big group, and we often get together for events where we run together. There is also the part at the end of the run where we go for breakfast or lunch, which definitely makes the hard work worth it.

A proud achievement of mine was completing a marathon. Running for 42 kilometres was a really challenging experience, not only on my body, but also the mind. It is something I will always remember.

What an achievement, huge congratulations Fulvio! What kind of world do you hope to see in the future?

I hope that in the future we can create a world better than our current one, for our children, grandchildren, and future generations to come. Today we are facing the consequences of a lack of attention towards sustainability - I really hope that technology can help us to change direction and give us results in a very short time.

Final question: what might you say to someone who is looking to start a career in corporate responsibility?

The importance of sustainability and corporate responsibility is rightly growing in our industry and across the world, and therefore I think these topics will play a much greater role in people’s jobs than in the past.

I think the most important thing is to believe in yourself and always to be excited about exploring new opportunities. For example, I am so glad that I received the opportunity to work on the Digital Lab, and I would encourage anyone that can get involved in a similar program to do so. At Ericsson we give all employees the opportunity to take part in these volunteer programs, to share their passion for technology , and nurture the skills needed for the next generation of innovators.

If we are going to meet the environmental challenges of today, we also need to empower the young generation to grow faster than us. And it’s up to us to enable that.

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