In this issue of TWA, which looks at the value of crossing disciplines and choosing alternative careers in our industry, we meet Francesco Cuomo, whose managerial development team is tasked with planning and applying strategies to map, assess, and develop soft and technical skills required for careers in a multinational integrated company. As a new graduate and newcomer to the job market in 1991, Francesco Cuomo found his first employment in New York City, where he worked in a publishing company as junior journalist.
Cuomo (whose father and uncle worked for Eni—the six-legged-dog company) grew up in the same Milan satellite town of San Donato Milanese, where Eni headquarters was established in the 1950s. “Eni has always been imprinted in my DNA,” he likes to say even now. And he acted accordingly. One year into his job in New York, he joined Eni. Since then, his career has been fast and sharp. Today, he is courteous enough to let us cherry pick from his tree of experience.
Since his first days with Eni, Cuomo dealt with issues revolving around managerial skills and training. However, his initial period in E&P Div. headquarters did not last more than a couple of years. “To understand how a company works, junior colleagues must get their hands dirty quickly.” He did so by spending more than a year as assistant to the human resources (HR) manager in the domestic production district of Ortona, a coastal town on the Adriatic Sea. Here, for the first time, he was exposed to the “front line” that led him to attain valuable learnings, which he then took back to Milan.
Forging skills and facilitating career paths must be handled with care early in a career. In this scenario, the role of line managers is central, and Cuomo likes to consider managers as “mentors and orchestra directors at the same time, matching company objectives with personal goals and aspirations. It is also up to the person to promote and establish a frank relationship with the direct line manager based on mutual trust.” Looking back at his career, Cuomo adds, “I have always been blessed with bosses that fit this portrait.”
"All items in my checklist for success are declinations of one scheme: self-determination."
A vast majority of those who responded to this issue’s forum feel that cross-disciplinary moves will help in their career progression and show a definite interest in this perspective. However, the survey also shows that such moves are not always encouraged by companies. What should we make of these results? Is jumping from one discipline to a different one at all possible? Cuomo’s thinking is underpinned by the consideration that the ever-increasing technological challenges that confront our industry call for adequate skills. To build these, he favors exposure to various disciplines, especially when these are adjacent and complement each other. The bottom line is “planning—knowing where we are and where we want to go. Crossing disciplines for the sake or thrill of doing so is a waste of valuable resources that the industry cannot afford.”
Many books have been written on the subject of how to be effective, and endless “to-do” lists have been prepared that would guarantee attainment of success. Not here. “All items in my checklist for success are declinations of one scheme: self-determination.” Cuomo maintains that each individual should be proactive and “understand where the person stands with respect to the organization and the people in it, and then (re)act to make things happen.” Accordingly, line managers are once again crucial to the successful development of young resources. In this respect, as someone who is charged with recognizing managerial skills and potential, he has always appreciated managers who let one make instructive mistakes. “Sometimes, you can be the best tutor of yourself,” he says.
As with any technology-intensive business, the oil and gas industry recognizes HR as the most precious asset that can give companies the edge over competition. Cuomo says, “Our HR department wants to be able to offer a first-class service to first-class professionals. And with this vision in mind, we are following a path of modernizing and updating internal processes and procedures, making us the ideal partner for core business areas that are becoming, in turn, the most important internal clients. Needless to say, the system/company/organization can only do so much. The rest lies in our hands.” His final advice: “Let us help you to become tomorrow’s leaders.”
Francesco Cuomo is Managerial Planning–Development Dept. Manager at Eni E&P Div., a branch of one of the world’s largest integrated oil and gas companies. He was hired in 1992 after working in a New York publishing firm. Before his current position, which he accepted in 2002, Cuomo had internal and significant experiences in personnel management, managerial training, internal reorganization, and other areas. From 1998 to 2000, he was Deputy Human Resources Manager for Karachaganak Petroleum Operating Co. in Kazakhstan. Forty years old, Cuomo holds two university degrees, one in social and political sciences and the other in labor sociology.
HR Advice acknowledges the fundamental role in the industry of human resources, tasked with safeguarding, valuing, and developing the most precious asset our industry can count on: people. We meet with senior figures of the human resources’ world to share their experiences and listen to their advice. With each interview, we aim to reveal new insights and valuable lessons that young professionals can and will use to grow professionally as well as personally. For this interview, we travel to meet Francesco Cuomo of Eni E&P Div. in San Donato, the longtime location of the division’s headquarters on the outskirts of Milan, Italy.
Claudia González Rondon, HR Advice Editor