by Olivia Sleet, Career Centre Researcher
EMBA2020 student Alessandro Riccombeni brought 13 years of experience in Genomics research and business development to his current role with Amazon Web Services, combining science and business for an international technology giant. Here, Alessandro tells us how he made the transition, what frameworks really worked and how he harnessed the power of a strong LinkedIn profile.
What were you doing (and where) before you came to LBS?
I had been working for a Silicon Valley start-up for the last three years, establishing our European Operations and connecting us to the EMEA market. Most of my time was spent between my home office in Cambridge here in the UK, and at customer sites across Europe. I was working mostly with top pharmaceutical companies, clinics and diagnostics labs. My previous experience had been mainly in drug development, team management and the creation of products and services for big clinical data analytics and gene-editing. With this job in the Silicon Valley, I started transitioning to Business Development.
Did you have a clear plan for how your Executive MBA (EMBA) would help your career? Or were you exploring your options?
Transitioning to a senior management role in strategy was my top priority; I knew that despite years of experience in Sales and Business Development, as a former scientist I needed to repackage my profile and change my vocabulary to connect with the best career opportunities.
What worked in securing you your current role?
I was head-hunted by Amazon Web Services as their first European specialist for genomics in the public sector. There are very few people with my combination of scientific and business expertise, so that was already a massive advantage, however there was no guarantee I would get the job. LBS Careers organised a day-long workshop with Daniel Porot, Europe’s top coach for career design and job hunting. Daniel gave us a structured framework to understand and position our profile, identify roles, industries and specific companies we wanted to work for, and gave us pragmatic advice on how to best handle job search, interviews and salary negotiation. This was his ‘what, where, how’ framework. I spent my last Christmas break working through the materials and exercises he gave us and ended up creating a detailed catalogue of my key achievements and skills, preparing a scoring card to measure future opportunities in terms of values, environment and working conditions. When I asked my network about interviewing at Amazon, I heard stories about months of preparation and difficult questions. Anytime an Amazon interviewer asked me a question, I always had the best possible reply ready. Thanks to Daniel I knew exactly how to pick the best achievement from my list to make my answers relevant, engaging and quantitative. The work I did is reflected in my LinkedIn profile, which I rewrote from scratch following the same guidelines. Actually, I got my last two jobs – and many more offers – without ever sending a CV, just sharing my LinkedIn profile with the recruiter. It’s been accepted instead of a CV for the last four years, as I told them that a CV would just be a subset of what’s on my LinkedIn profile.
The best opportunities so far have come through people who know people who know me. It’s not so much my direct connections, but them remembering me when somebody asks. Your reputation in the industry and your ability to quickly create positive connections with real people can really make or break your career.
How did you leverage your EMBA and the LBS community in your job search?
I found amazing support from the Entrepreneurship Club. I was selected as a finalist at LBS LaunchPad, so I had support from the lecturers and speakers involved in that. Through the Entrepreneurship Mentors in Residence (EMIR) I had access to extremely valuable mentorship about entrepreneurship and it’s been a fantastic learning experience, it’s great to have such amazing mentors volunteer to give us advice.
What challenges did you face in securing you your current role?
The biggest practical challenge has been verifying the official employer support for my EMBA. The amount of days off required for an EMBA should not be underestimated. Negotiating sufficient time off is the critical step when changing jobs during the programme, it’s absolutely fundamental. Between my Global Business Assignment (GBA) and one of my electives, I’m taking twelve days off work, and that’s just a fraction of the workload.
Thanks to a workshop organised by Elizabeth Bailey from the Career Centre, we already had some preparation about marketing your transferrable skills, which for sure helped me adapt my achievements and skills to a new environment.
What do you think made the difference between you and other candidates?
There is currently very high demand in the genomics market for senior managers who can lead an organisation taking into consideration both business and scientific factors. Many other candidates for similar jobs would only bring half of the puzzle. As we say at Amazon, there is no compression algorithm for experience. Combining the transformational value of both a PhD and an EMBA raises the bar pretty high. Of course, introducing yourself to recruiters as an EMBA student from LBS helps, as your value has already been recognised by one of Europe’s top Business Schools and this sends a strong message.
One key piece of advice for fellow EMBA students:
The person who chose to do an EMBA is not the same person who will graduate. Keep an open mind and be curious. There is no limit to how much you can learn at LBS, not only about business but also about yourself.