Engineer heads to business school after he stopped learning — and nabs a coveted position with Bain.
Hometown: Abu Dhabi, United Arab Emirates
Undergraduate School and Degree: Bachelor of Engineering, Mechanical Engineering – American University of Beirut, Lebanon
Where did you work before enrolling in business school? Consolidated Contractors Company – CCIC and Sicon Oil & Gas Spa
Where did you intern during the summer of 2016? Bain & Co – Milan, Italy
Where will you be working after graduation? Startup
Community Work and Leadership Roles in Business School:
Vice President, SDA Bocconi Entrepreneur Club
Class Fellow, SDA Bocconi Recruitment & Admissions
Ambassador, SDA Bocconi Alumni & Future Prospectives
Which academic or extracurricular achievement are you most proud of during business school? An initiative of the Entrepreneur Club that aims to engage Bocconi students in a transformational experience. We are launching the first hackathon on disruptive innovation for the MBA Program at SDA Bocconi.
The objective, is to select 18 students from all the master programs and undergrads and invite them to a 4 day hackathon that will take place in Milan The aim of this hackathon, is not only come up with 6 new startups but to enhance the students to raise the bar and experience the entrepreneurial process. Being at SDA Bocconi and in Italy in particular only enhances this fact with Italy historically being at the forefront of innovation worldwide.
As vice president of the club, I was in charge of pitching the initiative to the sponsors, organizing the challenge and rallying the different stakeholders to achieve the desired results. We managed to receive a major sponsorship from one of the main Italian insurance companies and were finally able to launch the event because of that.
What achievement are you most proud of in your professional career? Joining the workforce at the age of 21, I knew that I wanted to be part of a prominent oil and gas firm that had a history in manufacturing and engineering. I had several employment opportunities in the Middle East and joined a company in Dubai where I was quickly given the opportunity to work in Milan.
Once there, I knew that in order to succeed, I had to completely immerse myself in the culture and language. Within 6 months, I integrated well within the company structure and was comfortable conversing with my colleagues in Italian, thus enabling me to fully partake in my first project team. This experience played a large role in providing me with the confidence to take on new challenges. After four years of hard work and dedication to the company, I earned a promotion in 2012 and became the proposals leader. I set the goal of securing the first big project that Sicon would be awarded since the global economic crisis. Working autonomously for the first time, I intricately followed every aspect of the proposal and we were finally awarded our first multi-million-euro project since 2009. As I successfully completed several other major projects, my responsibilities increased, and so did my confidence. On one hand, I set out creating new business opportunities for Sicon. On the other hand, I established my own company leveraging on the experiences I had gained so far.
Who is your favorite professor? Stefano Gatti. A good professor sets examples for his or her students not just inside the classroom, but also outside the confines of classroom desks. I have to admit that looking back at my experience so far; Dr. Gatti was my finance professor and has not only taught finance to me with his both patient and meticulous approach but also and more importantly how to become more human.
I remember the first day I met him, he knew everyone by name and background emphasizing his dedication and compassionate approach to teaching. This largely engaged me from the start.
However, his impact to me does not stop there. He has always advocated the importance of being engaged in my community. Dr. Gatti is always present at university events, mingling and speaking with alumni and students. It is clear to me that he loves the Bocconi community and that is present in his commitment to being present with others in this community.
Favorite MBA Courses? Competitive Strategy, Financial Markets & Institutions, Macroeconomics, Corporate Strategy, Corporate Finance, Technology and Innovation Management, Entrepreneurial Management, and Organizational Behaviour
Why did you choose this business school? SDA Bocconi has much to offer in the pursuit of my goals. The flexibility of the program is appealing as it allows me to meet my objectives in the time frame I see fit. SDA Bocconi’s diverse student population, coupled with its equally varied choice of courses, made it my top choice for pursuing an MBA education. The wealth of experiences of students that SDA Bocconi is known for attracting is having a major impact on my personal development. Similarly, I am actively sharing my hard-earned lessons with them. I believe that by exchanging these types of experiences with classmates from various backgrounds, we are collectively contributing to SDA Bocconi’s dynamic learning environment.
What did you enjoy most about business school? I enjoyed the possibility of continuous and never-ending learning and improvement. Following on the “Kaizen” model, business school is a place where if properly approached is a never-ending learning experience – professionally, socially and personally. I am in complete awe at the amount of self-improvement I have been going through since the start of the program. Testament lies within those who are external to the program.
What is the biggest lesson you gained from business school? The importance of humility
What was the most surprising thing about business school? It is unlike undergraduate school, where it seems a lot of theory is largely academic rather than applicable. In business school, absolutely everything is applicable and highly relevant to the professional world.
What was the hardest part of business school? Not losing contact with reality and the outside world.
What’s your best advice to an applicant to your school? The MBA experience is like a Big Brother bubble (ref. to 1984 by George Orwell) and it is absolutely fundamental to create a balance internally between the outside world and the MBA world.
“I knew I wanted to go to business school when…I stopped learning at my previous job.”
“If I hadn’t gone to business school, I would be…a serial entrepreneur or social activist.”
What are your long-term professional goals? In the long-term, I hope to be able to combine the knowledge and the soft-skills I acquire through my MBA education with the practical experience of my post-graduate work to start my own private equity firm.
Currently, the private equity market in the Middle East is still relatively small. With oil prices on the low and investors increasingly preferring to keep their money close to home, there is a huge opportunity for new entrants into the market. Having grown up in the region, I have a thorough understanding of the business culture there. I have also managed to develop a significant network of contacts in industries such as the financial services, construction and oil and gas. In light of all this, I will wholeheartedly work towards achieving this optimistic yet attainable goal; constantly looking to bridge the gap between “us” and the rest of the world.
Who would you most want to thank for your success? My sister has been the biggest support of my life so far but not so much in my happy moments but in my most difficult situations, she has always helped me see the light at the end of the tunnel. I owe her my life.
Fun fact about yourself: I love life
Favorite book: The Prophet by Kahlil Gibran. A truly enchanting experience that I carry with me throughout my experiences. – an absolute masterpiece.
Favorite movie: Manhattan (Woody Allen)
Favorite musical performer: Beth Gibbons (portishead)
Favorite television show:Anthony Bourdain – Parts Unknown
Favorite vacation spot: Beirut
Hobbies? My interests and hobbies, rooted in traveling, meeting people and learning new languages, complement and inspire my career goals and aspirations. Since moving to Milan in 2007, I have realized my love for languages and have successfully completed courses in Italian and French and intend to pursue the Spanish language in the fall of 2016—adding to my arsenal of mother tongue languages of English and Arabic. Whether I am meeting with European vendors at their workshops or exploring new cities and cultures, Italy’s prime location in Central Europe has allowed me to travel extensively throughout Europe and utilize these various languages.
In addition to these interests, my family has olive groves in Lebanon. Although I have always had a fascination with olive oil production, being in Italy has provided me with additional insights into evolving business practices and technologies in the industry. In the beginning of 2014, I leveraged on Italy’s excellence in producing extra virgin olive oil and partnered with Pieralisi (a top manufacturer of olive mills) to open a plant in Lebanon, thereby becoming the first producer of olive oil in the Middle East to have such technology.
Finally, I have taken up the practice of martial arts, namely muay Thai and Brazilian jiu jitsu. Along with improving my fitness, martial arts helps reinforce core values of respect, honor and discipline.
What made Elias such an invaluable addition to the class of 2016?
“Elias is one of our most charismatic and proactive students. He is deeply involved in several aspects of our MBA life and is always providing valuable contribution and feedback.
He is VP of the Entrepreneur Club. Together with the rest of the group, he has brought to life a very interesting initiative called “Imagine Bocconi” involving the whole SDA Bocconi community.As one of the most active members of the club, he was one of the main promoters of this initiative. With his passion and charismatic ways he convinced the school to support the event. But even more than that, working closely in team with the other club members he managed to obtain a substantial sponsorship from one of the main Italian insurance companies that will also provide the project to be developed in the event.
His contribution did not stop there: Elias has actively supported our recruiting office as class fellow by acting as host for prospect students visiting our School and has also participated in live promotional sessions.
Last but not least, he also shone in the internship campaign as one of the most sought after candidates in the consulting sector receiving 3 offers from top international consulting companies. He attended all company presentations and contributed to the discussions that followed in his usual constructive, intelligent and intense way: an amazing testimonial of the quality of our MBA candidates in front of our recruiters.
I feel very comfortable in saying that Elias is one of the best students we have ever had in the past few editions of our MBA program.” — Prof. Stefano Gatti, Full-time MBA Director, SDA Bocconi