Interviewed by Meike Schneiders
Meet our WTP8 Talent Adriana Capparelli, Director at Flint Global in London. In this interview, Adriana talks about the challenges and opportunities of working and living abroad, what she sees as the big upcoming trends in the digital sector in 2023 and beyond, and how she has built confidence throughout her career.
Now a director at Flint Global, you have had an impressive career in European policymaking. Can you tell us how you got into the field and what your first steps were?
I got into this field by chance. I was studying political science at the University of Pavia in Italy where I took a course on EU policymaking. I really enjoyed it and wrote my thesis on the role of interest groups in the EU decision-making process. In addition to doing research at home, my supervisors told me to go to Brussels and spend a few months there to see first-hand how European policymaking works. So, I applied for and secured an internship in Brussels, which is how and where it all started.
After a few years in Brussels, I decided to move to London to improve my English. The idea was always to move back to Brussels after a year, but life got in the way, and I started working as a junior consultant at Flint in 2017. I have really enjoyed my growth there and the chance to move through the different career stages. I've now been a director for over two years, and my main role is to advise clients on digital policy and platform regulation. There is no day like any other! A big part of my role involves managing and organising a team so that together we can serve the client to the best of our ability. Our main tasks include regulatory and policy analysis, as well as helping clients with opportunities to engage with policymakers in Brussels. Overall, we help them refine their massage and communicate their business and political objectives.
After growing up in Italy, much of your working life has taken place abroad. Was this a conscious decision and what have been the main challenges and takeaways of working outside of your home country?
For me, it was a very conscious decision. I always imagined myself living and working abroad and have done so in France, the UK and Belgium. In terms of challenges, I think it really depends on the country you move to and the job you do. My biggest challenge in London, where I am currently based, has been adapting to a style of communication that is very much linked to British culture. For example, I quickly learnt that when someone says "interesting" to you, it is usually not an invitation to hear more from you on the subject, but a very polite way of saying that they want to move on. While working and living abroad is very exciting, it can also be very daunting at times. You are in a foreign place, and you must adapt to a different way of speaking and behaving. But it's important to accept that you are who you are and that there will always be some cultural differences. Ultimately, you will learn, and you will adapt to the environment in which you work, but your colleagues will also learn from you and your approach, so in that way you also contribute to a more dynamic workplace.
What are some mistakes or obstacles in your career that you feel you have grown from?
Everyone will make mistakes and face obstacles in their career, and that's normal; it's part of growing and learning. Early on in my career, my biggest challenge was establishing myself. I was young and trying to find my way in public affairs. I often found myself in meetings with very senior colleagues and clients and felt the imposter syndrome and fear of not being heard creeping in. But your confidence grows over time as you develop your expertise, and that helps. Two things that have been particularly useful for me have been preparation - before I go into a meeting, I always like to write down a few points that I can make in a very confident way in the discussion - and the support of seniors. I have been lucky enough to work with colleagues who were inclusive and wanted everyone to be involved in the discussions.
Everyone will make mistakes and face obstacles in their career, and that's normal; it's part of growing and learning.
As you mentioned, your main focus is supporting clients on policy and regulation in the digital, telecoms, and media sectors. What do you see as the broad trends in digital policy in 2023?
In the last few years in Europe there have been many ambitious digital and platform-related regulations, so a lot has already changed already. I think that in the rest of 2023 and going forwards, we will continue to see developments in several areas, most prominently with the increased scrutiny around AI and especially generative AI; a focus on network deployment to achieve the EU's digital connectivity goals; more attention on data flows, handling and data protection; further assessment of the impact that technology can have on carbon emissions; and, lastly, an interest in virtual worlds such as the metaverse. I don’t think that any of these big topics are likely to go away anytime soon.
You are now part of the 8th edition of WIL Europe's Women Talent Pool (WTP) leadershp programme, which aims to train and promote a new generation of female leaders in Europe. What would you say has been your most defining moment on the programme to date?
I joined the WTP programme in March and it is already very difficult to pick one defining moment. Over the past few months, we have been lucky to have been trained and mentored by some incredible women who have shared their knowledge and experiences from their professional careers in a very open and honest way. One moment that really stood out was WIL's annual event in Rome in June, an event with an incredible line-up of speakers in an outstanding location and the first time that our cohort had all met in person. It was useful to build on each other's experiences and advice and a great opportunity to connect and become part of a network of women who share similar career aspirations. It was an invaluable experience for my professional growth, but also for my personal growth and well-being.
What change or movement would you like to see on gender equality in your sector?
I have been fortunate in my career to work with and be inspired by brilliant women. But when it comes to gender equality in public affairs, I think more needs to be done. A 2022 survey of women in public affairs found that more than 50 per cent of women don't feel that their company is transparent about career progression and pay, and women working in public affairs still don't see that they are paid the same as their male colleagues. According to the survey, only half of public affairs employers in both the public and private sectors publish their maternity policies and only a third of them publish their gender pay gap. This lack of transparency certainly exacerbates existing gender gaps. However, in my view gender equality shouldn't be a box-ticking exercise for businesses to thrive. Instead, employers need to create a workplace that actively promotes diversity and equality because it benefits everyone. It's not just about getting the right people in the room. You need to include them in discussions, you need to take their advice and perspective on board, and you really need to create a truly inclusive environment.
Gender equality shouldn't be a box-ticking exercise for businesses to thrive. Instead, employers need to create a workplace that actively promotes diversity and equality because it benefits everyone.
And finally, the ultimate question (at least if you ask people abroad about Italian food): Pizza or pasta, and which is your favourite?
I'm Italian so these are obviously a staple for me! It’s really a difficult choice to make, but I would go for pasta. My ultimate favourite is homemade gnocchi and, as I am from Calabria, I also like to add a little bit of chilly.
Video edited by Claudia Heard