Working in Milan

Interview with Daniel Chisena '07
Working in Milan
Monday, May 11, 2009

Daniel Chisena, BS ILR '07 writes on his post graduate experience working in Milan, Italy for a year before returning to the US to study for the LSATs.

Tell us a little bit about yourself and your international experiences?

I graduated from ILR in December of 2007 as the financial markets were starting to tank and the credit crisis was just getting its legs. I was working very closely with the ILR careers office, fine tuning the resume, doing mock interviews, reading Vault guides, everything I could. As it turned out I started looking outside the U.S. borders because I felt the crisis hadn't been exported, yet. So, I turned to my personal network and started sending emails out to people I knew in Milan, Italy. I speak Italian from birth; my mother is from Milan and so I also had friends and family there.

But it was the Cornell name that caught their eye. They spoke about the Ivy League brand and were eager to meet with a bilingual graduate of one of the Ivy schools. Many foreign companies covet Americans and American trained graduates. We bring a different perspective and approach. They were also very interested to hear about the ILR School.

I ended up finding a match with Valore Reale SGR S.P.A., an independent real estate asset management fund. This financial product, similar to the American REIT, was new to Italy and Valore Reale had been approved by the Bank of Italy to operate as an SGR just a couple of years prior. 

An SGR is somewhat similar to a private equity fund, but with a specific investment approach, ours was real estate development. As a new company they were still working out a lot of systems, including HR management and business development/procedures and platforms.

Luckily, at Cornell I had taken a few entrepreneurship, small business development, and of course the required HR classes. ILR had prepared me to offer a very well rounded service and I was lucky enough to be fluent in another language. While working in Milan I was able to perfect my Italian, especially my written Italian, and learned a lot about my own heritage that I had not learned as a kid when I would spend the summer months in Italy with family.

What advice would you give to ILR students who want to follow your path?

If I can make any suggestions to ILR students who want to get into financial services; what I noticed was that the best way is to get the summer internships in the summers prior to graduation. I had decided on finance a little late so this put me at a disadvantage. More important than that and something that will offer a whole lot of flexibility is to learn a foreign language. 

I think it should be a requirement at ILR. In our global economy speaking more than English is very important. It is always a perk on your resume and if you are serious about going abroad after graduation, unless you go to another English speaking country, you will need it. And even in a lot of the English speaking countries a second language is a requirement since they are less isolated than the U.S. In the UK for example, speaking a continental European language fluently was a requirement for a lot of the applications I filed.

Another language that is important is that of computers. I hadn't taken much beyond Ms. Homrighouse's ILRHR 266 Essential Desktop Applications class and wish I had.

Entrepreneurs should especially think about this. Most of the entrepreneurs I know now have some experience in web design or one of their partners do.

How has ILR and Cornell helped you?

I am truly proud of being a Cornellian and an ILRie and know that the school has improved my life. While in Milan I had always tried to stay active in Cornell chairing the CAAAN network and doing recruiting at the American School in Milan. 

A lot of my friends and colleagues from classes are some of my best friends and people I turn to for advice and when looking for work. If some day I am fortunate enough to start my own company I would certainly look to Cornellians as partners and employees.

What was it like living and working in Milan?

In retrospect, going to Milan was the best thing I ever did and often wish I never left. Milan is a beautiful city and the best part of it is what is going on in the surrounding provinces and nearby cities. Milan's location in Europe makes the Alps and the small northern Italian towns and cities feasible weekend adventures just by train. Then by plane you can be anywhere in Western and Eastern Europe, and northern Africa within a couple of hours. For people who love to travel this is unbelievable. Living there on my own and making friends through work and my hobbies (mountaineering, climbing, and sailing) really taught me a lot about myself personally and professionally. 

I had moved around internationally with my family as a kid so I was no stranger to the international environment and culture. A city like Milan really had a lot to offer culturally speaking.

Do you have any plans on moving back to Italy?

Italy is a great country. The food, culture, people, and the beauty both natural and man made is hard to beat. I love that country but the reality is that is has been dormant for many years. Italians are risk averse and are bogged down in bureaucracy.

I learned a lot about this and how to work with it and I hope to someday return as an entrepreneur and give back to Italy. But as for now, I have moved back to the U.S. to prepare for the LSAT and am thinking about getting a graduate degree.