Mario Beccia : The MBA programme far exceeded my expectations.

For Mario Beccia, Solvay Executive MBA alumnus, currently programme manager for Cyber Defence at the European Defence Agency (EDA), that future is already part of his everyday life. Over the last twenty years, his passion for information technologies along with the phenomenal rise of digital innovations have brought some unexpected turns to his career.

“In the future, wars will no longer be fought with the use of ships and aircraft; they will mostly take place online.”

For Mario Beccia, Solvay Executive MBA alumnus, currently programme manager for Cyber Defence at the European Defence Agency (EDA), that future is already part of his everyday life. Over the last twenty years, his passion for information technologies along with the phenomenal rise of digital innovations have brought some unexpected turns to his career.

The early days of the Internet

“As a teenager, I spent more time trying to understand how video games were made than actually playing with them,” remembers Mario, who was only twelve when he first started coding using the language C, a low-level programming platform. “When I graduated a few years later with my degree in Economics and Management from La Sapienza in Rome, I was eager to finally start applying my passion for technology in concrete and useful applications. A few friends and I launched a start-up, Isinet SpA, a web agency committed to bringing then-emerging Internet technologies with the corporate environment. The sector was still relatively niche and, in just a few years, our company grew from five to several tens of employees, generating turnover of several million euros.”

Booming Internet of Things

“In 2002, after five years with Isinet, I decided to move out of my comfort zone and leave our growing enterprise to join an Italian company at the forefront of what today is addressed as the “Internet of Things” (IoT). Domustech SpA focused on developing technology for automation in the household, for example to control heating through a temperature sensor that could “ask” an automated window to shutdown and save energy. My role there was to manage the implementation of the company’s CRM (Customer Relationship Management) platform and configurator in order to support and facilitate the sales process and the interaction between businesses and private customers.” At that time, the IoT was a revolutionary concept, which has been growing since then: in 2017, it was estimated that over 8.4 billion physical devices, vehicles and home appliances were able to connect and exchange data, and this figure is expected to reach 30 billion objects by 2020. “Each connected device collects large amounts of data about its users, which offers great opportunities for businesses to personalize their services in real time based on past behaviours while, at the same time, opening up critical challenges in terms of data management and privacy.”

The early days of the Internet

“As a teenager, I spent more time trying to understand how video games were made than actually playing with them,” remembers Mario, who was only twelve when he first started coding using the language C, a low-level programming platform. “When I graduated a few years later with my degree in Economics and Management from La Sapienza in Rome, I was eager to finally start applying my passion for technology in concrete and useful applications. A few friends and I launched a start-up, Isinet SpA, a web agency committed to bringing then-emerging Internet technologies with the corporate environment. The sector was still relatively niche and, in just a few years, our company grew from five to several tens of employees, generating turnover of several million euros.”

Booming Internet of Things

“In 2002, after five years with Isinet, I decided to move out of my comfort zone and leave our growing enterprise to join an Italian company at the forefront of what today is addressed as the “Internet of Things” (IoT). Domustech SpA focused on developing technology for automation in the household, for example to control heating through a temperature sensor that could “ask” an automated window to shutdown and save energy. My role there was to manage the implementation of the company’s CRM (Customer Relationship Management) platform and configurator in order to support and facilitate the sales process and the interaction between businesses and private customers.” At that time, the IoT was a revolutionary concept, which has been growing since then: in 2017, it was estimated that over 8.4 billion physical devices, vehicles and home appliances were able to connect and exchange data, and this figure is expected to reach 30 billion objects by 2020. “Each connected device collects large amounts of data about its users, which offers great opportunities for businesses to personalize their services in real time based on past behaviours while, at the same time, opening up critical challenges in terms of data management and privacy.”

“I strongly believe that management education (such as the Solvay Executive MBA) is key in bridging the gap between decision-makers and technology providers”

Cyber security at NATO

“Cyber security slowly became my area of expertise. I joined NATO in 2006 as an “Enterprise Architect”, designing and implementing ICT solutions to secure NATO and governments’ operations with a strong focus on protecting computers, networks, programs and data from unauthorized access or attacks aimed at exploitation.” During his twelve years career at NATO, Mario’s work included developing a system enabling real-time monitoring of vessels around the world, which played an important role in anti-piracy operations in the Mediterranean.

He also contributed to the development of the FFCI (Framework For Collaborative Interaction), aimed at securing a virtuous knowledge exchange between key industry players such as HP, IBM, Dell and Microsoft, and national governments.

“Governments do not possess the agility and flexibility needed to face today’s major technology challenges. In recent years it has become apparent that cyber security can no longer be dealt with in isolation but requires a common approach shared by all players in society.”

Bridging IT and management

“I enrolled in the MBA at Solvay Brussels School with two very clear aims in mind. First of all, after many years focusing on IT, I felt the time was right to move into a higher management role and refresh what I had learned many years ago at University La Sapienza – Rome. Secondly, my job had recently brought me to Brussels and I wanted to broaden my professional network outside the NATO bubble. The programme far exceeded my expectations at both levels and offered me a direct access to a powerful network that played a key role in my recent career evolution from NATO to EDA”

One of Mario’s fellow MBA students brought his attention to a job opening at the European Defence Agency (EDA) and helped him to become acquainted with the organization’s structure and career perspectives. Mario was soon recruited as Programme Manager at EDA to support EU member states in designing, developing, implementing and sustaining their cyber security capabilities. “The key challenge at EU level is to strengthen cooperation among governments and with industries relying heavily on ICT such as energy, transport, water, financial services, healthcare and digital infrastructures. Nowadays, technological innovations move so fast that a product life-span can be measured in weeks. Therefore, people offering a strong understanding of IT coupled with economics and management skills, will be increasingly rare and valued.”

 

GDPR: a starting point

In 2017, a number of businesses across Europe (including the UK National Health Service (NHS)) were involved in a large-scale cybersecurity incident caused by hackers locking access to files in exchange for a ransom. The operation, thought to be carried out by state-sponsored actors with the use of a technology stolen from the US National Security Agency, resulted in dozens of hospitals shutting down and cancelling operations. In the same year, allegations of Vladimir Putin’s “influence campaign” in the US elections in favour of President Trump shed further light on the vulnerability of our nascent digital society. “Such events illustrate the ongoing battle for control of cyberspace, including access to personal data, which can be used to influence individuals’ lives as well as societies at large,” emphasizes Mario. “In Europe, the General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) and the Network and Information Systems Security (NIS Security) Directive, both enforced since May 2018, constitute the first concrete regulatory acts in support of cyber security in Europe. Their actual impact will depend on Member States’ ability to enforce them effectively, and from EU Institutions’ role in completing and evolving them. Despite their advanced concept and scope, they are only a starting point, and we need to go much further into informing and educating every citizen on the careful use and sharing of their data.”

 

A brave new world

“My children will certainly be better acquainted with Information Technology as they grow up than I ever was, and will live in a much more sophisticated society than every generation before them.”. Mario is optimistic about the future: just like other technological revolution in the past, this one can have many negative implications but also plenty of positive effects such as shared transportation and improved access to education. “We have a responsibility as a society to decide on what direction we want to take and on what kind of control we want to keep over the security of our personal information and, ultimately, our lives. This requires a sound understanding of how to employ, control and manage technology: I strongly believe that management education (such as the Solvay Executive MBA) is key in bridging the gap between decision-makers and technology providers, and will constitute and even more important asset for any individual willing to be an active player in the challenges of our times.

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