Vince Pizzoni – A Challenge Is Just A Stepping Stone To Success

As Associate Professor in Chemical and Environmental Engineering at the University of Nottingham, I have coached and mentored 1000s spanning the whole career lifecycle from school to university, executive and board level, and have made it my mission in life to inspire and mentor future generations into STEM, Engineering and Energy careers.

I have 40+ years of relevant, global business experience incorporating executive management and board positions in blue chip companies including ExxonMobil, Suez, V. Ships, Nalco and P&G and today manage a portfolio career as a consultant in a boutique energy executive search firm, career coach to students at several prestigious UK business schools and trustee/NED positions on several boards including the Women in Engineering Society.

I am the son of Italian immigrants to the UK just after WWII, and in fact my father had been a prisoner here before returning to Italy, marrying and then both returning. My parents both left school at 11 and came to the UK without any money, jobs, or knowledge of the language.

My father had been a shoemaker in Italy while my mother was a dressmaker. Despite the hardships they had in life they never moaned about their lot and everything I am and believe today is down to their total sacrifice for me and my siblings. Consequently, I believe very strongly that education changes lives as my parents believed. It certainly did mine!

I have been married for over 37 years to my wonderful wife who has been another significant role model in my life and a dental surgeon. Our daughter is an army captain and son, a finance officer in a charity working in international development.

Why is diversity important to you?

The impact of my parents and particularly my mother have been instrumental in why I believe diversity is important.

She was a role model to me before the words were even coined some years ago. My mother believed everyone was special and each person had their own unique skills and abilities. I have tried to live up to those words in my life.

During my business career I have had the privilege of working in over 60 countries spanning most continents in the world. I think this has given me a unique insight into the culture and diversity of many people across the globe

I support the coaching and mentoring of 100s in the engineering and energy sectors from university/early career to executive and board, and many are women and from black and minority ethnic backgrounds.

I am keen to support everyone and show that nothing is impossible if you have the right attitude, adopt an optimistic approach and work hard.

“My mother believed everyone was special and each person had their own unique skills and abilities. I have tried to live up to those words in my life.”

What benefits does diversity bring?

I think the benefits are very clear and include an increase in innovative thinking, improved profitability, and a visible opening of the doors of organisations to people that never thought that it was for them.

This is important as we have a major skills shortage in engineering and energy as we combat some of the key challenges we face globally including the impacts of climate change. We won’t solve these without attracting the best and brightest into these sectors.

Have you faced any challenges when you try to be more diverse?

I work on the basis that life is about finding solutions to problems and not always viewing problems with solutions.

In that respect, a challenge is just a stepping stone to success. Life is about facing challenges directly and I have never felt singled out because I happen to believe that everyone deserves a chance and no-one should be left behind.

“A challenge is just a stepping stone to success”

Have you ever experienced a time when you’ve felt excluded or different?

 Perhaps it’s because of my insatiable optimism but I can’t say this has been a factor in my life. Obviously being a son of immigrants made me different from many at school and although my parents faced prejudice from some in the UK it was a small minority and I don’t recall issues through my life.

I also am not a moaner (a lesson learnt from my parents) but believe there is always a positive outcome to any problem.

How do you address difficult conversations with male, female, and non-binary colleagues about diversity?

Apart from innate optimism that there is always a solution and compromise to any issue, I try to inject some humour into many situations. I usually find it works.

What positive female role models have you had in your career / life and how have they shaped you?

My mother and wife are in the very top of positive role models (male and female) in my life.

I have mentioned a lot about my mother but worth also saying that she sacrificed her life for her family and that included looking after my father and sister for many years while both were disabled and suffering from terminal illnesses.

My wife has been the rock and sacrificed her potential career to make consultant so that I could develop my career in the energy sector and travel globally throughout our marriage. She always gives wise counsel and is someone I trust totally.

What advice or message would you say to other men about being a male advocate / ally?

As Melinda Epler says in her book, How to be an Ally “Allyship is empathy in action. It’s really seeing the person next to us – and the person missing who maybe should be next to us– and first understanding what they are going through, then helping them succeed and thrive with us.”

Good allies learn, show empathy, and we take action in ways that benefit the people around us. Who wouldn’t want to be an ally with this definition? After all we would want the same for us!

“Who wouldn’t want to be an ally with this definition? After all we would want the same for us!”

Do you have any positive role models that you look to?

My mother and wife clearly stand at the summit of what role models look like and how they behave. I have met others in my life, both friends and work colleagues.

How important do you think inclusion and diversity are for the future – for both the wider world and job roles?

As mentioned, I believe equity, inclusion and diversity is key in helping us find the right people to help us solve the major challenges we face globally. You can’t do this if up to 50% of the population are not getting a look in with the exciting roles we have to offer. This is going to need concerted effort at school, university, apprenticeships and with early/mid-careers.

How important are male advocacy and allyship to you?

It’s key to everything I do. I have had the pleasure of talking about allyship and gender equity in many organisations and conferences, not least to energy executives in the UK, Amazon sites across Europe, apprentices at Dyson University and to university students.

Thank you to Vince for sharing his story with #YesSheCan! If you’d like to read more Male Advocate stories, click here.

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