An adventurous spirit with a passion for new challenges, EU alumnus Stéphane Castrichella has overcome many obstacles. From Switzerland to Australia and Vietnam, he’s lived, studied and worked in a wide variety of cultural environments. Today, he is a managing director at Mediamarkt, Europe’s largest retailer for consumer electronics. We spoke to him about his time at EU and how his experiences have shaped him as a person.
Pressure makes diamonds
In 2010, Castrichella was category manager of a successful sporting goods company. He drove the company’s strategy and brought innovation to the table. However, due to the financial climate at the time and a change in the structure of the company, Castrichella was let go.
It was the first time in my career I had to experience this kind of situation. I was obviously very disappointed, especially because I did a great job as a head of the buying department. I wanted to bounce back with something positive. Getting an MBA was always one of my objectives. It was, therefore, the perfect time to achieve it.
Determined and focused, Castrichella decided he needed to take his career to the next level:
At the time I was living in Geneva. I wanted to start the program as soon as possible. EU seemed a good and flexible option considering that, aged 40, I could start a new job at any time. Indeed, it was a good choice.
Wit and wisdom
During his time at EU, Castrichella met many influential people, whose wisdom and character impacted him greatly:
Most of the lecturers were highly qualified, helpful and very friendly. I had an excellent relationship with all of them. Professor Julien de Grandbois from Canada was the most influential to me. Extremely talented and cultivated with an extraordinary sense of humor. He was my mentor for the thesis I completed in Hong-Kong. He gave me a great mental support and he challenged me to go deep into my research but always by having fun. Truly inspirational.
Adventure in the Far East
Always looking for the next challenge and willing to push himself out of his comfort zone, Castrichella decided to move to Vietnam. The opportunity arose through international connections made from his time at EU:
Asia has always attracted me. My goal was to get a working opportunity there. One of my MBA classmates was from Vietnam and she put me in touch with the owners of a brand-new resort.
They were looking for a general manager for the opening. The experience was overall extraordinary. Vietnamese people are hard workers, well educated, polite and friendly.
Of course, they were many challenges to overcome. Firstly, the heavy bureaucracy of the Vietnamese administration. Secondly, the difference of culture was obviously an aspect to deal with on a daily basis. Finally, communication was also a main problem. Overall, there were far more positive than negative aspects in Vietnam.
Castrichella the linguist
His international experience, understanding of diverse cultures and ability to speak several languages have been key to his career success:
I was just lucky enough to have Italian parents who smoothly integrated the Swiss way of living. Both of them speak perfect French. Regarding German, as a Swiss resident you are faced on a daily basis with the language and it is a compulsory secondary language at School. Learning English was particularly enjoyable and quite simple. Within a multicultural society heavily impacted by globalization, being able to communicate in different languages is surely a plus.
His travels have also given him an invaluable perspective on people management:
During my four years studying and living in Australia, I had the opportunity to do so called small jobs such as kitchen-hand, cleaner and waiter. Some of my bosses had no management education. It is extremely important to treat fairly and with respect all the employees and stakeholders you may come across.
I try to be close to my staff. I empower and trust my employees as much as possible and I involve them when possible in the decision-making process. Everyone within the company should be able to take business initiatives and decisions based on the circumstances.
A modern, forward-thinking, truly inspirational leader.
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