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Mara Maffei: A Woman Doing Exceptionally Well in a Man’s World

Last night, and quite by chance, I met Mara Maffei Heineken Italy’s Head of ICT. As you may have guessed from her name, Mara is a woman.  While this may not sound as if it’s a big deal, I assure you that in largely male dominated Italy, it is.

Indeed, Mara Maffei is doubly, if not triply, impressive in that not only is she the female Head of ICT for a major multinational in Italy, she’s also Head of ICT – a field which tends to be the preserve of us chaps. We should perhaps add to all this the fact that Maffei works for a company which brews beer – yet another generally all male preserve. Putting everything together, it becomes clear that Mara Maffei is one impressive woman. She’s also came across as being very down to earth too.

Maffei does not seem to be the least bit fazed by her role in such a male dominated field and a rather male dominated nation like Italy. One suspects, though is not 100% certain, that working for Heineken helped Maffei reach such heights. Heineken, you see, is a down to earth company which nurtures talent. Maffei’s potential was spotted by Heineken Italy long ago and, well, the rest is history – she’s now head of ICT and has been since 2007.

An Innovator

Maffei, I have discovered by digging around the Italian internet, is regarded as being something of a revolutionary innovator. She worked to achieve what some considered impossible: to make IT work in harmony with marketing. She succeeded too.

A Smart Worker

Not only did Maffei integrate IT and Marketing, she’s also been involved in making Heineken a “Smart Work” company. Working closely with human resources, Maffei developed IT systems which helped employees share and benefit from each other’s knowledge and experience. The process has helped Heineken become more than merely a massive corporation and transformed it into a form of ‘community’ with the collective benefiting the whole. Of course if the whole wins, then so can the collective. In other words, the company becomes more efficient, keeps making a profit, everyone keep their jobs and customers keep getting good beer! A win-win situation, if ever there was one. As Maffei well knows, IT can help everyone combine and share resources regardless of their geographic location.

While such projects always sound like a nice idea on paper, in practice they don’t always achieve a return on investment. Obviously Maffei was aware of this issue because the performance of Heineken’s Smart Work initiative is subject to a range of performance indicators which help the business understand how well, or not, systems are working. Sounds good!

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Others think Heineken’s Smart Work project is worthwhile and the company earnrd itself a Special Mention in last year’s Milan Polytechnic’s Smart Working awards.

A Good Approach

Heineken also deserves credit for its part in Maffei’s success and other companies in Italy could benefit from Heineken’s approach to people management. It does sound as if the Dutch beer maker could teach Italy a thing or two about meritocracy too.

Actually, Maffei’s achievements within Heineken demonstrate how Italy can benefit from the presence of foreign businesses in Italy. Unlike some other multinational giants, Heineken Italy plays an active role in Italy. The company is, for example, helping promote Italian food beyond Italy’s borders. The Dutch company employs Italians, around 2000 of them, and its Italy brewed beers do use some raw materials which are produced in Italy. This, of course, helps keep other businesses in Italy going. Businesses create work, work creates income, income builds futures for individuals and their families, as well as providing taxes for governments to spend on that collective otherwise known as society.

Mara Maffei qualifies as a Good Italian Person and Heineken Italy also passes muster as a Good Italian Thing. Mara also demonstrates that it is possible for women to do well professionally in Italy – all they have to do is find the right employer.

Hopefully, I’ll meet up with Mara another time for a beer and a chat. I’d like that.

(Declaration of interest: I work with Heineken Italy as a beer blogger.)

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