JCU Welcomes Alumnus Claudio Di Benedetto from IFAD

Professor Antonella Salvatore welcomed alumnus Claudio Di Benedetto to her Professional Skills for Career Development class for a talk called “Developing a Career Path as a Young Professional,” on March 24, 2023. Claudio graduated from JCU in 2011 with a B.A. in Business Administration and a concentration in Finance. He currently works as Advisor to the CFO & Chief Controller at the International Fund for Agricultural Development (IFAD) in Rome.

Claudio Di Benedetto

Claudio Di Benedetto

Background and early career
Claudio was born in Italy and grew up between Rome and the U.S. He attended high school in Italy and then found JCU, where he enrolled in the Fall of 2009. He explained that the liberal arts education that he received at JCU was fundamental in shaping him personally and professionally. “My classes were very demanding and challenging, but they helped me find new interests and passions,” he explained.

While still studying at JCU, Claudio obtained a part time internship with Georgeson International, a proxy solicitor firm that allows companies to learn more about their shareholder structure. Right after completing his course work, he did another internship with KPMG, one of the Big Four accounting and advisory firms, together with Ernst & Young, Deloitte, and PricewaterhouseCoopers. When his internship ended, he decided to move to Barcelona to earn an M.Sc. in Finance.

After completing his master’s degree, Claudio did an internship at the International Fund for Agricultural Development (IFAD) in Rome, where he learned about multilateral funds and the work of the United Nations. In 2014, he moved to New York to work for Ernst & Young. At EY he worked in the Banking & Capital Markets advisory arm of the firm, mainly dealing with compliance and regulatory requirements, helping clients maintain their internal control frameworks.

Return to Rome and IFAD
After three years at the firm Claudio left to work as an Associate at ING, a Dutch bank. In 2018, Claudio decided to leave the U.S. and return to Rome, where he was offered the job of Advisor to the CFO & Chief Controller at IFAD, the position he currently holds.

Claudio’s responsibilities range from helping coordinate the yearly work program of the department, to overseeing daily operations and dealing with cross-departmental matters. Problem solving is a big part of the job, but he is also responsible for escalating issues to the CFO, if needed. He explained that his is a very demanding and challenging role, and that it requires seamless and continuous transitions between hard and soft skills, maintaining a constant focus on the mission of the fund. However, it is a very rewarding job and an honor to work so closely to executive management.

He then talked about career progression and said that sometimes career progression does not only mean upward movement, but also lateral movement to take on new challenges in other areas of the organization you work in. This can show the organization that you want to learn more by becoming specialized in other functions, which can also help upward movement when the opportunity presents itself. The important thing is to manage your own expectations and have a clear objective in mind. Claudio added that nowadays there is an even stronger focus on corporate culture in the workplace, especially following the COVID-19 pandemic, which brought on phenomena such as the Great Resignation in the U.S. and some parts of Europe, or the so-called “quiet quitting.” Much information regarding companies’ corporate cultures is publicly available and it is important for aspiring young professionals to do their homework before joining an organization to make sure it is a good fit for them.

Pro tips
Towards the end of the talk, Claudio gave advice to the students. He said that it’s important to balance the personal and professional spheres when making decisions. “Don’t bite off more than you can chew. Be humble, especially as a young person. Find a job that you love, and if you have not found your passion, continue looking for it. If you’ve already found it, continue fighting to achieve whatever it is you want to achieve through your passion,” he told students. One piece of advice Claudio learned during his career was to “focus on the things you have control over.” This can help manage stress and focus efforts where you can have the most impact.

Claudio encouraged the class to apply for internships before graduating, if possible, as they help students build their business acumen, expand their networks, and understand office presence and etiquette early on. An internship also teaches students to interact with their peers, supervisors, executive management, and clients, while building their resumes. Moreover, it helps them understand if that job is something they would like to do in life. He told students to have clear objectives, be proactive and solution-oriented, and ask questions. He added that they should not just say “I don’t know,” and that they should bring a proposed solution whenever a problem arises. He also stressed the importance of being humble, appreciative, respective, and collaborative when interacting with peers and supervisors. When asked if students should pursue work experience or a master’s program first, Claudio answered that there is no right or wrong, but what is important is to try, if possible, to not have gaps on their resumes.

In his closing remarks, Claudio told students to practice as much as they can before an interview, and to aim high but to manage their own expectations. “Don’t rush, take time to learn, soak in things like a sponge. Look for a mentor, someone to look up to, and who can give you advice, feedback, and constructive criticism – someone who can tell you things about yourself that you don’t want to hear. And lastly, always work to improve yourself. Self-reflection is the first step to personal growth.”