A Business Mindset: Alumna Francesca Passudetti

Originally from Spilimbergo, a small town in the Friuli Venezia Giulia region of Italy, alumna Francesca Passudetti graduated from JCU in 2014, with a B.A. in International Business and a minor in International Affairs. She holds an M.Sc. in International Management from the London School of Economics and currently works as Innovation and Business Development Lead at ALK Canada in Toronto. Francesca will be chairing the New Skills, Entrepreneurship & Future of Work track at the 2024 Y7 summit.

Tell us about your background.
At the age of 15, I studied abroad in the U.S. for six months and was exposed to the American school system and its practical approach. Knowing that I wanted to have an international outlook for my future career, when a family friend told me about JCU and I visited the campus, I realized I could keep benefiting from that hands-on approach I experienced in the U.S., while also studying in an international and stimulating environment.

Francesca Passudetti
Francesca Passudetti

Tell us about your role as Innovation and Business Development Lead at ALK Canada and what it entails.
ALK Canada is a medium-sized Danish pharmaceutical company that specializes in the development of products for the prevention and treatment of allergies. After seven years in Denmark, in May 2023 I moved to ALK’s Canadian affiliate to optimize and scale a new innovation project, which focuses on improving access to care and doctors for people living with allergies. We do this through partnerships with telehealth platforms, doctors, and pharmacies. I interact with many different stakeholders and manage both the strategic and operational side of the project, which allows me to travel a lot around Canada to meet customers. The job also involves working with the management team to define our commercial priorities and, where relevant, identifying attractive commercial partnerships for executing strategies.

You will be chairing the New Skills, Entrepreneurship & Future of Work track at the 2024 Y7 summit. How did this opportunity come about?
I did my master’s degree at the London School of Economics. One night, while scrolling on Facebook, I saw that someone posted on the LSE Alumni group about the opportunity of becoming a delegate for Italy at the Y7/Y20 2021 summits. Since I studied International Business and International Affairs at JCU, and had the chance to get some exposure to the diplomatic world thanks to an internship at the American Embassy, I knew this would be something interesting. I was especially excited about the opportunity to represent the voice of youth in these international processes. I applied and was lucky enough to be selected as Innovation, Entrepreneurship, and Future of Work delegate for Italy at the Y20 Summit 2021, which took place in Italy.

Since then, I have been working as a volunteer with the Young Ambassador Society, a great organization led by and for youth. They asked me to be Chair this year, and I could not refuse! I find it exciting to discuss policy proposals with the Y7 delegates around the topic of entrepreneurship and innovation, which is core to my day-to-day job. However, what I find particularly meaningful are the discussions around new skills and the future of work, given the precarious situation that many young professionals face in our (and other G7) countries, and around the importance of upskilling and reskilling, especially in the era of AI. I think it is crucial to voice the perspectives of young people more. 

Why did you decide to go into business? What makes you passionate about it? 
Funny enough I did not start JCU thinking I wanted to major in Business. I started with a major in International Affairs and a minor in Business. However, after the first semester, I switched. Looking back, I must admit that it was mostly a gut feeling driven by the assumption that studying business would give me access to fast-paced, action-focused, and people-facing jobs. I also felt that it would give me access to a broad variety of roles and industries. I am a generalist at heart, so I liked that idea. Fast forward 10 years, I am happy I listened to that gut feeling, and I love to bring the business mindset and tools into experiences in other fields, like this one at Youth 7.

What JCU classes and/or professors had the most impact on you and why?
Before I go into more detail, I’d like to say that the rare dedication, caliber, and humanity of some of the professors at JCU have really set an example for me. Some of the most impactful professors and experiences I had, in no particular order, are:

  • Professor Silvia Pulino has been and is a great mentor. I worked with her at the JCU Institute for Entrepreneurship, which opened up a whole new world for me. Thanks to that experience I became very curious about the startup world and passionate about innovation, and after graduating from JCU, I went to Berlin for a year of startup experiences. 
  • My advisor was Professor Mary Merva, who also taught me Finance and Economics. Just to make you understand how impactful her support has been, I can say that if it wasn’t for her, I would have quit my studies halfway and accepted a job in South Korea during my exchange there, at the age of 21. She definitely guided me in many decisions and helped me find my path. 
  • I had a lot of fun working at the Italian Admissions Office with Professor Michèle Favorite, and learned the art of public relations from her. I still use some of her teachings from the Business Communications class! 
  • Others who immediately come to mind are Professor Chiara Magrini and her Law class, Public Speaking with Professor Daniel Roy Connelly, and Professor Shannon Cox’s English Composition.  

While at JCU, you co-founded the Women’s Leadership Initiative. What inspired you to create this club and why do you think it was and continues to be an important addition to JCU’s Student Life? 
I cannot take credit for the idea, which really started from fellow alumna Alexandria Maloney. However, when I heard about it, I fell in love with the cause and jumped on board to get the club going, together with other friends and colleagues. Multiple studies show the value and diversity that women can bring when they are in leadership roles. However, bias and historically male-dominated ways of working often trump the talent and diversity that women can bring. I think a club like the WLI helps raise awareness and stimulate dialogue and action around the important topic of female leadership and also helps women with strong ambitions connect with and learn from each other. 

What are your plans for the future?
I just decided to accept a full-time position here at ALK Canada earlier this year and would like to continue helping patients get access to treatment through innovation. I like the health innovation space and would like to continue my work in it. In the long term, I often think about stepping out of the corporate world and into business incubation/startup acceleration. I miss the fast pace of the entrepreneurship world and the constant learning it provides, and I think it would be fun to help businesses translate ideas and strategies into concrete outcomes and results.