Sara Vascotto Sustainability Strategy Team at Accenture
Sarah Vascotto is former IR student, who later on did a masters in Management with a special focus on Green Management and Sustainability. During both her bachelor and master she did a total of three internships, focused on different sectors of IR and management. In this interview she discusses her three internships, her current job at Accenture and gives some insights on why doing an internship could be beneficial.
Could you give us a short introduction of yourself? Hi! I am Sara Vascotto and I currently work at Accenture Strategy, which is an international consultancy firm. I work in the Italian Sustainability team, so I deal with sustainability and how its shapes different industries. For instance, our work ranges from sustainable finance to sustainable sourcing, to consumers engagement strategies with the goal of evolving their consumption patterns and improving their sustainability. This makes each project very different, as every company has different priorities or different ideas about sustainability.
I started working at Accenture after my internship that I did during my master. I studied Management with a focus on Green Management and Sustainability at the Bocconi University, in Milan. Before, I did a bachelor in International Relations and Diplomatic Sciences. During this bachelor I had the chance to do my first internship and working experience. This was a 3-months internship at the Ministry of the Interior in Italy, at the Territorial Commission for the Recognition of International Protection. Every region in Italy has its own department of the ministry of the Interior, which deals with the request of asylum of refugees coming to Italy. I worked in the North-Eastern part of Italy, which is the arrival point of the Balkan route of refugees. Therefore, there are a lot of requests for asylum in that region. Later on, I did two more internships during my master. The first one was a six-month long internship in Brussels. I worked at BusinessEurope, which is a European Business Federation. I was working at the Industrial Affairs department, which for example deals with environmental and energy policies. I worked there during the last six months of the previous European Commission. This made the internship very interesting as there was a lot of work by the EU COM to close all environmental policies and packages, so at BusinessEurope I had the chance to learn a lot and get familiar with many different dossiers.
What did your last internship at Accenture entail? I started as an intern in the Sustainability Strategy team at Accenture and I currently still work here. As Accenture is a consultancy firm, I work on various projects and topics. During my experience, I had the change to deep dive into different topics, e.g. from the development of new strategic initiatives to engage and support sustainable change within companies’ customers, to improve corporate communication on sustainability to investors and broader stakeholders. Also, I worked on the development of a program to engage a company’s leadership on environmental, social and governance (ESG) issues and implement ESG-driven strategic initiatives. Another field on which I worked was circular economy, not only in terms of materials recovery but also reuse, repair, etc. During my internship, by working on so many different topics, I really gained a broad experience in shaping different sustainability themes across industries. How did you find your internship? At first, when I came back from my internship in Brussels, I wasn’t looking for another internship. However, I had just come back to Milan and to my Master classes, when I had the chance to do a field project in collaboration with Accenture. There I met some of my current coworkers and after a brief discussion on my previous experience in Brussels, I got interested in their work and in the Sustainability Team now I am part of. After few weeks and some interviews, I got offered another 6-months internship. While at the beginning I wasn’t really sure – as accepting the internship meant doing all my exams while working – I quickly changed my mind and decided to accept, which turned to be a great decision indeed.
What did you like most about your internships? One of the most interesting experiences was the internship in Brussels. Sometimes, companies at national level, are not fully aligned and proactively sensing what is happening on an international scene, e.g., with business initiatives and policies. In Brussels, I gained insightful experience on the climate-related policy level, which was very much appreciated also when back in Italy. Furthermore, while doing my internship at Accenture I was very lucky that I was studying the same topics in my master as I was working on at Accenture. It was tough to combine both the master and internship, but at the same time it was “doubling” my knowledge, because I was immediately applying my studies in real life.
What are the most important things that you learned during your internships? The first thing was that – as far as it concerned by Green Management studies – I was actually applying what I learned at my daily work, so I had to translate the theory into practice really quickly. This may sound forgone, but in my past experiences in many cases I felt there was a gap to bridge between what I was learning in school and at university and what the external world was expecting. Moreover, it was also very important to learn how to handle things. While studying I never felt completely sure about my knowledge and preparation, and combing the the internship and master – especially during exam time – was really hard. However, by working I learned how to focus on the few important things and really understand them. In this way, you are able to construct and derive everything around, and to add knowledge around the key pillars while strengthening them. By working, I learned how to handle my short amount of time while ensuring good results, and I applied this same strategy to my studies.
Did those internships give you an idea of where you wanted to work after graduating? Yes, I do think so. I have a lot of ideas of what I want to do, and I also have to admit that those ideas vary across time. The internship in Brussels combined my interests in policies and in sustainability and was very important in defining my career. I am currently really enjoying my position at Accenture, because it gave me the opportunity to focus on a business level and deep dive into sustainable business models. It was very nice to first have an internship focused on policies and later on focused on business as it gave me a more complete picture. I also really like working in consultancy as through different projects, it is possible to discover the topics of interested. At the moment, I don’t feel there is a specific industry where I want to focus, I still enjoy varying across different issues. Would you advice students to do an internship? Yes, I think it is that one thing that can make a difference in your career. For instance, in my master it was compulsory to do an internship and I can notice the difference with other students who did not do an internship during their studies. Due to the amount of pressure and work during the master, people often keep postponing their first working experience. However, those internships force you to start understanding how to work and how to apply your knowledge. I am very happy I gave priority to the internship experience.