It isn’t every day you get the opportunity to interview your CEO, let alone have the freedom of asking the most random questions you could dream of. Needless to say I was particularly excited about this blog post so I asked away, but don’t worry I didn’t make him sweat too much (although I did have a phone call where he seemed particularly baffled by one of the questions).
Again this is not your typical picture of a company CEO, but then again, Mr A. (as I like to call him) is definitely one of a kind. I particularly like this picture because it pictures him similarly to how I first met him at one of the initial editions of the University Ring Road Races.
Being new to the company, I asked one of my colleagues to give me a bit of background about Joe or as I like to call him Mr A. Here is what she had to say: “He’s one of those people who always seems to be in a good mood and who remains calm no matter what could be going on around him. Nothing is too much of a challenge for him and he’s very dynamic, always happy to adapt/introduce new things and always up for taking part in activities. He’s also extremely caring and supportive.” I also learned that he is originally from Gozo and has two kids. He is quite a big fan of football, in fact used to play when he was younger and still gets involved in the occasional friendly match up to this day.
But enough talk from me, let’s get to the juicy stuff and look into what Joe had to say:
1. Tell me a bit about what your typical day at the office entails.
My day is usually full of internal and client meetings, email correspondence and time on the phone. I also spend quite a lot of time travelling by car to and from the University. The afternoons are generally quieter than the mornings. I do take a mid-day break in which I try not to miss the daily 30min table soccer frenzy. Sometimes I take a stroll through the Residence grounds at Lija. Not a problem there….there are 45 acres available!!
(We’ve also heard he is the king of table soccer at the residence… ;))
2. Imagine you were giving a new member of staff a “User Manual” on how to best deal with you – what would it include?
Difficult one this. The title would be “Beware of the Dog”. The rules would be quite simple.
Work hard and be positive – he is a slave driver and expects you to bear it with a smile.
Humour him and show deference – he is a big head and can be touchy. Don’t tell him he is wrong. Just tell him it can be done in a different way.
Be creative and courageous – he appreciates initiative. He wants to know of the problems but even more so he wants to hear YOUR recommendations/ solutions from which HE can then choose.
3. What about life outside the office – what do you get up to in your free time?
Every Saturday I cook for the whole family for the whole week. It started when one Saturday my wife said “Honey, can you cook something today because I need to go shopping?” She has been shopping every Saturday for the past 15 years!
I am in my circa 2,500th game of online scrabble. I follow very closely the fortunes (or misfortunes lately) of my three favourite football teams: Leeds United, Lazio and Nadur Youngsters. Before sleeping I always spend some time reading (nothing serious – fantasy mostly). I spend some time every day on the piano and a small synthesizer. I studied music when I was young and although I have long lost the ability to read music my musical ears are still functioning. I even have my own creations. I also try to be physically active whenever possible so you could see me on walks/runs in the Madliena area and participating in football matches with friends and the occasional Fun Run!!
Finally I do have the customary daily taxi driving part time job every other dad has.
4. What would you consider your biggest achievement in life (not necessarily work related)?
I prefer to break this down into three categories. First, from a purely personal perspective, my family has to be my greatest achievement. Finally getting my wife Brenda to walk up the aisle was an achievement in itself. She sure made me wait for it. We are different in everything yet 25 years later here we are with two great kids, Martina and Andrew, who themselves are as different as can possibly be. Yet we make a closely knit unit despite the confusion.
From a work perspective I have had many satisfying moments in my career and it is difficult to put my finger on any one as being the best but, I guess, the results achieved at MUHC must surely rank high on the list.
Finally, from an education perspective I am particularly proud of the fact that I graduated with Distinction in Masters Financial Services at 52 years of age as top of my class after a grueling three years negotiating work, family and study.
5. If you had to compare yourself to an animal, what would it be and why?
If you had asked me this question 30 years ago I would have said a “party animal”. Now, hand on heart, I would say the best fit is actually my astrological sign, Taurus (a Bull). Determination and hard-headedness define me. Wiser over the years, but still a bull.
6. What are people likely to misunderstand about you?
Two things. Since I am generally of good humour, easy to make friends with and give a lot of trust to people (even when in a position of authority), some might think that they can take me for granted. Their mistake. Also, people are surprised, given my apparent relaxed personal predisposition, how target-oriented and impatient I can be.
7. Did you always envision yourself as a CEO? Or did you have different goals as a child?
Don’t laugh. My childhood dream was to become a “Suldat tal-Papa” (a Vatican Guard). Probably something my mother (a very religious woman God bless her soul) must have put into my head. It was never going to happen as I am obviously not Swiss and very (but very) fidgety!!
8. If you had one piece of advice for someone just starting out in the world of employment, what would it be?
Never let anyone, not even yourself, put a lid on your aspirations. Do not resist change. Like it or not, it will happen anyway. It will also provide you with opportunities you least expect. When these present themselves, do not run, take them on.
(This one was for me.)
I haven’t been working with the company for long now and at first I must admit even just the thought of being face to face with the CEO used to unnerve me but boy I couldn’t have been more wrong. Mr A. is one of the nicest people you will ever meet, he’s target oriented and driven but as a boss you wouldn’t find someone kinder or more approachable. He’s an accountant and I’m a marketer and we often think in completely different ways. Having said this he has become someone who I really look up to and truly is an inspiration both in terms of his work ethic as well as his take on life in general.