Francesco Fedele, DTM
Candidate's Office: International Director
Region Number: 10
Toastmasters member since: 2011
Education: ISCED 5A / Subject group 52, Faculty of Engineering, the University of Rome
Employer and/or position: Self-employed: EU Project Manager, Business Development Manager, Freelance Consultant - Owner of Speakers Factory
Served as District Director of District number: 109
Term of service: 2018-2019
In term as District Director, District achieved: Smedley Distinguished
Toastmasters offices held and terms of service (international-, region-, and District-level):
- 2014-2016 Pathways Ambassador
- 2014-2015 Area Director (G3 D59)
- 2015-2016 Division Director (G D59)
- 2016-2017 PRM (D59)
- 2017-2018 CGD (D59)
- 2018-2019 DD (D109, first year of the new District after split)
- 2019-2020 IPDD (D109)
- 2021-2022 Region 10 Advisor
- 2022-2022 Region Advisor Selection Committee
- 2022-2022 Region 10 Advisor
Toastmasters honors and recognition (international- and District-level):
- 2014-2015 President Distinguished Area Director
- 2015-2016 President Distinguished Division Director
- 2017-2018 Excellence in Club Growth
- 2018-2019 Smedley Distinguished District Director (no. 7 in the world)
Relevant work experience and how it relates to Toastmasters and your role as a Board Member:
Over the years I have managed three IT startups, a research association, and supported the management of universities and both big and small companies, heading their Research & Innovation Divisions.
I have over 30 years of experience in managing EU funded innovation and research projects involving multiple universities and companies. The EU funded projects I managed involved not only all European countries but also Latin America (Argentina, Bolivia, Brazil, Costa Rica), Asia (Azerbaijan, China, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Vietnam), and Africa (Algeria, Egypt, Jordan, Lebanon, Morocco, Tunisia, Syria).
Therefore I have a lot of experience in managing diverse organizations, operating on the international scene, keeping in budget, taking strategic decisions, making plans and changing them as the situation and the world changed. I have also worked extensively in the field of technological innovation: managing technology and turning it into a competitive advantage.
What experience do you have in strategic planning?
In Toastmasters I started by creating a plan and putting it into practice to allow Italy (at the time undistricted) to become part of District 59. Later I had the opportunity to define a multi-year plan for the growth of Toastmasters in Italy.
As the first district director of District 109 I had the opportunity to define a growth and development strategy for the District.
In 2020, as soon as the pandemic hit, I saw the opportunity to develop Toastmasters in the online field and designed and headed a strategic initiative called Moonlit to develop a marketing approach, marketing plans and marketing materials that clubs and districts across the world could use in developing our activities online.
During my years as Region Advisor I worked on tools to give District leaders a view of how their District had been growing in the past and project that growth forward.
I am currently involved in a project to overcome linguistic barriers when making Toastmasters known across the world.
In my business activities, I have been involved in the last 30 years in supporting companies and universities in aligning their research and development activities with the current European Strategies and Priorities.
I have been part of the strategic think-tanks and standardization bodies that have designed and developed the e-commerce standards used in Europe and across the world, where I contributed both my technical skills and my visions.
Today I support companies in developing their business by designing innovation strategies and product development plans that align with the foreseen future requirements of the fields of operation of those companies and the forecasted technological growth.
What experience do you have in the area of finance?
I have managed the financial side of three startups and an association (which were my own organizations).
I have managed the financial aspects of EU funding for projects up to 10M US$, optimizing the use of funds and making sure the correct reporting procedures required by the European Commission were in place in order to receive funds.
What experience do you have in developing policies?
In 1999-2004 I worked on the definition of the European policies for Electronic Commerce, resulting in eBXML, and on the definition of electronic invoice standards, resulting in UBL. The work was carried out in the framework of CEN-ISSS, the European standardization body for the Information Society.
I have participated in various think-tanks organized by the European Commission tasked with preliminary work in developing European Research policies and strategies.
In my position as DD of a brand new district I headed the development of the District Procedures (which the District from which we had split did not actually have) and which have since been the basis of operation of our District along with the Governing Documents.
What lessons did you learn from previous leadership positions?
As the District Director I had the unique opportunity to start a new district and all its procedures, bringing in the best practices from the District from which we split and merging those with my business experience, in order to optimize performance. My new district covered 10 different countries, with as many different languages and cultures, and I had to use my best intercultural skills to create a well performing group. My core team covered 6 of those nationalities, languages and cultures, and managed to operate to its best in reaching Smedley Distinguished status in our first year of operation. I learned how important, trust, respect, a good relationship and spirit is for the functioning of a team.
As immediate Past District Director, I learnt to let go, provide respect to the current trio and empower them with the necessary guidance and mentoring.
As the Region Advisor for two terms I learnt the diversity of my 8 districts, developed my facilitation skills and the art of retaining positivity (even during the pandemic) by continuous appreciation, recognition and assisting leaders to realize their full potential amidst challenges. I also learned the importance of identifying and resolving conflicts at the earliest possible stage.
During both years of my RA experience I worked with my fellow RAs in developing the Strategy Guide for Districts, a collection of proven strategies that help Districts achieve their foreseen goals. I especially helped in making sure the District Leaders had a clear Process and Strategy in developing a multi-year plan to grow their District, starting from an analysis of the current situation and a vision of how the District could develop, then designing the tactics and actions needed to make that vision become a reality. In particular, both in that guide and in the training I gave, I insisted on the multi-year approach that should be considered in a District Strategy, and how that strategy should be aligned and contributing to TMI strategic plan.
Over my twelve years in Toastmasters I have been a member of six clubs, and I helped charter four of them. I earned DTM recognition two times, the first one in slightly more than three years. I am currently following three Pathway paths, two of which I hope to finish this year. I have taken 24 official roles, of which 14 at club level and 10 above. As District Director, together with my 40 leaders, I managed to take a completely new district to Smedley Distinguished status. In the various roles in Toastmasters I learned to practice servant leadership, the art of listening and understanding. All this while balancing the work life, family life, social life and toastmasters life and achieving success in all four aspects of my life.
What experience and key strengths would you bring to the Board of Directors?
My work in designing and managing EU funded research has given me a lot of experience on how technological development can be incorporated into existing operations by enhancing, speeding and optimizing them. It has also taught me the difficulties that incorporating such developments can bring. I have learnt how to influence the design of new policies and strategies for the development of the European economy and learned to design projects and activities that support existing policies and foster the adoption of new ones. Finally I have learned a lot in managing research projects implemented by a group of people over which I had no hierarchical power, who often came from very different background and cultures.
The skill of being able to manage innovation to produce tangible positive results gives me a know-how that I believe would bring a useful contribution to the board. Leading international projects makes working with a diverse set of people something that I am used to do. My passion and curiosity will help me drive forward new proposals, while my experience in actually carrying out actions within the limits of assigned budgets will make sure those new ideas do not break the bank.
Why do you want to serve as an International Officer/Director?
I would consider this an opportune time to be an active member of the strategic leadership team of our organization. I wish to use my visionary skills and my experience in managing innovation in R&D to bring that approach to Toastmasters helping our organization evolve, modernize and offer the best service to our members in their quest for personal development.
Now that our organization needs to rebuild itself and get ready for a second century, I think that it would be a perfect time to bring my competences to serve the board and our members.
What volunteer experience do you have outside of Toastmasters?
I have been a member of CEN-ISSS WG eCommerce and WG ebXML that supported the development of standard and interoperable formats for electronic invoices and gave birth to UBI and ebXML.
I have been a member of XML Italy, the special interest group in Italy fostering the development of XML, an IT format on which the current versions of Word and Excel Documents are based and which allows machines to read and extract information from documents in a programmatic way.
This experience in dealing with innovation, agreeing with fellow members of a standards body or a special interest group on hot to make it become "usable" by a vast community of tech and non-tech users I think could be a useful competence that I could bring to the board.
Have you worked with other Boards of Directors outside of Toastmasters? If so, describe your experience.
I have served on the board of Commercenet Italy, the association for the development of electronic commerce in Italy and part of the Commercenet Network in the world. For that organization I have been VP.
I have been a member of the board of OBI, Open Buying on the Internet, which was working on eCommerce standards and eventually defined new versions of EDI.
In your opinion, what are Toastmasters International’s major objectives and how would you work to achieve them?
The major objective of Toastmasters International is and will be to develop strategies to create more effective communicators and leaders that are ready for an ever changing world.
We need to regain membership, make sure we offer a quality member experience and service, and attract newer generations who might be looking for a very dynamic training offer.
Today this world is being strongly influenced by the continuous development of technologies, some of which are very relevant to the field of communication and leadership, like for example Artificial Intelligence which can produce speeches, analyze speeches content and delivery, and provide personalized training materials. While technology continues to evolve we must not forget the importance of the human touch both in communication and in leadership.
I am sure that Toastmasters, with its strong focus on experiential learning and its capability of creating beautiful human experiences and communities is in a perfect position to serve this world, as long as it keeps evolving with the speed at which the world around us in evolving.
I believe that my experience in managing innovation can contribute to our organizations and to the development of those strategies that will allow us to continue growing and stay relevant in our second century of life.
Additional information about candidate:
I was initially exposed to an international environment when I was 12 years old, and my father was assigned to the Italian Embassy in Belgrade, Yugoslavia as the military attache. Yugoslavia at the time was a fascinating country, a federation of 7 republics and the only not-aligned country of Eastern Europe. I attended the International school of Belgrade where in my class of 13 students we came from 11 different nations. There I had the gift of learning English which later made a big difference both in my personal and professional life.
I currently live in Rome, Italy and apart from Toastmasters I also have a passion for food, technology and diving. I tend to eat a bit too much and am always ready to try something I have never eaten before.
My house is filled with technological devices and Alexa controls the lights, the door, the windows, the air conditioning, and gently allows me to live with her.
The companies with whom I work are at the forefront of technology and keep innovating. They make my professional life challenging but also rewarding.
In my spare time I am a certified scuba diving instructor (PADI) and I love to teach children to dive and help them discover the silent world.
I have a daughter who is 18, and a life partner with whom I share a passion for traveling and discovering new cultures, new foods, and new people.
My daughter is always challenging and stimulating my interest for innovation, while my partner keeps me grounded and makes sure I do not get carried away by technology. Both of them bring that unique special human touch in my life that makes it great, special and enjoyable. All the above keeps me always smiling.