Giulio Tirelli is a sprinter with staying power. This all-round combination of qualities has won him both an Italian championship in Olympic kayaking and coveted recognition as one of Italy’s top 10 young managers of 2018.
As a young boy growing up in the Italian town of Trieste, Giulio Tirelli, 37, would gaze at the aircraft carriers in port and wonder how such massive steel behemoths could possibly stay afloat.
Thirty years later, he is still gazing in awe from his new waterfront home in Trieste, now more excited than ever about the future of marine engineering. His boyhood love affair with ships has led to a highly successful career at Wärtsilä, currently as Director of Sales and Business Intelligence at Wärtsilä Marine Solutions in Italy.
As one of the company’s youngest directors, Tirelli has played an inspirational role steering Wärtsilä’s high-tech transformation in marine engineering. His highly effective style of leadership recently saw him awarded as one of Italy’s top ten young managers by Federmanager, Italy’s national association of executives. Tirelli modestly attributes his success to ‘good luck and timing’.
“And I have been very privileged to receive the support of my family, great people, and bosses who have urged me to gain experience all around the world.”
“International” is certainly the watchword of Tirelli’s career. He has lived abroad for ten years and speaks five languages. After studying naval architecture in Italy and Spain, he completed a Wärtsilä internship as a vibration engineer in Italy. He then joined the LNG Carriers team in Turku, Finland, where he was ‘groomed’ for a future leadership position in his homeland. After a stint in Switzerland, he completed his MBA in Copenhagen, and eventually returned to Trieste – as originally planned – to lead the marine engineering team in Italy in 2014.
Tirelli’s cosmopolitan outlook and Scandinavian work ethic are nicely balanced with classic “Italian” qualities such as warmth and spontaneity. His fluent gift of the gab is invaluable, especially as most of his days are spent in meetings, whether organising his team of 100 people or touching base with customers. With suitcase always ready at the door, he spent almost 200 days on the road last year.
“I trust in my special sensibility for human interaction – which is not the same thing as being ‘nice’ or ‘soft’. I’m constantly focusing on motivating my team and allocating the right tasks to the right people at the right time. My human skills are also useful in dealing with customers. You need to get inside their head to understand what is valuable to them and adopt the right language typology to get the message through.”
Uncompromising dedication is another of Tirelli’s go-getting qualities: “I try to separate work and private life, but if I have to join a Skype meeting with a customer in Vancouver at midnight, I’ll do it. In fact, I did exactly that, last week,” he adds with a good-humoured chuckle.
As a former Italian champion in Olympic kayaking, Tirelli has a winning mindset that carries over into the corporate boardroom.
“A 5000 m kayaking race lasts 22 minutes, so you need the right mix of sprinting speed combined with endurance capability,” he explains. The same combination of agility and long-term stamina is indispensable in his mission of driving Wärtsilä towards hybrid solutions in marine sector.
“The marine industry is looking for something more than just focusing on engines, propellers or single components. We need to think about alternative power sources and technologies in a wider ecosystem. Wärtsilä is in a unique position. Our company owns knowledge that can change the whole future of marine engineering. I’m personally very excited to be part of Wärtsilä’s hybrid adventure,” he concludes.