Finding Purpose and Making A Positive Impact in Your Career  

Silhouette of a businessman looking through a telescope

By Gaetano Lapenta  

Gaetano Lapenta is an entrepreneur based in Italy. After 15 years in a career as a manager in well established companies, Gaetano decided to pursue an Executive MBA at POLIMI Graduate School of Management. During this time, he started his company – ‘Fybra’. Fybra is a start-up focused on innovation, algorithms, and energy efficiency.  

My journey through an Executive MBA and the subsequent creation of my own startup Fybra has been an experience that marked a turnaround in my career and life. Before joining the EMBA program at Polimi Graduate School of Management in Milan, I was a corporate manager who only saw myself as a contributor to the company’s success. I believed that my role was to work hard every day to help the organization grow, while simultaneously increasing my own knowledge and skills.  

I believed that the program would help me develop better hard skills, earn a better salary, and provide me with a better career. The process took two years and was a slow but steady one. And for sure at first, I felt that I was receiving tools and abilities that could help me become a better manager. It was only later that I began to see that such know-how could also enable me to become an entrepreneur and have a direct, positive impact on society. 

During my time in the program, one concept that had a lasting impact on me was “purpose.” At first, it seemed abstract and lofty. However, as I learned more about its implications and began to draw up an action plan, my entire attitude began to shift. Researchers and professors provided surveys and numbers that proved how a clear definition of the company’s inner and higher goal could boost profits and lead to successful outcomes. This realization motivated me to take a fresh look at my life and circumstances. 

The best evidence of how purpose impacted me was something that happened right during the executive MBA. My daughter’s school building needed an expensive refurbishment with the installation of a complex ventilation system. The building was hyper-isolated and had a high concentration of indoor pollutants in the classrooms. I came up with the idea of optimizing the ventilation rate via an algorithm that would efficient the use of the windows (a better natural ventilation system), which I then prototyped on my desk. It was a kind of “booster for windows” that, through machine learning, could make natural ventilation less expensive and more comfort-oriented, so that users could benefit from better air and less energy consumption together with high thermal comfort. The more I thought about the technology I had created, the more I saw its potential for concrete and beneficial outcomes for society, including improved air quality and wellbeing, reduced illness transmission, and energy efficiency in poorly ventilated structures. At a very low cost. 

It was with renewed enthusiasm and a sense of mission then that I approached classes, ready to apply all ideas and information towards my envisioned project. IP protection, startup evaluation, fundraising, organizational behavior and innovation, finance: all topics were essential in launching a successful business.  

My purpose-driven idea, which would eventually become Fybra (For Young Brains), became my final thesis at the EMBA in Milan in 2019. Since then, a lot has happened. We filed for our first patent in January 2020, one month before Covid upset Italy and the world. When the pandemic hit, Fybra became one of the most effective technologies to keep public places open, as our low-cost and easy-to-manage control of air quality and ventilation could help reduce disease transmission. We fundraised twice and secured three patents. The whole team was passionate and committed to creating a useful and purposeful technology and to spread it all the way. 

Purpose is a natural fuel for an organization; it certainly was for Fybra. In January 2022, I was honored to be named Entrepreneur of the Year by the AMBA Association and earlier Global Changemaker by the Financial Times. These recognitions resulted solely from our purpose-driven journey and efforts to create a positive impact on society. 

I started my EMBA with the goal of becoming a better manager, but the process led me to become an entrepreneur with a higher ideal. Not only did I gain valuable new skills and knowledge, but I also discovered my calling and purpose. The experience showed me that the impact an organization has in the world can be significant when driven by a clear purpose.  

To conclude, I am now empowered with the ability to not only manage but create and innovate. It gave me a deeper understanding of what drives me, and I found my calling in entrepreneurship with a higher purpose. The journey has been challenging and exhilarating, but the newfound sense of purpose has cemented my desire to create beneficial solutions for society. I also feel that this is something that will be my way of leaving and working from now on, whatever the future will reserve. For sure I am ready to take on the next challenge with this clearer view.

About the Author 

Gaetano LapentaGaetano Lapenta is an Executive MBA graduate from POLIMI Graduate School of Management. Gaetano co-founded his Milan-based company Fybra in 2021, to solve a personal challenge: poor indoor air quality faced by his daughter and many other schoolchildren. Fybra makes a device that detects when the quality of air in a room is below average.  

From a venture whose products benefited 40,000 people, mainly in schools, the company has expanded massively in recent years, with it now reaching more than 300,000 people, including those in offices and homes. 

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