An aerospace experience – Nicola Frisco

TXT_Nicola Frisco

In an interview with Nicola Frisco, Head of Training & Simulation at TXT e-solutions S.p.A. (TXT), the holding company of TXT Group, an international Group listed in the Italian stock market under the STAR segment,  which provides customised software engineering solutions, smart solutions and digital advisory services to its customers in high-tech markets, we spoke about his experience in the aerospace industry, digitalisation and difficulties of finding specialised talents for the company. He gives a clear picture of the importance of digitalisation in the Aerospace industry, the obstacles involved and first-hand advice. In addition, he describes several skills needed in the market, how skills can be adapted to the business and the difficulty of finding them. 


Who are you? Tell us about yourself and your background


I am Nicola Frisco, originally from central Italy. I studied aerospace engineering at the Politecnico of Milan, and started my career in Carlo Gavazzi Space. After that, I started working for TXT, a company founded in 1989, and decided to specialise in the aerospace market among others, identifying it as a good match to start my career path. Within the company, I transitioned through different roles, starting from aerospace software development and moving towards management. Today I lead the division of the company which deals specifically with developing training systems for our customers. 


What are the most exciting aspects about your job?


For me, working for TXT means uniting my two passions, a passion for aeronautics and a passion for technology in general. What’s exciting about this job is that in this environment, you’re always in contact with the greatest experts within the aeronautical field and then you experience everything first-hand, focusing on the aeronautical context. You get the chance to create solutions that did not exist before and then you can create the software solutions that we can develop together with our customers. Every day we work alongside the leading players within the global aerospace market. 


What are the challenges you face daily?


TXT is a Digital Enabler. So, we are in the business of digitalising processes for our customers. One of the biggest challenges that we face every day is to continue to be innovators and to bring new technologies to the aerospace market. We try to combine the highest standards that we have in the aeronautical sector, with all the latest technologies that are present in the world. So, staying up to date with technology and staying up to date with all technological aspects that we can continue to offer to our customers is definitely one of the most important challenges that we face every day. 


Why did you go from project manager to training manager? What did you like before, what do you like now?

It was a growth path within the company. Within the company we have different career paths that allow people who have joined the company to grow and therefore to acquire both experience and seniority. During my time in the company, I had the opportunity to experience several different paths of growth. I was able to move from more technical roles to more organisational ones, so I took on the role of project manager because I enjoyed being the organiser and the one who managed a complex and articulated project like a simulator, a flight simulator. Later on, I also became interested in business issues, and so I moved into a role where I was no longer managing a single project but managing a line of business. I enjoyed all the roles I had during the course of my career. For each area that I have experienced, I have also tried to make my own, so I have tried to study, to increase my skills to be able to give my best in each one.


I imagine technical competencies are useful in any case


The skills are certainly useful because in the company most of the people who hold a business management role also tend to come from a technical background, because it certainly helps when we are strongly specialised in an area.


Is it difficult to find people with technical skills that can then become managers? Does your company find them internally or externally?


It tends to be the company’s strategy to foster the growth of people within the company. Therefore, even for managerial business roles we like to privilege growth within the company. It is also true that when the business grows quickly we rely on profiles that perhaps come from different markets or also come from experiences that were not all initiated within the company, within TXT. Obviously it is not easy for the type of niche market we have, for the type of professionalism we are looking for, to ensure that there is the right mix of skills, both managerial and related to the type of market we go to every day, so a search for people at all levels, both entry-level and with technical experience, but also with business managerial roles is certainly quite complicated at this time. I’m not saying it’s impossible, but it’s certainly not easy to find the right mix, because a strong specialisation is obviously required to work in this type of market, in these types of projects. 


What are the most difficult skills to find in a person that can adapt to your roles?


Obviously the most difficult skill is to have people who are passionate about this sector, so to have people who are passionate about the aerospace world and also at the same time are passionate about everything about the digital world. It is difficult to find the right mix to then have a balanced team in all aspects within a large project, that is a bit more effort, but that doesn’t scare us.


Do you also have non aerospace engineers that come from different backgrounds?


We also have other profiles that can come from neighbouring engineering: from mechanical engineering, mathematics, physics, in any case people who have a relatively technical type of mindset. We don’t have entry preclusion, of course. We have a few people who come from the business world to manage projects, so maybe that can have more of a project management slant. The core obviously is being a Digital Enabler focusing heavily on the perimeter of aerospace engineer, aeronautical engineer, space engineers and then the software engineer part.


For people without an aerospace background, is the transition in a role so focused on aerospace difficult?


In my opinion, it’s not difficult, because let’s face it, obviously you have to combine your passions a little bit, and the people who come to us with maybe more of an IT background are still people who like the aviation world. We have many, many people who have become passionate about aeronautics, or many people like me who have a background as an aeronautical engineer, who have become passionate about the world of computing and business.


Do you think the use of digital tools is important?


For us the world of digitalisation is one of our cornerstones, so it is certainly at the heart of our activities. Our research, development and growth is all about digitalisation, so all those technologies that allow us to go and make our customers’ processes more efficient, digitalised and improve the processes of our customers in the field of training and simulation. We will digitalise what can be digitalised, like for example training and simulation. We create digital twins: for example a digital twin for an aircraft or helicopter, which will help the company by allowing safe training and education of aeronautical personnel. It also increases effectiveness and efficiency. This type of training is obviously also fuel-efficient and cost-saving. Because an airplane or helicopter that has to be used for training costs and it pollutes, and therefore does not allow a complete training. The use of digital systems allows us to train at any time in any weather condition in maximum safety and allows economic savings.It also certainly goes hand in hand with sustainability for companies. 


Do you think companies in the aerospace sector are keeping up with digitalisation? Are they resistant or do they cooperate?


There is a lot of will, because even all the big companies perceive the fact that digitalisation becomes an accelerator of their business, and of the value that they in turn can bring to their customers. 


What are the major difficulties in these processes?


Well, they are all challenging projects. We are working on projects that are not short-lived, but they are wide-ranging projects, so they are projects that can last even one or more years. One of the challenges is to guarantee delivery and to ensure quality, which in any case must always be kept at a high standard throughout all the project phases and stages. To stay aligned, up-to-date and always come up with new technology is something that is challenging, it requires us to constantly challenge ourselves.


Do you need specialised employees for this?


Yes. People are the core of the Group and so every day, we have a focus on our people, we try to engage people with challenging projects. 


Do you have some advice for companies that are not yet digital?


A piece of advice might be to approach the subject of digitalisation with greater curiosity, and obviously, to allow oneself to be supported, where it is possible by those who perhaps deal with the issues, with the issues of digitalisation, on a daily basis, without being afraid that it might have a negative impact on the business.

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