Few words with Daniele Vigo (OPTIT)

We interview Daniele Vigo, Professor of Operations Research at the Department of Electrical, Electronic and Information Engineering of the University of Bologna, President of AIRO (Italian Association of Operations Research) from 2016 to 2019, but here representing OPTIT. OPTIT is a medium-size enterprise which works with Italian and International partners and exploits the AIROYoung website to hire the best OR experts.

By Alice Raffaele and Serena Fugaro

Let’s start by introducing OPTIT: can you give a brief description of the company? What is its mission?

I founded OPTIT in 2007 as a start-up of University of Bologna, together with a former student. As academics, we have been collaborating with companies since 2000 as consultants, by providing feasibility studies, simulations and algorithms. However, we mainly provided ideas as black boxes, without actually developing final products which could be need by the companies. OPTIT was born to answer this need and to consolidate and transform our knowledge into products, putting together OR specialist and SW application developers. Our main goal was and is to use Operations Research to create value and to constitute a meeting point between mathematics and the business of creating more efficient decision-making processes.

What about your approach towards companies?

After two or three years, we understood that we needed not only experts of algorithms but also business and management skills, to give our projects the appropriate value and usability. Furthermore, our academic approach (i.e., starting from an interesting problem, solving it and only in the end finding a real application) had to be reversed: we began looking at concrete problems which interested companies, then finding suitable models to adapt and solve. Another game-changer was the possibility of implementing algorithms together with the SW application which is developed by a specific team (which we call our “software factory”).

Which kind of problems has OPTIT tackled?

We started focusing on routing problems, such as optimizing the waste collection planning. Then we have been working on networks optimization, logistics and supply chain, 3D-bin packing, energy production and management. In particular, the project “SPRINT: Optimization of Staff Management for Desk Customer Relations Services at Hera” helped to expand us in terms of number of employees but also in notoriety, awards and publications. In fact, our portfolio is growing steadily, and since a couple of years we have grown a internal data science team that is capable to complement our traditional expertise with Business Intelligence, Data Mining and Machine Learning capabilities. Integrating all this is both a big challenge and a huge opportunity. Moreover, problems could also be interesting from a research point of view and I was able to create a kind of bidirectional link between OPTIT and Academia, by offering job opportunities to young graduates and PhD students.

What do you think about AIROYoung?

I’m glad to have “baptized” AIROYoung and proud of how it has evolved through these years.

From OPTIT point of view, which sections of our website do you use the most?

I believe that Opportunities and Talents are the most relevant sections. The former because it offers a lot of different paths for AIROYoungers, collected all together in a single list; the latter for recruitment from companies and research institutions, which may be able to find their next employee by examining available CVs.

What do you think about our website in general?

Well, in my opinion the AIROYoung website has been really successful in creating a community of young “OR Addicted”. Anyway, I think it can be really useful for also for younger students and graduates in order to make them aware of all the job opportunities they have at the end of their studies in OR. Nowadays there is a rising need of mathematicians and data scientists in Industry and, at the same time, the difficulties of Academic career discourage young students to pursue this road. Thanks to your website, they have the chance to see how many different opportunities a career in OR could offer. Therefore, OPTIT supports and sponsors you, and we are very confident in your work.

What are you looking for in a potential employee?

We look for people with a strong interest in OR, of course. In particular, we expect candidates to have knowledge of the main OR methods and a minimum of programming experience. At the moment, for example, we have four employees who work only on OR models and algorithms implementation, collaborating with the data science team and the SW factory. Consequently, we sometimes open positions for graduates in Informatics, but the particular skills we look for make PhDs the most appealing candidates. In OPTIT they can keep their contacts with academic research and publish articles about our scientific activities. Furthermore, at OPTIT we recognize the doctorate as previous working experience.

Have you actually used our website or our community to find employees for your company?

Yes, as a company the page Talents, with all the CVs, allowed us to quickly understand which OR-specialist figures were available on the market, and we also posted our open positions in the Opportunities section. We also often joined the AIROYoung workshops to scout for the right employees and we happily sponsored your workshops to reach even more young OR specialists. The AIROYoung community, in general, helps Italian companies as OPTIT to get in contact with new generations and tells them what cool jobs you can do with your OR background.

This seems quite a really great opportunity to consider, at the end of a PhD. We thank Daniele Vigo and OPTIT for their time and kind support!

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