My name is Francesca Cioè. After a four-year degree in Archaeology, with a thesis in History of ancient Near East, I have continued my studies with a Ph.D. in Ancient Heritage Studies, while working at the same time as Archaeologist, both in Italy and abroad.
Since 2015 I deal with ethical hacking, cyber intelligence and cyber security. At present I am Security Advisor at the Infocamere Security Operation Center, a company which manages and provides IT services for the Chambers of Commerce in Italy.
What led you to choose Humanistic Studies?
A strong sense of curiosity and, above all, the urgency to understand the complexity of our human and social realities – a need that I have felt since I was a child. During my school years, learning Greek, Latin, Literature and History of Art allowed me to travel across space and time and explore thus the dimensions of thought and its evolution. I realized that, if I could tackle the complexity of this matter in all its aspects, I would have been able to gain a greater awareness of the present.
I was looking for answers, but in the first place I have learned the importance of asking the right questions, those who underlie the humanistic and scientific critical thought.
What role does your humanistic education play in your current occupation?
I worked as a professional Archaeologist for ten years, and during that time my education played a key role, and not only as regards to the theoretical knowledge: I learned the business in university school camps – I can think of the excavations in Variano of Basiliano (Udine) and in Aquileia, both excellent formative experiences in which I have been involved many years ago – and by taking part in archaeological campaigns out of the country, in Syria and Irak. All these opportunities, organized by the University of Udine, have taught me how to withstand discomfort, hard work and trouble, and this endurance has proved to be very useful even in different professional contexts.
Working as a security advisor, at the moment, I have to deal not only with the "technical" side of cyber security, but also – and mainly – with the so-called cyber intelligence. In a nutshell, this activity consists in the analysis and synthesis of huge amounts of heterogeneous data coming from multiple sources (Big Data), with the purpose of recreating (globally and with a high degree of complexity) possible cyber threats. This allows the assumption of malicious behaviours and, consequently, the development of appropriate defensive strategies in order to face any online danger. It is not that far off modern archaeological research, which is also based on data collection, analysis and synthesis and on the resulting reconstruction of scenarios and anthropic processes within a historical frame.
I can say that my humanistic education allowed me to build a critical mindset, which can meet various working requirements and address successfully many different problems through a continuous action of analysis and synthesis.
To paraphrase Luciano Canfora, Humanistic Studies teach how to "think and withstand", while offering the mind (as Dario Antiseri says) "problems to be solved", not mere "exercises to perform".
Do you think that humanistic studies could pave the way for various careers?
I can confirm that, in my case, my humanistic education has without any doubt favoured the development of the so-called soft skills, like for example the ability to analyse and synthesise, competences in problem solving, communication, adaptability to different cultural environments, understanding of the cause-effect relation, spirit of initiative, flexibility, perspective, multidisciplinary approach, accuracy etc.
According to the Stanford Research Institute International, the 75% of long-term job success depends on mastering those soft skills, and only the 25% on technical knowledge (hard skills). The trend is clearly the overcoming of the anachronistic dichotomy between scientific and humanistic culture, as shown by the fact that indeed companies constantly look for professional figures able to manage complexity in all areas: therefore the search of human resources is not limited to the evaluation of titles and academic programmes.
So, it is a fact that the most competitive soft skills go beyond the mere technical expertise, which can be developed at a later stage anyway. In particular, digital and high-tech industries are the most interested in graduates with a humanistic background, because they are very well trained in mental flexibility and problem solving through lateral thinking. For example, experts in Linguistics and Semiology could be essential in the field of artificial intelligence, while philosophers, anthropologists, sociologists are very much appreciated as automation ethicists within the framework of the man-machine relationship: they are often called to evaluate economic, moral and social impact of robotics and automation.
However, beyond the contingencies related to technology, the versatility of graduates in Humanities stems from a "psychological predisposition": students who choose Classics or Archaeology know already that they should probably reinvent themselves in areas other than those of study, thus applying their flexible mind elsewhere. This awareness prepares them psychologically to be versatile: the humanist of tomorrow already knows that he will have to deal with situations and problems which share little in common with his educational path.
What would you recommend to young people struggling with the choice of the right study programme?
Choose an educational path aimed at developing sound logical and critical skills, at least for your Bachelor's Degree. You will have plenty of time in the future to specialise in more sectoral fields and acquire more specific and apparently more "marketable" expertise.
In closing, I would like to point out that Steward Butterfield, founder of Slack and Flickr, is a Cambridge graduate in Philosophy; Susan Wojcicki, CEO of Youtube, before studying Economics and earning an MBA, received a BA in History and Literature at Harvard, while Carly Fiorina, ex CEO of Hewlett-Packard, holds a Bachelor's in Medieval History at Stanford; even the late Sergio Marchionne was graduated in Philosophy, and many other similar examples could be cited.