Business | 22 Dec 2022

Maria Grazia Pecorari: ‘What we do is indispensable, it’s critical to people’s lives’

Maria Grazia Pecorari, known as MG for short, became Vodafone’s UK Director of Wholesale & Strategy in August 2022. Vodafone UK News wanted to find out more about her and her vision for her department.

MG says she has been fascinated with strategy, business and technology most of her professional career.

“Telecoms is a very dynamic and interesting sector,” she says. “I’m really interested in how technology changes people’s lives.”

She sees her current role as “working with the GMT [General Management Team of the company] and Vodafone to realise the full potential of the business, offer great products and services to customers, and the best possible network to power the UK as a whole.”

While strategy is about looking to the future, it is also about “helping an organisation be the best it can be, now,” she says.

“It’s about winning, ultimately. And to win you need to work well together and display those Spirit behaviours that Vodafone exemplifies.

“Business is a team sport.”

‘Pragmatic agitator’

MG’s interest in strategy and the power of technology to change lives started early.

Born in a small town, Rubiera, in the Emilia Romagna region of Italy, not too far from Modena, famous for its balsamic vinegar, she went on to study Economics at Milan University, before moving into business consultancy.

As often happens, a job opportunity in the UK after university, intended to last no more than two years, turned into a much longer stint. As a consultant she found herself advising clients in the telecoms sector early on, travelling around the world – India, South Africa, Europe – before, she says: “Living out of a suitcase became too much.”

When she joined Bain consultancy’s Technology, Media & Telecoms division, one of her clients was Vodafone – at the time it was taking over Cable & Wireless back in 2011/12.

Later, she moved into the corporate world and became a Managing Director at BT Global Services. There, she designed the turnaround of the business in 2017 then went on to manage their product and services portfolio, and to drive through a major digital transformation.

“I became a better strategist when I became involved in execution,” she reflects. “As a strategist you have to be a contrarian and think about the future, but you also have to be pragmatic – you need to come up with ideas that actually work in practice. The only strategies that exist are the ones that get executed, well.

“I call this mindset being a pragmatic agitator.”

Indispensable network

Talking to MG it becomes clear that she believes in the vital importance of telecoms and technology in creating the digital society.

“The network is the nervous system of the digital world. Without it there would be no cloud, no software, no digital,” she says.

“Telcos are critical enablers. How many other businesses can you think of where if they stopped then our ways of living and working would stop? What we do is indispensable, it’s critical to people’s lives.”

“And that’s not going to change any time soon.”

'Full 5G must benefit the whole of the UK, not just the big cities'

As Vodafone publishes its Digital Ambition 2030 report, Ahmed Essam, Vodafone's UK CEO, warns that the UK could miss out on £7bn of economic benefit if full 5G investment isn't extended to towns and smaller cities.

MG admits that it’s harder to deliver attractive returns now, in a highly competitive telco market, than it was 20 years ago. This is why talks with CK Hutchison in relation to a possible combination of Vodafone UK and Three UK make sense.

“This is an exciting opportunity that would enable us to gain the necessary scale to accelerate the roll-out of 5G in the UK and offer an even better service and experience to customers,” MG believes.

Variety within Wholesale

The Wholesale part of Vodafone’s business is primarily concerned with selling mobile and fixed network services to third parties, sometimes competitors, MG explains.

Wholesale is a varied business. For example, there are the so-called Mobile Virtual Network Operators (MVNOs) which offer their own branded services that piggyback on the Vodafone network for the connectivity.

Asda Mobile customers to benefit from superior call quality

A pair of technologies now rolling out to Asda Mobile, which relies on Vodafone’s UK network, will bring enhanced voice call features to the supermarket chain's mobile customers.

Then there is the messaging business, known as “bulk” or “A2P” (Application to Peer) SMS, which enables SMS notification services from third parties to Vodafone customers, such as NHS notifications.

“Every day, we deliver more than 11 million A2P SMS messages,” says MG. “MVNO and A2P are just two examples of the variety of activities and services provided through Wholesale.”

While Wholesale is a smaller division compared with Consumer or Business, it is strategically important as it helps drive greater business scale over the Vodafone network, says MG.

“Scale drives returns.”

Human-centered leadership

Given her long experience advising companies, how does MG feel leadership styles have changed over the decades?

“I think companies have moved away from the ‘big boss’ paradigm and more towards a leadership culture that embraces the softer skills – empathy and a greater concern for the views of their customers,” she says.

“Great leaders serve an idea that’s bigger than them. You need a big ambition, but at the end of the day it’s about human beings.

“You need to create an environment where people feel they can progress no matter what their race, gender, age, sexuality or socio-economic background.”

Vodafone: One of the Times Top 50 Employers for Women 2022

This award recognises the company's many initiatives at deepening gender equality as Clare Corkish, Vodafone's UK Director of Human Resources explains.

A few months into her role, what has surprised MG most about the Vodafone culture?

“I love the Spirit behaviours,” she says, “the willingness to experiment, perhaps fail, but learn fast and adapt. It’s really exciting to be a part of that.

“But I could perhaps do with fewer meetings and fewer PowerPoint presentations!” she concludes.

Most of us would probably agree with that.

Stay up-to-date with the latest news and features from Vodafone by following us on Twitter and signing up for News Centre website notifications.