Author Spotlight: Paolo Gallo

Over the last 30 years, Paolo Gallo has been Chief Human Resources Officer at the World Economic Forum in Geneva; Chief Learning Officer at The World Bank in Washington DC; and Director of Human Resources at the European Bank for Reconstruction & Development in London.

Paolo is a Chartered Fellow of the FCIPD, UK, and Certified Leadership Coach (Georgetown University, Washington DC). He has worked in more than 80 countries, and teaches regularly at Hult-Ashridge (UK) and Bocconi University (Italy) business schools. He writes for Harvard Business Review(Italy and Arabic) and is a regular contributor to the World Economic Forum Agenda Blog, Forbes and LINC Magazine Italy.

The Compass and the Radar was originally published in 2016 in Italian (as La Bussola del Successo); this is now in its fifth edition and has been translated into a number of languages, including Brazil-Portuguese, Arabic and Korean.

A range of different factors, from the start-up boom through to the gig economy and the rise of AI, have all drastically changed the way people work in recent years. With plenty more changes set to come, are you optimistic about the future of the workplace?

I am optimistic when it comes to job creation and – it may sound strange – also optimistic that selected categories of jobs that are repetitive and meaningless are disappearing. My less optimistic view is related to the fact that many jobs require a set of skills that most people do not possess. So individuals, organizations and countries have to heavily invest in education and consider that learning never stops helping people to remain relevant in the new economy.

While the messages of The Compass and the Radar are certainly universal, the book also has a personal element to it. What inspired you to write it?

My main motivation is helping people. As – in my former roles – I have spent at least half my time listening and helping people in their careers, I thought that by writing a book I would be able to help more people. Everyone has very fundamental questions to reflect upon in their professional life: what is my talent; what is my purpose; how can I decide the job I really want to do; how can I “de-code” organizations; who should I trust; when is the right moment to go; what does a “successful career” look like; what price I am prepared to pay for it? These questions are relevant to everyone and my book has already had a significant impact on the people who took the time to read it.

Having spent over 30 years in senior HR positions at the World Economic Forum, the World Bank and the European Bank for Reconstruction & Development, what are the most common concerns you have heard from employees? Is there a pattern with these?

The book starts with a very famous quote from Mark Twain: “The two most important days of your life are the day on which you are born and the day on which you find out why.” We are purpose-seekers; we need a reason to wake up in the morning that is deeper that our paycheque. More than 3,000 readers have contacted me – following the Italian and Brazilian edition as well – sharing that The Compass and the Radar has helped them to find that purpose; that spark; that motivation.

Is it possible to make a job “work” for you even if you don’t “fit in” with the company culture?

In the short run, yes, but not in the long run. One of the main themes of the book is exactly this: you need to “fit” in the company culture – or rather, it needs to “fit” you. Your value system has to overlap with the company you work for. If it doesn’t, you have a choice to become cynical, to become a misfit or to change your values to adapt – in other words, to “lose yourself”. The Compass and The Radar supports the reader in understanding if the company values are aligned with yours. If so, that company is the right one for you, regardless of the role that you will play.

The Compass and the Radar is available on