Chapter 2: Glories and Disasters in the Chemical Industry (1959-1965)

2. Working Methods
That year, 1959, Montecatini was living its dream the main element of which was a new synthetic material called polypropylene (the basis for products under various names such as Moplen, Moplefan, etc.). Essentially this product was meant to improve the quality and performance of other already existing synthetic products, for example resistance to high temperatures. An anecdote was going around, it probably was not true but it helps us understand the enthusiasm generated by the prospect of developing polypropylene: it was said that the President of du Pont de Nemours had come in person to Milan to suggest a collaboration and that after waiting for a long time in the waiting room he had left without having achieved anything.
In any event, it is precisely due to polypropylene that I was able to get my employment in the chemical industry off to a good start. Actually the company management had decided to form a leading group of completely new, young people, and subsequently send them, for a whole year, to strengthen the branches around the world and to promote the new material. This project was repeated for nine more years, nurturing youth’s hopes. That this was a group of young people prepared to fight is proven by the composition of the nine member group among which I was one. There was a prince, a marquis, and a baron from the greatest lineage in Italy. My credentials were based on my American experience and probably also on my “overpaid” activities. Among us there were Giorgio Schejola, holder of Doctorate degrees in Philosophy and Economics, descendant of an excellent Milanese family, and Angelo Semeraro, jurist from the land of the “trulli” in Puglia, who was endowed with a great musical culture and a warm smile. They would both become my close friends and many years later Giorgio Schejola would become Director General of Montedison in Paris.
I must confess that when I joined Montecatini I did not have a very clear idea of what “chemical industry” meant. I had studied chemistry in high school at Trieste but I did not know how to explain exactly what businesses, like the one to which I was committing myself, actually did. In any event it was prestigious in that golden age of the chemistry sector.
My ignorance began to be dispelled contemporarily with the chemistry courses connected to the work of the group by my repeated visits to all the Italian factories, at the rhythm of eight hours a day. I also spent a lot of time in the export management offices. It was in via della Moscova that I first learnt what it means to be zealous.
Although work officially ended at around five in the afternoon we often remained till seven or eight in the evening. Sometimes we really did have work to do, but often we waited till the big chief left and then left after him. We did not let him see our empty stations.
There were a few colleagues about whom I maliciously remarked: they had to remain till nine in the evening because they had to do their work first time in the morning, and in the afternoon undo what they had done in the morning. They only had the evening left to finish the day’s real work. Clearly this was pretty nasty on my part, but subsequently, during my experiences in many other countries I came across this way of working. Of course I was an “overperformer”.

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