The collaboration between the Department of Marketing Management and industry partners offers students the opportunity to put theory into practice and gain invaluable hands-on experience. Final-year BCom (Marketing Management) student Brittni van Zyl gives a first-hand account of her experience in Bologna, after being named as the top student for the Italtile project:
“Once upon a time in September 2018, I was headed to Bologna, Italy for an opportunity of a lifetime. I start this story with the classic fairy tale opening, as I am still not entirely convinced that it was not all a dream. In 2018, the Department of Marketing Management at the University of Pretoria collaborated with Italtile to grow and develop third-year BCom (Marketing Management) students’ sales skills. I had the privilege and honour of being selected from my class to not only be given an opportunity to do a sales internship at Italtile, but also to accompany the team from Italtile to the Ceramic Tile Exhibition, Cersaie 2018, in Bologna, Italy. I fell in love with the corporate culture and passion found within Italtile during the many engagements that we had with them as students, which included factory and warehouse visits, product training and job shadowing. My new-found passion for Italtile motivated me to apply for the internship and I am thankful that I did.
Before I knew it, I was off to Italy with the Italtile team. Once we landed in Bologna, we went straight to the exhibition. Cersaie is an international exhibition of ceramic tile and bathroom furnishings. The exhibition was absolutely breathtaking. There were over 20 halls, thousands of exhibitors, designers, architects and organisations from all around the world. Every stand had elements of pure marketing genius and I was exposed to a completely new platform in the business world. The Italtile team has an extremely high level of professionalism and is without a doubt a benchmark for the industry in South Africa. Everything that I have learnt throughout my Marketing Management degree – from business management to relationship, marketing and sales management – I saw practised in real-life business situations at its highest level. I also had the pleasure of meeting suppliers and being included in new aspects of the business world.
The Italian culture was truly immersed into every aspect of our trip. A tile is not simply just a tile but rather a ceramic canvas to create a magnificent piece of art. I was also afforded the opportunity to experience vast amounts of authentic Italian cuisine, from pastas to pizzas to prosciutto and gelato, as well as the nightlife in Bologna city centre, which is a magnificent piece of history preserved in the present.
“Teatro Arena del Sole”, a beautiful Italian theatre that was inaugurated in the 1800s, in the old downtown part of Bologna
Bologna is truly a beautiful city with a constant atmosphere and thirst for life and cuisine. I was in the city centre on a Wednesday night and yet it felt like it was the weekend. The small streets that lead from the centre of the city were buzzing with excitement and small restaurants. It was here, that I experienced the best-tasting parmesan cheese and prosciutto in a fascinating restaurant with wheels of cheese lining the walls all the way up to the roof.
Restaurant with the best-tasting parmesan and prosciutto
The highlight of Italy for me was an event hosted on the first evening of Cersaie. I thoroughly enjoyed the whole evening, which included a 10-minute firework display set to the beat of music, endless amounts of decadent food and drinks, and ended off with a live performance by the Gypsy Kings.
Italy was truly a life-changing experience and I have come back to South Africa with more passion and drive than I ever have had before. My business fairy tale story does not end here, as this is only chapter one.
I would like to thank the University of Pretoria, especially Prof Yolanda Jordaan and Mrs Jade Verbeek from the Department of Marketing Management, for creating the opportunity for this incredible experience and for their unyielding support throughout. I would like to say a huge thank you to Italtile, especially Marius Maree, Sergio Galli and Paul Couzis, for the opportunity to join the team in Italy and all the knowledge and wisdom they have shared with me.”