How I made it: Francesca Scassellati Sforzolini, Incisive Health

How I made it featuring Francesca Scassellati Sforzolini, MD at Incisive Health

Hanson Search steps inside the world of Incisive Health to interview Francesca Scassellati Sforzolini, MD and Head of Brussels Office, for our inspiring career series.

Francesca talks to us about the happy accident that led her into public affairs and communications, practical tips that keep her focused, and the challenges of finding that perfect work-life balance.


How did you get into the communications industry and what was your big break?

My public affairs and communications career started frankly a little bit by accident. I knew that I wanted to work in European affairs and international relations as that’s what I studied and specialised further in through my master’s. But I always thought I would focus on humanitarian aid and development and had initial experience in that sector both within the European institutions and international organisations. My first job in public affairs consulting then made me realise that my true passion is healthcare policy.   

There is no doubt that my proudest professional achievement so far has been setting up the Brussels office of Incisive Health in 2017. Together with my amazing team and colleagues, we have come a long way and I am extremely grateful to them for inspiring me and making our joint efforts rewarding and fun every day. And, of course, I’m grateful to our clients who continue to place their trust in us.

What keeps you sane on those crazy days? Do you have a daily routine to help you stay focused and motivated?

What keeps me sane and motivated is the very nature of my job. As health policy and communications specialists, my team and I strive to deliver not only the results that really matter for our clients but, importantly, for the patients we serve. I’m extremely proud of the fact that our work not only changes policy, but also transforms lives. And being surrounded by colleagues and clients who profoundly care about what they do is hugely motivating.

On a very practical level, I’m a doer and a ‘list person’. So my daily routine is very much based on making sure I deliver on what I have planned for the day and that I don’t push things forward into the week. This helps me stay focused and also relieve a bit of anxiety. 

Do you have a mentor or someone who inspires you to succeed?

Unfortunately I haven’t had a real mentor but that is something I really recommend looking for early on. I recently read Michelle Obama’s memoir, Becoming, and I completely agree with what she says about the importance of having an inspiring mentor to guide you in your career.

What’s important is that this person also sees their role as such and plays an active role in mentoring you throughout your career, which is what makes it different from just looking up to someone who inspires you.

What are the key qualities it takes to be a leader in today’s communications industry?

You have to have true passion for what you do and care about the issues you work on. When that is not the case, it not only shows and you therefore lose in credibility, but you’re also less effective. 

What career advice would you give your 20-year-old self?

To make the most out of each professional experience. Even when you find yourself in a job that does not feel 100% right, you have something to learn and that will be valuable at some point in your career. 

Also, as you move forward in your career you must learn to not feel guilty for sometimes having to compromise between your work and your family. This is something that many working women go through and is particularly difficult to deal with at certain stages in life, i.e. when you have young children. 

In my own career, I have at times made choices that fully prioritised my family. While I am happy about that and know that for me it was a good choice, that may not be the same for everyone. You just need to try and find out what is best for you and accept that whatever you decide will never feel completely perfect.

What do you see as the key to the growth of a successful team and a positive working environment?

For me, the key to this is managing through inclusion and information sharing. I fully believe in it and have seen in practice that it is an approach that works and motivates people. I also couldn’t do it any other way as that’s just who I am. 

What are the biggest changes you’ve seen in the industry since you started your career?

In healthcare, the fast evolving regulatory and policy space, technological innovations, and patient expectations create a very dynamic and rapidly changing environment. As health policy experts, our job is to translate these changes into opportunities for our clients but also help them understand how to make an impact in a way that is always respectful of the patient perspective. The importance of patient engagement is perhaps the biggest change we’re seeing in the last years. When working at EU level, it is also increasingly important to think about the national impact and relevance of all that we do.

Name one technology that you could not live without.

My camera! I just love taking and sharing pictures.

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Author: Francesca Messa

Francesca is a Consultant at Hanson Search, specialising in communications, marketing and public affairs roles across Europe. She recruits into both the agency and in-house space from junior-level roles up to MD/CEO-level.

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