Piling Canada

A Road Well-Travelled

Working for Soilmec has given Marco Chiarabelli a unique opportunity to see much of the world – and he believes he’s a better businessman because of it
Written by Mark Halsall
July 2020

Photo courtesy of Marco Chiarabelli

Marco Chiarabelli is a top executive for Soilmec Drilling and Foundation Equipment, a major supplier of drilling rigs and equipment for deep foundation projects the world over.

When you consider all the kilometres he has travelled and the many places he’s lived during his 13 years working in the industry, Chiarabelli’s road to success could be considered longer than most.

Chiarabelli was born near Venice, Italy, and now resides in Los Angeles, Calif., as the managing director of Soilmec North America. There have been numerous stops in between during his tenure with Soilmec, including East Asia, Denmark, and Texas.

Chiarabelli says it hasn’t always been easy adjusting to each new location, but he’s received a lot out of the experiences.

“You really deal with a wide range of people,” he said. “For a person like me who considers himself a people person, the opportunity to deal with different cultures and different people is something I’ve always found extremely interesting, beyond the technical aspect of the work itself.”

Chiarabelli began working in the deep foundations industry in 2007, after graduating with a master’s degree in civil and environmental engineering from the University of Bologna in Italy. Shortly after, he joined Soilmec as deputy sales manager for the company’s Far East division, overseeing sales operations in South Korea, Singapore, Hong Kong, Vietnam, Cambodia, and Myanmar.

“The first years in Asia were challenging for sure because I was younger and it was something completely new for me,” Chiarabelli said.

Chiarabelli considers his time there a great learning experience that helped build his confidence and skills, and he also developed a real appreciation for all the places he travelled to in Asia.

Chiarabelli’s next move was to Denmark, where he was involved in a massive $3-billion expansion of the Copenhagen subway system. From 2011 to 2014, he held several positions during the project for Trevi, a sister company of Soilmec, before assuming the role of deputy project manager.

For Chiarabelli, the Copenhagen project was particularly memorable because it was so challenging – the deep foundation crews were drilling into very hard rock (up to 500 megapascal) and they also had to conform to very stringent regulations.

As Trevi’s deputy project manager for the job, Chiarabelli shared responsibility for co-ordinating the activities of 240 employees in all departments, including construction, legal, human relations and quality assurance and control.

“This is where I learned more about what it means to be a leader,” he said, adding that he found working in the area of project management tremendously beneficial as well.

“Being a contractor rather than being a manufacturer, it’s a completely different thing. It requires a different set of skills,” said Chiarabelli.

“Copenhagen was a great experience because I had the opportunity to be on the other side of the fence, getting to really understand what your customers are usually struggling with. That for sure was another plus.”

This was followed by a five-year stint in Fort Worth, Texas, where Chiarabelli served as business development manager for Watson Inc. (a Soilmec subsidiary at the time) and later on as corporate area manager for Soilmec North America.

Last stop

Chiarabelli’s final move took him to California in 2018, when he was promoted to the position of managing director for Soilmec North America. He lives in Los Angeles with his wife Sara and their two children, Achille, 11, and Vittoria, 10.

Chiarabelli says he made a lot of goods friends and really came to feel at home in Texas after the initial transition period. In terms of the weather and the setting though, he says it’s hard to beat southern California.

Chiarabelli says that he used to spend up to 150 days a year on the road when he was mainly focused on sales, but he’s doing less of that in his current position.

He still travels regularly to Alberta, Ontario and Quebec, to visit Soilmec’s Canadian dealerships, which is something Chiarabelli looks forward to.

“I personally really enjoy the time I spend in Canada. It’s good people, really,” he said.

Chiarabelli says that the chance to travel was one of the things that drew him to Soilmec in the first place.

“I’ve had the opportunity to travel and see different scenarios, different environments, different cultures,” he said.

“This is something I’ve always liked, and it’s always been one of my main drivers. I like to be challenged and I like to see new things. The company has always given me that kind of opportunity, which is very important for me.”

Chiarabelli says the company culture and all the support he’s received through the years are additional reasons he values Soilmec.

“There’s always been a good mix of growing opportunities, but at the same time it’s a company that you feel is somehow protecting you. It’s not just throwing you out there and then, you know, you’re on your own,” he said.

“That was important, especially when you start having a family. Living for so many years as an expat, I know it’s not easy unless you feel that the company is somehow standing behind you, whatever happens.”

Chiarabelli also had the good fortune of having a couple of great mentors during his time at Soilmec – Federico Pagliacci, who for many years was the company’s vice-president of business development, and Stefano Cordella, who is global sales director for Soilmec.

“Federico and Stefano are the guys who taught me how the industry works, how to sell. So not just technical skills, but also social skills, everything that’s needed in order to become a good businessman,” Chiarabelli said.

“I am really, really grateful to these two people because without them my working life would have been tougher and my learning curve longer.”

Chiarabelli has a few tips himself for young people joining or thinking about entering the deep foundation industry.

Not surprisingly, he believes one good piece of advice is to try to find mentors who can help guide you during your career. Chiarabelli also recommends trying to participate as much as possible in conferences and other industry events.

“Usually, there are training sessions and they are a great place to learn something,” he said, adding he also believes they’re a great place to create connections.

“There are opportunities to meet a lot of people from the industry and also from the research world, a lot of professors from colleges in not just the United States, but from Canada and Europe as well,” he said. “It’s an industry where the world of the research is strongly linked with the world of contractors and manufacturers.”

Chiarabelli feels that trust is another thing that sets the deep foundation business apart.

“I like the fact that it’s an industry where there are still a lot of people who you can just trust their words,” he said. “I mean, most of our clients are people who will still do handshake deals. In today’s world, that’s not easy to find.”

That’s not to say the industry isn’t undergoing change in a lot of other areas, Chiarabelli says. He finds it really interesting to see how limits continue to be pushed – which in construction, he believes means constructing something that’s larger, taller and deeper than what’s been built before.

Chiarabelli says one good example is the new light rail transit system being constructed in Montreal, Que.

“I believe it is going to be one of the longest in the world,” he said. “These kinds of challenges are good. I think everybody wants to get ahead and this is good for the industry, generally speaking.” Piling Canada

Category: Profile

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Piling Canada is the premier national voice for the Canadian deep foundation construction industry. Each issue is dedicated to providing readers with current and informative editorial, including project updates, company profiles, technological advancements, safety news, environmental information, HR advice, pertinent legal issues and more.

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