Meet Sebastian Quaglia, the man who cheated death to study an MBA
The Reid Malley Foundation Scholarship helps students in financial need study at Melbourne Business School.
For Sebastian Quaglia, the road to the classroom almost ended his dreams – and his life.An Italian engineer by trade, Sebastian's great obsessions are numbers and travel. They drove him to apply for permanent residency in Australia and further his education, but before he could begin, a motorcycle accident almost ended it all.
"It was pretty bad," he remembers. "A vehicle cut me off, and I ran straight into it. But I was very lucky. I lost a lot of blood, but they got me to hospital in time. I couldn’t move for six months and was out of action for a year. It took me a long time to walk again – real baby steps at first."
The accident happened just after Sebastian had received his permanent residency to move to Australia, which he had waited 12 months to receive. The recovery set him back another year.
Sebastian finally made it to Australia in late 2016 and found work as a construction manager and property investment analyst in Sydney while looking for the right place to study his MBA.
“I researched universities in Australia thoroughly and worked out that Melbourne Business School was the best. I looked at the curriculum, the high entry requirements and spoke with professors, and the impression was very good. I also realised that the extensive alumni network offered many opportunities to break into new fields – and a good network is paramount in business.”
As fate would have it, Sebastian’s talent and determination were recognised by successful Australian engineer, businessman and alumnus Allan Reid, who created the Reid Malley Foundation Scholarship with his wife to help great candidates study at Melbourne Business School.
"I wouldn't be doing my MBA here without that scholarship," says Sebastian. "With my accident, not working for so long in Italy, moving to Australia, and trying to find work here, it made studying possible, and I'm forever grateful."
Sebastian says his journey through engineering, project management, financial analysis and now an MBA has been driven by a persistent desire for new challenges.
“I remember as a child, looking at buildings and wondering, 'How do they make those things, and make them withstand the forces of nature?' So, I did my first degree in engineering, but once I knew how things worked, I wanted to do something more.”
Sebastian loves the diversity of his cohort, who come from all over the world and a variety of backgrounds and experiences.
“The diversity of opinions makes the program really special and everything interesting. In five or 10 years time, we'll be scattered all over the world, and I’ll be able to pick up the phone and ask for advice or just catch up. That’s priceless.”
Sebastian is the oldest member of his cohort and the joint recipient of the scholarship with Kumar Kush, the youngest. As the oldest, Sebastian is often asked for advice.
“People in my cohort sometimes think I can help because of my age, but they often just want to know where they can get the best pizza in Melbourne, which is DOC on Lygon Street in my opinion. It's very, very good, proper Italian.”
He also has a strong opinion about Melbourne’s coffee.
“I went back to Italy last December and was surprised to be thinking about the coffee in Melbourne, which is incredible. It's better than in Milan.”
But Sebastian’s real reason for being here is his love of numbers – which he says his MBA studies are satisfying.
“Every time I open a book or a balance sheet, I'm happy. I know that sounds geeky, but it's true. The world makes sense to me when I do that, and that’s why I'm here. Being able to look at what everybody is looking at but see an action or growth opportunity, that's what the MBA gives you.”
Sebastian hopes to become an investment banker once he graduates, and see more of Australia, having already made up for his lost year after his accident.
"Coming to Australia has always been my dream. I love the scenery, the surfing and have travelled along the Great Ocean Road and to Kangaroo Island – I’ve even been cage diving with sharks, which was amazing. I love the people and mix of cultures here. No one judges you. Everyone tries to understand you. I love this openness."
Now that he's in Australia, Sebastian hopes to give back to his new country – and hopefully influence the direction it takes in the future.
"The world is more and more interconnected, and Australia is well positioned because of its proximity to the growing centres of Asia and India. To grow, it needs to invest in people and attract knowledge and brain power. That’s why I’m here, and I really hope to contribute."