Thomas Catanese (SKEMA 2017): “Get involved to stay connected”

04 April 2022 Interview

Thomas Catanese (SKEMA 2017) is working at the Société des Bains de Mer in casino field at Monaco. In this interview with SKEMA Alumni, he shares his enthusiasm at being actively involved with his alma mater as a member of the admissions panel for the PGE programme.


Thomas, tell us about your background?


I’d always dreamed of working at the Monte Carlo Casino. After 22 years as a cashier (customer contact is very important to me), in direct contact with one of the most demanding international clienteles, requiring “discretion, rigour and confidentiality” from us, I had nothing left to learn in that job. I taught myself German and Russian, then wanted to move to the next level by taking up more professional studies again, at an internationally renowned business school: SKEMA. I started my post-graduate studies with an M1 at SKEMA. I then did an M2 at the Sorbonne in Paris, continued with an MBA at the Institut de Haute Finance (IHFi), then rounded off with a degree certification at the London School of Economics (LSE). I’m a product of continuing education. I’ve followed an unconventional career path, but I am and will always be hands-on.

Why did you choose SKEMA to continue your education? How did you hear about the school and what appealed to you the most about it at the time?

I heard about SKEMA through an old friend, Pascal Lavagna (PGE 2017). He explained the concept to me in detail and it became obvious that the STEM business strategy and management programme (Operational and Strategic Manager SME SMI) on SKEMA’s Sophia Antipolis campus was the way forward for me. I was won over by the course format – two days a week as continuing education –, the diversity of programmes (HR, Management, Accounting, Law, etc.), and especially the calibre of the lecturers.


What are you up to these days?

At the end of my studies, I was tasked with setting up the Back Office Department (compliance, AML/CFT, etc.) within a finance department of the Monte Carlo Casino, then I moved into a more operational role where I had contact with the highrollers (longstanding patrons).

For several years now, you’ve been on the admissions panel for the PGE programme. What is or has been your motivation for participating each year?

To me, it is crucial for accumulated experience (both professional and academic) to be put to use in recruiting the most suitable profiles for the PGE programme. So at my level, I’m contributing to raising SKEMA’s international profile for the future generations.

What do you get out of it?

Personally, the interaction with the PGE candidates at SKEMA allows me to stay connected to a youth that is without a doubt the future elite of tomorrow. I get an immense sense of satisfaction when I see graduates thrive in their careers.

In your opinion, why do people choose to sit on the admissions panel? And why did you decide to get involved?

To use a metaphor inspired by the current COVID situation, you could say that I have, happily, caught the “SKEMA DNA” virus and that each year I get my booster dose by being a member of the admissions panel for the PGE programme. On the day of my admissions interview, I was told that “there is a life before SKEMA and a life after SKEMA”. That is absolutely true.


Is the admissions panel there to “trip up” candidates?

Not at all. We’re there to assess the candidates and get the best out of them, to get them out of their comfort zone. As the saying goes, “To win without risk is to triumph without glory”. A place in a programme like the PGE has to be earned. For this, we have to be tough in our decisions, but always remain objective.


What is your favourite question to ask candidates?

The candidates come with a CV showing their ten-year career aspirations. That gives us a good idea of who they are and facilitates the interview process. There is one question I’m particularly fond of: “What do you think your position is in a group? Leader or follower?” Different but complementary profiles are needed to form an effective and homogeneous work group. Groups thrive on differences.


What do you especially enjoy about this experience?


Above all, I enjoy all the interaction with the younger generation.

How often do you participate?

Depending on how busy I am, I try to come at least three times (full day or half-day).


What would you say to SKEMA alumni who’ve never sat on the admissions panel or who are hesitating?

COME!!! The candidate can benefit from your experience to contemplate their own career path. It’s an excellent way to grow on a personal level. It’s a win/win. Plus, for me, it gives me an opportunity to see many students from my cohort, since in addition to Alexandra Castiglia (STEM 2017) and I choosing one day when we’re both on the panel (something we agreed when we were elected as representatives), in the evening we organise a meal with our entire cohort (best team STEM 2017). It’s always a great pleasure to get together.


Is there a memory that stands out for you from your admissions panel experience?

One day I saw a student enter the interview room and it took me back five years to the time when I was in his shoes. I didn’t have the typical profile for a business school but, like him, I had other things to offer and I was given a chance. Based on this, I insisted on giving a very favourable evaluation. He was later accepted into the PGE programme.


If you are PGE graduated for more than 5 years and that you are interested in being part of the admissions panel for the PGE programme, you can contact us: 

Campus du Grand Paris :

Campus de Lille :

Campus de Sophia Antipolis :


Contact: Thomas Catanese - Casino Department at Monte-Carlo SBM / Société des Bains de Mer