Manuela Nicolosi’s Infectious Passion Is Breaking Barriers While Benefiting Bosch

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nicosi 2As I wrote in my book Fanocracy and I say in every talk I deliver, passion is infectious. Your passion for whatever you love serves to draw people to you. Yet most people are reluctant to mix their personal and professional lives.

At the Performance Strategies Marketing Forum in Milan, I had an opportunity to meet Manuela Nicolosi after I delivered my talk. She works at Bosch, a global supplier of technology and services. She is also a professional football (soccer) referee and was one of three women to officiate men's World Cup for first time.

Manuela is passionate about football and has spent more than a decade refereeing at top matches around the world. She has served in the Olympics, the Women’s World Cup, and the Men’s SuperCup Final.

IMG_6952She had to overcome much adversity to make it to where she is, starting with the objections of her father. “I wanted to be a football player,” she told me. “I loved what I saw the first time I went to the stadium when I was four years old. I saw people around me crying, shouting, and hugging each other and I wanted to be a person giving other people those same emotions.”

As she was growing up playing football and getting very good, her father told her she had to stop because it was a man’s game.

However, when she was 15, the Federation opened the ability to serve as a referee to women and Manuela signed up right away. She already knew the rules, was fit, and was passionate about the sport.

She’s had to overcome the skepticism of men since the very beginning of her career. “When I arrived at a stadium, the coaches looked at me and said, ‘Who are you?’ When I said I was the referee, they said, ‘Are you kidding?’”

nicosiManuela excelled and moved up the ranks, refereeing more important matches while working a full-time job at a different company prior to joining Bosch. “When I was invited to referee a FIFA tournament for the first time, I had to ask my male boss for two weeks off from work,” she says. “He refused. So, I quit my job!”

A few years later, she was one of three women appointed to the final of the World Cup. Manuela thinks they assigned three women at the same time so that history was made for women, not just one person, and the women could show what they can do.

“It was the first time in history that women were refereeing men's final,” she says. “We had very big pressure. Either we demonstrate that we could do the job, or we’d never have a chance to do that again.” They did very well indeed and now women officials are more common.

However, she still faces misogyny on and off the field. Long ago, her father told her she couldn’t play soccer because she was a girl. She followed his wishes, but she found a way to be an important part of the game at the highest possible level.

“This is my passion,” she says. “This is what makes the fire inside me.”

Bosch noticed her passion and hired her to work within their Foundation in a role called Training for the Future. She gives talks in schools to young people about the importance of living their dreams, inspiring both boys and girls. “I tell them: ‘You must find the courage to follow your passion’.”

Manuela is a true trailblazer. And so is Bosch, recognizing that Manuela’s passion is something to be shared.

Are you sharing your passion with the world? Is your organization celebrating the passions of its employees?

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