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Meet the researcher: Professor Valerio De Stefano
Depth interview

Meet the researcher: Professor Valerio De Stefano

Valerio De Stefano (37) is a research professor in labour law. His research focuses on precarious employment and digital platforms.

6 minutes
21 October 2020

As a child, what did you want to become?

I wanted to play basketball in the NBA. I never thought I would be a professor of employment law but it’s very rewarding. Creating and spreading knowledge is what makes the world move forward. Labour law is about people so it teaches you about humankind.’

Is there a job you feel envious about?

‘In another life I’d like to be a marine biologist. I grew up in the south of Italy, and I love the sea.’

Is there anything your students do not know about you, which would surprise them if they did?

‘Maybe that I used to go paragliding?’

Do you have a motto?

‘Et si omnes, ego non. I won’t do something I don’t approve of, even if everyone else does.’

Which book is lying on your nightstand?

‘A novel by Don Winslow and a history of contemporary China. I like to jump from one book to the other.’

Is there a film or series you recently enjoyed?

‘Unorthodox, a series on Netflix. And I’ve compiled a list of labour related movies for my students. On that list is Pride, about a group of LGBT people who supported the miners’ strikes in the UK in the eighties.’

What’s on your playlist?

‘Exile on Main Street by the Rolling Stones. Bob Dylan. And modern hip-hop.’

Is there a project you would like to start if money weren’t an issue?

‘A swimming school by the sea.’

‘I’m pretty stubborn and tend to stick to what I have decided upon.’

Is there a resolution you just can’t keep?

‘I’m pretty stubborn and tend to stick to what I have decided upon.’

What is your worst character feature?

‘Probably my stubbornness.’

What do you hate?

‘Arbitrariness and arrogance.’

What is your biggest fear?

‘That we will end up giving up many of the liberties that we have fought for. For various reasons, like Covid-19.’

What would you try and save if your house were on fire?

‘My guitars. I have eight. You cannot ever have too many guitars.’

What is the worst job you ever did?

‘Frying fries in a fast food restaurant.’

What was the most moving moment of your career so far?

‘When KU Leuven recently awarded me with the service to society award (Maatschappijprijs, red.). And when one of my students became a professor himself.’

How do you relax?

‘By playing the guitar or meditating.’

Is there any bad habit you would like to get rid of?

‘I smoke but not that much so I guess it’s not that big a deal.’

What is the closest you have ever been to death?

‘When I was distracted while riding my bike and almost got run over by a tram.’

What keeps you awake at night?

‘The Dutch exam I have to pass in two years’ time in order to be able to stay here. I rarely have time to study and I don’t see how that is ever going to improve. It’s on my mind all the time. We’ll see. I can always go back to frying fries.’

What was your last travel destination?

‘I went to Brazil for work but I stayed some time longer. Very beautiful nature, the people are super nice and the food is good. And I stayed close to the beach.’

What are you most proud of?

‘That I managed to get a job as an international researcher in a very good university, coming from a small town in a not so developed area, and a family that wasn’t rich.’

What would you like to be better at?

‘Playing the guitar. I’m good, but you can always get better.’

What would you like to do when you retire?

‘Learn to play the piano.’

Which invention would make your life easier?

‘Tele-transportation. I like going around but I don’t like being in a plane.’

Which compliment touched you the most?

‘Somebody recently told me that I gave feedback in a very kind way.’

What makes you intensely happy?

‘Any new experience which is authentic and exciting. Listening to a new song or meeting the son or daughter of a friend for the first time….’

What is the best advice you ever received?

‘My PhD supervisor in Milan told me to go and work abroad.’

Is there anything you would like to spend more time on?

‘Reading books that are not related to my job.’

Any new experience which is authentic and exciting makes me happy. Listening to a new song or meeting the son or daughter of a friend for the first time….

Which book will always stick with you?

‘Les Misérables. I read it when I was very young and then again some years ago. A masterpiece about humanity and compassion and second chances, which everybody needs in life.’

Who do you admire?

‘Anyone who’s struggling to make ends meet and raise a family.’

Who deserves to get a street named after him or her?

‘Ruth Bader Ginsberg, a judge of the Supreme court in the US who has – very successfully – been fighting all her life for women’s rights and minority rights.’

Which compliment touched you the most?

‘Somebody recently told me that I gave feedback in a very kind way.’

What makes you intensely happy?

‘Any new experience which is authentic and exciting. Listening to a new song or meeting the son or daughter of a friend for the first time….’

What is the best advice you ever received?

‘My PhD supervisor in Milan told me to go and work abroad.’

Is there anything you would like to spend more time on?

‘Reading books that are not related to my job.’

My comfort food? I’m nationally obliged to say pizza but, in homage to my host country, I’ll also mention French – pardon – Belgian fries.

Which book will always stick with you?

‘Les Misérables. I read it when I was very young and then again some years ago. A masterpiece about humanity and compassion and second chances, which everybody needs in life.’

Who do you admire?

‘Anyone who’s struggling to make ends meet and raise a family.’

Who deserves to get a street named after him or her?

‘Ruth Bader Ginsberg, a judge of the Supreme court in the US who has – very successfully – been fighting all her life for women’s rights and minority rights.’

Which power song helps you to get up in the morning?

‘Like a Rolling Stone by Bob Dylan.’

What to you is hell on earth?

‘More than three days of rain in a row.’

Do you have some kind of ritual?

‘I really like to prepare my Cappuccino in the morning.’

What would be the perfect date?

‘If I answer this, I’ll be in trouble.’

Is there a character in history or literature you can relate to?

‘Charlie Brown.’

What’s your comfort food?

‘I’m nationally obliged to say pizza but, in homage to my host country, I’ll also mention French – pardon – Belgian fries.’