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“The key is about seeking continuous improvement in everything you do”

Published 25.7.2022

Juan Felipe Padilla Guevara is a supervisor at the Dos Bocas Refinery. He shares what it’s like to be part of Techint E&C and tackle complex challenges daily.

The job of the supervisors at Techint E&C is to make sure that the works are carried out and completed on time, coordinating the different teams according to clear and precise objectives aligned with the customer’s goals. But this is just the general part of the job description. Zooming in on what’s involved on a day-to-day basis, the tasks are many and the pace intense. Juan Felipe Padilla Guevara, supervisor of civil works at the Dos Bocas Refinery in Mexico, shares a first-hand account of what it’s like to learn on the job from the inside, and the real challenges the team must face every day on the construction front.

The first steps in the industry

Juan is a civil engineer who graduated from the Autonomous University of Nuevo Leon. He’s been working at the company since 2009 and over the years has been part of several large-scale projects in different parts of Mexico.

He joined the company on the scholarship scheme when still at university, and he remembers those moments vividly: “They contacted me and invited me in for several rounds of interviews. Then they told me that they’d let me know, and I thought, ´Well, at least I tried!´ A few months later, I was on the subway in Monterrey and I got a call to me to let me know that I was through! I really didn’t expect it! They asked us to come in on September 1 at the Mexico City headquarters—and that was the day that it all started!”

After a year, Juan joined the Young Professionals program. His first project was the MOA in Monterrey, where he took the role of supervisor, before moving on to the Pesqueria galvanizing line. After two years, he returned to the MOA, now as the Manager of the Civil Phase at all the plants. “I really enjoyed the plant shutdowns for maintenance and repairs, where we had barely a few days to get various projects done and carry out maintenance tasks at the same time, something that’s almost impossible. I remember that every day, we found ourselves having to deal with a different situation, and we had to figure out how to solve it. That kind of dynamic keeps you on the ball and focused!”

Life in Dos Bocas

Currently, Juan is a supervisor at the Dos Bocas Refinery, which he defines as something truly impressive. “Despite all the experiences I’d had so far, and everything I thought I knew, when I got here I realized that this was quite a different story. Here, there are constant challenges: you have to achieve objectives within tight deadlines, and meeting customer requirements presents all kinds of challenges that we have to solve on a daily basis. At a personal level, I’d never been involved in such a huge project, and being here from ground zero, starting with soil improvements and segmentation, and seeing everything progress to the part where we’re finishing the civil part of the project, is really impressive.”

On-site learning is part-and-parcel of the job. “If you compare me with the Juan I was two years ago, I’ve clearly changed a lot professionally, but I’ve also changed personally. You meet so many people, and you’re a long way from home, and that changes you.” It’s almost two hours by plane, or alternatively, a day-and-a-half’s journey by car, to see his family, who live in Monterrey. Dos Bocas is the first project where Juan must be so far from his family, but he doesn’t regret his decision nor the effort it entails for a minute. Although he’s married, with a four-year-old girl, Ema, and a new baby on the way, Luciana, he’s adamant that distance strengthens family bonds.

In retrospect

“Throughout all these years I’ve met so many people and worked on so many projects and all of them have built this vast haul of experience. Even back in university, I was imagining myself working on big projects, and thanks to Techint E&C, I’ve been able to fulfill my dream! If I were to talk to the Juan who just left college, I’d tell him to grab every opportunity with both hands, without even thinking twice about it!”

He thinks for a moment and adds, “The opportunities are few, so whatever you do, you should do it well. And if you make a mistake—because one inevitably makes mistakes—you should always seek support and never try to handle things by yourself, because there’s always someone who’ll support you.” That’s one of the things that Juan highlights about Techint E&C’s company culture: the constant support and encouragement. He also defines the discipline and the way of working as positively challenging, in that the bar is always high. “It’s one thing to know how to work and quite another to know how to work within the Techint Group. Not everyone adapts, it’s a refined discipline that’s been instilled in us and that only those who are passionate about what we do can truly master.”

After so many years as a supervisor, Juan is clear about which characteristics a person should ideally have to step into those shoes successfully. Firstly, they must be able to visualize, at least two or three months ahead, how all the project activities are going to be carried out. “You evolve into a supervisor as you gather experience, the mere job title isn’t enough to make you one. As a supervisor, you have to evaluate the development of the project based on the sequence of events, its program and the volumes of resources that are going to be required.” He also draws attention to the importance of having a strong team aligned with the project goals. “Although you’re the one setting the objectives, according to what the customer and the company have defined, your role as a supervisor is about having a clear vision and mission and transmitting these. Because if a supervisor goes around by themselves without transmitting ideas or goals, it’s very difficult for them to achieve the objectives set, as no one will understand what they should be doing, or where they should be going, and the project won’t materialize.”

That’s the message that Juan tries to convey both to his work teams and to those just starting out on the path of engineering. “Opportunities are few and far between, so grasp them with confidence. That’s what it’s all about: the company knows what you’re capable of and you’re going to be able to adapt. Don’t be scared, as there will always be problems, the issue is to find a solution and a way to prevent them from happening again. The best experiences are those that come from bad results and mistakes, as that’s when we learn and improve, and not limit ourselves. The key is about seeking continuous improvement in everything you do.”

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