From a museum to a mountain refuge: the journey of María Alejandra Rabuffetti at Techint Engineering & Construction
María Alejandra Rabuffetti is an architect with a degree from the University of Buenos Aires (UBA). This year, she celebrates 37 years of work at Techint E&C. In her role as Architecture Project Manager, she tells us about her career at the company, the variety of projects she’s been involved in, and some of the experiences that have left an indelible mark on her life. As she looks back, she recognizes that one of the most important things about her career has been the enormous value of the people who accompanied her along the way.
It sounds like you’ve been at Techint forever!
Practically, yes! I joined the company in 1986 when I’d just graduated. I did the Young Professionals (YP) program, then I was a Young Professional, then I became a senior, and finally I headed up projects. In the year 2000, I was put in charge of the team of architects, and I’ve been a Project Manager since 2019. I’ve always worked in the Architecture section of the Civil Engineering Department.
What projects have you participated in?
There’ve been so many projects, all varied and very different, some even quite unusual, one might say. The company’s core business focuses on industrial projects, and we have worked on oil pipelines, petrochemical plants and thermoelectric power stations, refineries, and facilities for the steel industry, among many others. We have also participated, for example, in projects such as the remodeling of the National Museum of Fine Arts and the remodeling of the Coliseo Theater; we built the Museum of Architecture that Ternium donated to the Central Society of Architects and carried out a feasibility study for the Engineering Faculty at the University of Buenos Aires (UBA). There are so many projects, and each one has been so enriching, that time has simply flown by.
What projects do you feel have most marked you?
The first one that comes to mind, because of its importance, is the Ezeiza Jail, which we built in Argentina between 1998 and 2000. We drew up the technical proposal for the tender, including basic and detail engineering. It was an architectural design with which we were not familiar, and it included some very complex details, so we had to travel to visit different prisons throughout Latin America. The project went extremely well, we had a great team and subsequently we gave several talks and presentations on the work.
Then, we worked on the building for the La Nación newspaper, the Bouchard Plaza Tower, between 2000 and 2003, which is where we are currently based. This was the home of one of our leading national newspaper dailies, which at the time had six floors, and we erected a 17-story tower on top of this. The newsroom worked around the clock, so we had to coordinate the tasks well to make sure we didn’t affect the people working there.
We also built the Group’s corporate building in Neuquén, between 2019 and 2021, which houses the offices belonging to Tenaris, Exiros, Tecpetrol and Techint E&C. We had to manage the outbreak of the pandemic right in the middle of the work, but our attitude is that whenever something gets in the way, we must overcome it with enthusiasm and a positive mindset.
And what about those projects with a more emotional significance: which ones are special?
There’s no doubt that for me this is the Agostino Rocca Andean Refuge, which we built in 2012. The refuge was a donation from the Techint Group in honor of Agostino Rocca, who was a great lover of the mountains and of the Patagonian region in general. The company donated the refuge to the Club Andino Bariloche, and built it on Mount Tronador, up in the Paso de las Nubes. It was a really interesting project because of its symbolic and emotional significance for the company. For me, it was a totally different experience, as up until then I had been a very city person. I had to fly down to Bariloche several times to check on progress at the project, and in the course of the work, I got to know climbers and mountain guides. I remember the long trek up to the Tronador, which was some 14 km one way—and then you had turn round and go all the way back down again. They told me the trek would take six hours, and finally I did it in three: I made it, but you’d better not ask me how I managed to walk the next day!
You gave a presentation at the International Engineering Congress, what would you like to highlight from that experience?
I was involved in the 2010 edition of the congress, specifically in the Women's Forum. I was working on the organizational side of things from Techint, collaborating with the Argentine Center of Engineers, as the moderator of the panel of Women in Engineering and Business. On that occasion, we gave a joint presentation with the Tenaris Gender Diversity Department, which had already been working on strategic issues to attract, promote and retain women in the company. Our paper was on gender diversity and it went down extremely well and was subsequently selected to be exhibited. We were singled out for praise in recognition of the excellent standard of the work presented.
My big take-away from this experience is how much the world needs engineers, whether men or women, hence the vital importance of attracting women to professions and positions that tend to be dominated by men, and similarly, the crucial importance of educating children, in particular girls, about engineering and sparking their interest at an early age.
If you look at your entire professional journey, is there anything that stands out as especially relevant to your development?
It’s the people who’ve walked by my side all this way! Our company has incredible people, at all levels, good people who are very generous, and it’s thanks to them that I’ve been able to grow. In my case, although I’ve had help from a lot of incredibly valuable figures over the years, I would single out two mentors. Enrique Hermann, who helped me from a very young age, took me to visit construction sites and encouraged me to grow and continue studying. And Andrés Lorenzo, who unfortunately died young, with whom I participated in extremely important projects, such as the Ezeiza Jail and the La Nación newspaper building. He was a talented team builder.
What advice would you give young professionals just starting out?
I would tell them to roll their sleeves up and get stuck in, to work collaboratively, to do their research and build networks with others, sharing information, being patient, and focusing on learning. I would also recommend that they look for a mentor, although this does not necessarily have to be a formal position, as they can be a leader able to teach and accompany them. When I was on the YP program, I learned something that I still apply and recommend to this day: the importance of self-motivation. You should always strive to go beyond what you’re asked to do, to put your soul into it and build relationships, because there are always more opportunities to be found out there.
Do you think there is any special ingredient that guarantees the success of a project?
Success depends on all kinds of factors, such as meeting the deadlines, offering a competitive value-cost ratio, and excellent quality, but I think enjoying the work helps a lot. I always say that if you enjoy things, they’re bound to go well. That's why you have to enjoy your work at the projects!
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