“There’s no age limit when it comes to reaching our goals, the really important thing is to do it well”
Dante Olivares Pardo is the head of the Quality, Health, Safety and Environment area (QHSE) at the Techint Engineering & Construction’s Machine Park in Peru. In this article, he talks about his early days at the company and his decision to study engineering—at the ripe age of 48.
Dante Olivares Pardo is 55 and has been working at TEPAM, Peru, for the last two years, heading up the QHSE area. But his relationship with the Group dates back to 2002 when the Company was working on the Camisea gas pipeline, one of its flagship works and the largest energy project in Peru. The Company was commissioned to lay a 730 km-long natural gas pipeline and a 560 km natural gas liquids pipeline running in parallel, across some of the most challenging terrain in the world. That was when Dante began to make a name for himself as a man of perseverance.
“The Techint E&C offices at that time were in Pisco, where I live. So I cycled there from my house every day for three months and hung around at the company door to see if they had received my CV. I was always one of the first to arrive and the last to leave. Camisea was a megaproject that everyone wanted to join, so people came from all over Peru to try and get a job there—and I wanted to be part of it too!” he recalls.
Challenging experience in Camisea
Dante remembers that, although he had no technical studies and had only completed high-school studies, his sights were firmly set on being part of the project. He had plenty of varied experience as he had worked as a laborer and a carpenter, as well as on his father's fishing boat. He’d also done military service and army and had even worked as a guard for a security company. But “I had a burning desire to work—and I really needed to, as I was married with two small daughters to raise, at the time,” he adds.
Finally, his persistence paid off and he joined Techint E&C to work in the area of Environment for the Camisea project. “At first I was posted to work up in the mountains. My job was to carry out reconnaissance activities on the right-of-way and analyze how likely it was that the course could have any kind of impact on the environment. In addition, we carried out field activities on the work fronts, supervising the management of waste, water and effluents at the camps and providing workers with induction and training courses. I had the chance to work in all three sectors: on the coast, in the mountains and in the rainforest, and I ended up earning the nickname "Dante the walker" because of all the walking I had to do along long parts of these different stretches," he recalls.
Subsequently, Dante joined the Maintenance team, working in the Environment area in the rainforest sector, where his job entailed visiting different camps, which gradually grew in number over the years to become 18. In many cases, the only way to get there was by helicopter, and often, in order to reach more camps, his team had to cover the distance on foot to ensure they could meet all their objectives, including raising awareness of environmental issues, checking environmental management procedures, and training staff to protect local flora and fauna.
Dante has countless stories and anecdotes from his time in the rainforest, such as when he trudged 15 kilometers through the jungle, up and down steep inclines that reached 600 meters, just to find a camp with a telephone that he could use to call his wife on her birthday. Or the time when he was in charge of the Contingency Plan for LNG spill emergencies, and had to bivouac several days in the depths of the rainforest with a small group of workers to set up control points in case there was a spill. "The helicopter simply dropped us off in the heart of the jungle." At the end of each walk, of each task, with each objective achieved, his thoughts always turned to his family.
The dream of qualifying an engineer
In 2016, he decided it was time to make one of his childhood dreams come true: to study and qualify as an engineer. Dante weighed up the options and applied to the online version of the study course, although there were many obstacles that cropped up along the way. At one point, the university offering the program closed the online version, but then thanks to the pandemic, the opportunity reappeared. “It was a huge effort, but there was nothing that could get in my way to stop me, as far as I was concerned. I am immensely grateful to those who were my bosses at the time: Adrian Spaltro and, now in TEPAM, to Claudio Poletti, as thanks to their support, I was able to complete my bachelor's degree in Industrial Engineering," he says.
Processes and methods
When asked what advice he would give young talent today, Dante makes the point that, “it’s crucial to have patience and perseverance in everything we do. Currently, productivity focuses more on quantity than quality, but in fact, we need to comply with all processes and methods to do things well. There’s no age limit when it comes to reaching our goals, the really important thing is to do it well.”
“I think we have to bust the myth that safety, the environment and health are obstacles to production from the operations point of view. My vision is to head up an operational group able to show that production, safety, the environment, quality and the social side of things can work together effectively,” he reflects.
To wind up, Dante says how grateful he is for the opportunity that Techint E&C gave him to grow professionally. His hope is that the new "Techineros", as he calls them, will not only be good professionals, but also feel part of the company, and sport its colors, so to speak. As for his own achievements, he looks back with satisfaction: "I’ve managed to do my job well, train people, and raise awareness of QHSE issues among the local population of the area—and on top of that, I’ve completed my studies and qualified as an Engineer," he concludes.
The story of Dante Olivares Pardo is one of great perseverance, a clear example that age is no obstacle when your mind is firmly set on achieving your goals.