#WomenInConstruction: Three different stories united by the same passion
Paula Borchowiec, Soledad Calcagno and Mariana Ballesteros are all working at Techint Engineering & Construction: here they share their professional journey and highlight the opportunities the company has given them.
Chemical engineers by training, Paula Borchowiec, Soledad Calcagno and Mariana Ballesteros are a shining example of the adage that the road is only made by walking. These three employees working at Techint E&C have extensive experience in the industry, and although their experiences and journeys have taken them along different routes, today they all occupy leadership positions and are not afraid of tackling big challenges.
For Paula Borchowiec, Head of Process Design in Buenos Aires, her experience at Techint E&C can be summed up as one of "continuous learning". She says that since she joined the Process Department as a Young Professional 18 years ago, she hasn’t stopped learning, as much about technical issues as about human relations. Today, she’s getting to know and new and very different area, LNG (liquefied natural gas), which she defines as “a great challenge”.
She remembers that, a month after joining the company in 2005, she was assigned to work at a project for Aramco, in Saudi Arabia. “I met lots of people from other specialties who really helped me grow professionally. I’d wander around with my notebook and ask them tons of questions. They were people with a lot of experience but they never had a problem sitting down with me to explain things,” recalls Paula.
Soledad Calcagno is the Head of Project Engineering and has been at Techint E&C for 13 years, joining the company initially as a senior process engineer. Two years ago, she was transferred to Houston, United States, to coordinate the engineering crew put together to work with Bechtel on a project to install an LNG plant for the MPL company in Mexico.
Back in 2010, her job was to provide support for various projects, until in 2012 she was assigned as the Process leader for KP 127, a compression plant built for the Camisea pipeline system in Peru. “I was incredibly lucky to be involved in all the stages of engineering. During the construction phase, which was completed on time and without any incidents, we were invited to tour the plant, so that we could see what we had designed actually built and operational. Being able to do this closes the cycle for us, as usually we only follow a project’s progress on paper. Finally witnessing that what we designed has taken shape is very exciting,” says Soledad.
Mariana Ballesteros, Head of Process Design, works at the Neuquén Corporate Building. Although she only joined the company a year ago, she was previously working at a company with which Techint has a framework contract, where she co-coordinated the basic engineering involved in building the La Calera CPF (Central Processing Facility). Over time, she joined the company’s ranks, and is now working on the detail engineering phase for this project.
However, her first assignment at Techint was at the EPF in Fortín de Piedra, built to increase the plant's production capacity. “This was a fast-track project, so in addition to the technical aspects, we had to overcome significant challenges in terms of scheduling. We were already at the construction stage, so we had to be very vigilant in terms of keeping an eye on all the details, which, if you never had to work on an Engineering, Procurement & Construction (EPC) project before, could go unnoticed. It was incredibly challenging and fluid communication between all disciplines was super important,” explains Mariana.
A place to grow
According to Soledad, Techint is all about "growing while you walk." “In my experience, at times it’s been quite an upward path in terms of all the training, knowledge and progress, but this path often has many curves, and there can be a bit of coming and going. It depends a lot on what the person walking the route taken really wants,” affirms Soledad.
Mariana, who defines herself as "quite restless", highlights that, “At this company, I feel that there’s a great deal of knowledge, and people who are very inclined to share it. Finding others like yourself who also enjoy learning, finding things out and always trying to go just a little further, is very motivating for me. If you want to develop, the opportunities are there. And actually, people are very open to helping you and explaining things to you, and that's great."
Techint is family
Paula made her debut as the head of a specialty area, managing a large group, right in the middle of the COVID-19 pandemic, at the new Dos Bocas Refinery project for Mexico, which started in July 2020 and is now well on the road to completion. In addition to being a huge job, the challenge was compounded by having to work exclusively in home office mode. Paula recalls that, “this was a massive challenge and, to be honest, I'm really proud of the group I was assigned, because we managed to pull it off."
And there were also some surprises. “After listening to me talk on Teams so much, one day I found my daughter playing and she was saying 'no, take that valve out of there and put it on the other side',” remembers Paula with a laugh. In fact, her children who are now 10 and 6 years old grew up in a Techint family, as Paula's husband also works in the company.
Soledad adds that, "At Techint, there’s a natural tendency to fuse family and professional well-being." Shortly after the birth of her second daughter, she was offered the chance to participate in a project in Peru. “They knew that I was interested in moving to another country if I could. I said yes, obviously I was very keen to do this but that I couldn't separate myself from my baby. So we ended up all going there, and then I came back,” recalls Soledad.
A message for future engineers
According to Mariana, "if you’re going to be an engineer, you have to like solving problems and finding solutions. But the trick is that sometimes, it’s not about trying to find the ideal solution, but also about knowing how to find non-ideal solutions, as quite often, much of our work is about finding several possible answers and knowing how to choose the best option. Having that flexibility and being proactive is very important,” she highlights.
Paula comments that, “At the beginning of your degree course, you don't really know what you’re going to do with engineering. But the truth is that once you discover your passion, it's great, because we come first, we’re at the beginning of everything. Seeing what we do as it takes shape is incredibly exciting.”
Soledad recommends that future engineers plan their career path before choosing their first job, defining what area they want to work in, and in which industry. “Techint is a really good place for a young engineer to move from one area or project to the next, and plot out their career. My recommendation is that if you have the chance to choose your first professional job, don’t just go for the first job you’re offered if it doesn’t match your career plans,” offers Soledad.
She adds that, “The second thing I’d say is that if you find yourself feeling inhibited as a woman, or you’re overwhelmed by the world of work, find someone in the company with whom you can talk and ask questions. Try and find your way with guidance from someone who perhaps has a little more experience than you and can help you move forward.”
Mariana adds that, “Don’t stay put or sit on your hands, you should always ask and find out as much as possible about the topics that interest you. I try to encourage new arrivals not to stay put, not to be stuck with a problem that they can’t solve. It's great to be self-taught, but if you get stuck, ask someone else. They shouldn’t let the idea of ‘I don’t want to bother anyone’ prevent them from moving forward, the idea is for them to ask their bosses questions and find a reference person, like a mentor, who will always be there to give them a hand."
At Techint E&C, we’re proud to count these professionals among our ranks, women who’re passionate about changing the world and improving the quality of people’s lives.