A multigenerational team

There is a difference of forty years between the most seasoned member of the crew and the rookie on the Ecuador Project Reservoir team. Male and female engineers, a geologist, and a geophysicist tell us what it’s like to be on a solid team where differences are what bring them closer together.

Within our diversity program, we’ve been holding workshops aimed at the different generations working at Tecpetrol. We’ve been sharing ideas with Baby Boomers, Generations X, Y, and Z about biases and generational profiles so we can foster greater integration and make visible the opportunities for each generation, enabling them to learn and contribute, creating multigenerational teams.

Tecpetrol University will soon be holding intergenerational webinars to discuss coexistence at an organizational level, focused on building collective talent and defining good practices for successful intergenerational teams.

But, as the saying goes, you have to "walk the talk". And at Tecpetrol we preach by example: we’ve interviewed the Reservoirs team headed up by Project Leader Nicolás Strada (39 years old), including Carolina Gualavisi (38 years old), Ezequiel Valeff ( 34 years old), Francisco Azzano (27 years old) and Sergio Ríos (64 years old), which is a fine example of an intergenerational, diverse group. Each of them tells us how they fit into this team, where they’ve been working together for over two years.

At one end of the generational spectrum is Sergio, strictly speaking, a Baby Boomer, a generation born between 1946 and 1964, representing 5% of Tecpetrol's staff. He’s quick to get the ball rolling, and with a smile, ventures, "I’m a bit of a Tecpetrol historian". He’s been with the company for thirty years and worked on the process to evaluate and develop the Bermejo and Libertador fields. Today, he’s on a team with Gen Y colleagues, making up 53% of the company's staff.

Sergio Rios (SR): I grew up in companies that were pretty authoritarian and hierarchical, where the bosses were established by age and rank. I tend to act according to what I think, I’m used to debating things and exchanging ideas. When it comes to technology, I can handle what I need, but I generally rely on Ezequiel. There are other things I try to convey to him on the basis of my experience, so we make a good mix. I’m from geology and he’s a geophysicist, and we complement each other just fine.

Ezequiel has been working at Tecpetrol for four years, is based in Neuquen, and has already worked with Nicolás as project leader. In 2018, he switched to the Ecuador operation based in Buenos Aires, joining the team.

Ezekiel Valeff (EV): I try to learn as much as I can from Sergio and we always get the job done. It’s helped me to grow a lot. I put in the technological know-how and he contributes all the general knowledge.

Nicolás is 39 years old, straddling Generations X and Y, and is an industrial engineer. For him, it was interesting to have this joint talk as the issue is not only about generational diversity, but also gender diversity, people’s different professional training and know-how, and the range of nationalities making up the group.

Nicolás Strada (NS): Although we all speak Spanish, there are differences in vocabulary with regard to how certain things are said in Ecuador. If Caro didn't know us as well as she does, she might interpret us differently. When there is goodwill, and people are willing, all those barriers drop out of sight, and we’re all on a par with each other. There might be a few prejudices, but when you get down to working together, you lose these.

Caro Gualavisi is Ecuadorian, and a Petroleum Engineer. She started working on the Bermejo project thirteen years ago when the working environment for women in the industry was very different: there were no women at the operation—and no locker rooms for them either. Just before the pandemic began, she traveled to the field and found that Tecpetrol contractors had several women working in the Facilities and Engineering sector. "Things are definitely opening up in the industry," she says.

Carolina Gualavisi (CG): For us, as young people, it’s important to have a good leader. Someone who takes the initiative to chat, to invite us to meet up. In that sense, Sergio and Nico are always open to conversation.

Remote work in pandemic times

Consolidating a team in the context of a pandemic was a major challenge that the team members braced themselves for with solidity, trusting in their ability to adapt quickly to the circumstances.

This is where Fran came in, contributing to his extensive experience of remote work. Although a student of Petroleum Engineering, since the age of 17 he’d been working as a translator from Russian, German, and English into Spanish.

Francisco Azzano (FA): In the span of barely a week, we found ourselves all stuck at home, and we had to overcome thousands of obstacles. However, we managed to ensure communication was always effective.

SR: When we were relegated to working from home, I thought this was going to be impossible, but it was all successfully implemented. Now we are working on a hybrid set-up mixing face-to-face with online work.

CG: In this age of virtuality, communication between us has in fact become stronger than before. It’s easier to ask questions and start-up conversations than before.

Learning with others

As our chat comes to an end, we ask each of them what they’ve learned from their colleagues over these years of working together.

(CG): I really admire Sergio's memory, and Fran, for example, is the grandmaster of spreadsheets. But we all have our contributions to make, and it’s been that sense of contribution that we’ve felt the most in this new virtual context.

(NS): I’ve learned so many things; how to interpret what’s going on when someone from another country writes something and says something to you in a different way to how an Argentine says it. I learned to quickly register whom I’m talking to, to make sure I’m not biased with what I’m saying. 

(EV): As we interacted with people in Ecuador, I could feel the cultural shift, and I began to develop a better understanding of their tone and messages.

(FA): This is an egalitarian group, there’s no classical hierarchical structure, and this makes everything infinitely clearer, helping people to lose their inhibitions.

(SR): I think the basic thing is that we have good people on our team. We have an open dialogue, we trust each other, we know what we have to do, and we’re always exchanging ideas about the best way of doing it.

When we ask them if they can define this working group, they all agree in unison: We’re a team.

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