The stories of three young people who have found a working environment marked by unity and work opportunities in their home country
In the Purépecha language, spoken by one of the dozens of pre-Columbian civilizations that have left visible marks in modern Mexico, tzitziki means flower. It is also the name of one of Odebrecht’s Young Partners in that country: Tzitziki Del Valle. She was about to graduate in Economics in 2008 when she found out that the company was hiring and decided to apply for a job. During the activities involved in that process, she met two engineers in her group: Gonzalo Antonio Cortez Ceniceros and Evaristo Martinez.
The hiring process was led by Fernando Martins, then the Project Director for the Michoacán Irrigation Project (PHM), to whom the young people are deeply grateful – for the opportunity to become part of Odebrecht, for his friendship, and for the unconditional support he has always given them. The three young partners, who all grew up and graduated in Morelia, the capital of the State of Michoacán, joined the PHM at the same time. Odebrecht is building the project to irrigate farmland in a semi-arid region for the Government of Michoacán in central Mexico.
The trio is part of a group of 20 young people who are learning to practice the Odebrecht Entrepreneurial Technology (TEO) at work and through educational programs – all three traveled to Argentina, Panama, Venezuela and Peru in 2009, where they took part in the Young Builder Latin America Program. “This has been an amazing experience. We’re like family. More than co-workers, we’re friends who share the same values,” says Gonzalo.
His gateway into the company was the commercial area. He started out by learning to produce estimates and budgets and negotiate with subcontractors. After that he spent three months helping the team plan new business projects. He was then invited join the costs area, and spent two months in the Dominican Republic to prepare himself for that responsibility. “I’ve found out that, wherever you are, there is unity at Odebrecht, a thread that binds us and leads us in the same direction of growth,” he says. In April, Gonzalo became the officer Responsible for the Costs Program on the Michoacán Project and his immediate future began to take shape in the area of new businesses, where he will learn to develop budgets for a project from start to finish.
Evaristo, his co-worker, joined the production line for the Michoacán irrigation project. He worked on the dam, tunnel, and powerhouse, and finally took charge of equipment assembly for the hydroelectric plant before the contract was completed and the venture was delivered to the State Government. Born in Mexico, as a teenager he spent six years in the US state of California with his family. He likes working with people from different cultures. “Mexicans and Brazilians are similar. They’re happy people,” he observes. “In my two and a half years with Odebrecht, all my expectations about establishing new relationships, learning and achieving on the job have been surpassed. I want to keep on learning.” His short-term plans? Traveling to Brazil to attend the FIFA World Cup in 2014.
Tzitziki, the flower that opened this story, also started working at Odebrecht on the Michoacán jobsite. Today she is assigned to the company’s office in Morelia, where she is helping with the final paperwork prior to delivery of the project. Her smile and the sparkle in her eye say a lot. But to leave no room for doubt, she voices her satisfaction – in Portuguese, with a slight Rio accent: “I love working with Odebrecht people. We all have a common denominator – we want to help each other and the company.” Tzitziki has enrolled in a Portuguese language course at university. “I love the Brazilian culture and I want to speak the language fluently,” she says. There’s a simple explanation for her accent: her first Portuguese teacher was a native of Rio de Janeiro.
When asked to recall the names of key leaders in their education as young partners during their two and a half years of life and work at Odebrecht, Tzitziki, Evaristo and Gonzalo each have their own list. They include Brazilians and Mexicans who have helped them become part of the company and grow. Evaristo names engineers Paulo Muter and Benjamin Herrera, who have imparted knowledge and responsibilities and provided support for solving problems. Tzitziki mentions Raúl Silva, the Commercial Manager who taught her to negotiate, and Jesus Wagner, who put her in direct contact the client; Odilon Sposito, from whom she learned to set clear goals and meet them, and Carlos Terra, who places the highest value on teamwork. Gonzalo’s list includes Mario Oikawa, an Odebrecht member based in the Dominican Republic, who taught him to use concepts and action programs; Marcelo da Fonseca, the Odebrecht Administration and Finance Manager for Mexico, who has set him challenges and delegated responsibilities, and Jesus Wagner, who is also on Tzitziki’s list, for encouraging him to think through problems to find solutions.
A symbol of unity
One name was on all three young partners’ lists: Jorge Gavino, the Project Director for Michoacán. “His presence and leadership have been the main drivers of my growth,” says Evaristo. “He’s meticulous. He gets us to look everything over twice and hone our skills,” says Gonzalo. “His confidence in our ability is motivating,” adds Tzitziki.
Engineer Jorge da Silva Gavino Filho, a native of Rio de Janeiro, has 20 years’ experience at Odebrecht. He joined the company as an intern in 1991 during Phase I of the Red Line subway project and discovered that he liked heavy construction work, earthmoving and big machines. The following year, he took part in a selection process and Odebrecht hired him to work on the Rio de Janeiro International Airport project. During his two decades with the company, in addition to working on the heavy construction projects he loves so much, Gavino has participated in the Odebrecht Foundation’s social projects, such as the restoration of the Benedictine Monastery of Bahia and the implementation of the cassava supply chain in the Southern Bahia Lowlands. He also worked in Peru and Portugal before arriving in Mexico in 2006, where he conducted studies and developed the bid that Odebrecht tendered to the State of Michoacán – and then took charge of the project’s execution.
We already know three of Gavino’s team members. The leaders who have influenced him the most include the Organization’s founder, Norberto Odebrecht (“for his patience and determination as a teacher”), José Isidoro Silva (the engineer who imparted knowledge and confidence in him during his first project, the Red Line), Fernando Martins (the mentor and co-worker who introduced him to his wife), André Vital (who heightened his appreciation for detail) and Marcelo Walter (always eager to operationalize social projects).
You could say that Gavino is a symbol of unity between Mexicans and Brazilians at Odebrecht. He is known for his work in the project’s neighboring communities. “The Mexican people have made me feel at home in their country. They have tremendous heart,” he says. Not surprisingly, Gavino is married to Magdalena, who was born in Michoacán. The couple is expecting a baby in September. “I have experienced many changes in my personal and professional lives. TEO prepared me for that. I am proud of Odebrecht, of taking part in its projects, sharing its values and grooming people – especially when I realize that they might be better than me,” he observes.
Odebrecht arrived in Mexico in 1992. Its first achievement there was the construction of a dam and hydroelectric plant in the Huítes region in the State of Sinaloa. The Michoacán Project, which will be completed in 2011, is similar. It includes a reservoir, a hydroelectric plant and the irrigation of fertile land in an arid zone – Ejido de Nueva Italia, the largest association of small farmers in the country.
Lucio Palominos, 42, is the association’s commissioner – not just because irrigation will make his mangroves more productive, but also because, through Odebrecht, the association has had access to consultants from the Brazilian Agricultural Research Corporation (Embrapa) and methods for crop management and pest control. His parents, grandparents and great-grandparents were all farmers. He exports his harvests to Japan, but has bigger ambitions. “I enjoy working, learning, and when my production is larger, I plan to deal directly with international buyers and eliminate the middleman,” he says.
Since 2008, Odebrecht Mexico has presented itself as a provider of comprehensive solutions to problems facing the country. “We have a well-structured team and prospects for growth through to 2020,” said Luis Weyll, Odebrecht’s CEO for Mexico. He has been with the company for 33 years – he joined at age 20 as a trainee in Cost Engineering in Bahia, under the leadership of Luís Mameri, who now leads Odebrecht’s operations in Latin America and Angola.
During its most recent phase, Odebrecht Mexico has won the title of Socially Responsible Company from the Alliance for Social Responsibility (AliaRSE) and the Mexican Center for Philanthropy (Cemefi) four years in a row. It has also been on the list of “100 Best Companies to Work For” for four straight years, based on a survey conducted by the Great Place to Work Institute, which measures the quality of the work environment and the strength of the organizational culture. “Our commitment to Mexico and Mexicans is recognized,” says Weyll.
Braskem’s biggest investment outside Brazil is the Ethylene XXI project, expected to go online in the State of Veracruz in 2015. During the construction phase, the project will create work opportunities for 12,000 people. When it is up and running, the plant will produce one million metric tons per year of ethylene and polyethylene. Luiz Martins Catharino Gordilho Neto is the Odebrecht Project Director for the construction of the plant’s infrastructure. He arrived in Mexico earlier this year along with his wife, Louise, and two daughters, Maria Luiza, 3, and Liza, 1. Before long, he had formed a team of Brazilians and Mexicans, including older members and younger people with little experience at the company. “By sharing knowledge, we come up with the best solutions,” he says.
At the age of 35, with 11 years’ experience at Odebrecht, Gordilho enjoys sports, discipline and competition. But he loves Engineering and is passionate about entrepreneurship. He worked in Brazil, Peru and Angola before arriving in Mexico.
“I’ve been very lucky. Many people who have been important to my education have appeared in my life – people who have taught me a great deal and given me good advice,” he observes. People like Moacir Cardoso (who taught him to work with indicators and productivity on the Salvador Trade Center construction project), André Bastos (a gifted designer who also practices the pedagogy of presence with tremendous patience), Djean Cruz (the leader of real estate developments in Salvador and Recife, who encouraged him to be more detail-oriented), André Vital (always very quick and careful) and Amilton Sendai and Luiz Bueno (who taught him to understand and give more importance to the numbers).
At Odebrecht Mexico, the working environment is a unified and harmonious place where everyone works together for the growth of all.