Before reaching its second anniversary, Braskem – the Odebrecht Group’s leading company for the Chemicals & Petrochemicals area – has already given yet another indication of the positive impact its work is having on Brazilian society. It began selecting trainees from the latest crop of college graduates to start the process of grooming new members who are steeped in the company’s culture.
The first surprise was that Braskem received 6,300 applications, including a highly qualified group of applicants. As a result, it was extremely difficult to choose just 18 of them for the openings available. “I would like to be able to extend this opportunity to more people, but the program is based on the premise of focusing on a small group,” says Ulrico Barini, the Braskem officer responsible for People and Organization.
The selection process was a two-month marathon. First, a specialized consulting firm analyzed and approved the young job candidates’ resumes. Then the applicants took a battery of tests in English and Portuguese. This was the simplest part of the process. Candidates who passed the initial stage took part in a group activity that involved a discussion of current events. For example, they had to propose consistent solutions for improving education and basic sanitation in Brazil.
The candidates who did the best were called back. This time, the groups had to find ways for a struggling company to overcome its problems and present their proposals to a jury of specialists in accounting, the environment, and people development, among other areas. The candidates with the most relaxed and confident performance during the question and answer session were invited back for interviews. “We carried out the selection process in the cities of São Paulo, Porto Alegre, Salvador and Maceió. We found qualified people in every group, but we were looking to hire the candidates who are most strongly identified with our business and culture,” says Beatriz Filgueiras, who coordinated the program and put each of the candidates under the magnifying glass.
Braskem’s experience during its first trainee selection process is shared by most leading companies, which are under pressure from the growing requirements of competitiveness and the need to bring outstanding professionals into their ranks. The applicants typically selected for programs like this one speak at least one foreign language, in addition to their native Portuguese, have graduated from college and interned at other companies, and have an impressively clear vision of their future plans. “The structure of our selection process is similar to other companies, and we have qualified partners to help us with it. The thing that makes our program stand out from the rest is that the trainees are closely followed by leaders who believe in the pedagogy of presence and apply the principles of education through work,” says Ulrico Barini.
The competencies Braskem was looking for in the young people who underwent the selection process are not just the usual requirements. On the contrary, the company was looking for seven very special aptitudes in each individual. They had to find well-educated people with good intellectual ability, but who also have an open, honest character, outstanding life experience, and a cosmopolitan view of the world.
The successful candidates are highly ambitious, poised, communicative young people with omnivorous interests and seemingly limitless stamina. “Braskem’s selection process was different from the others I’ve experienced. It was more focused on group work and took the behavioral aspects of each individual into consideration. In the end, the company chose the candidates who are best suited to its style and fit in with the program,” says Jorge Luiz Moura, a chemical engineer born in Santo Amaro da Purificação, Bahia, and graduated by the Universidade Federal da Bahia (UFBa). He is very pleased with the outcome. “At Braskem, it’s plain to see that people enjoy their work.”
Paulo de Mattos Coelho, 25, was hired as a trainee at Poliolefinas in São Paulo. The son of a pediatrician and an artist, he was born in Caxias do Sul, in the southern Brazilian state of Rio Grande do Sul, but has also lived in São Bernardo do Campo, Greater São Paulo; Birigui, a small town in São Paulo State, and the city of Campinas. He earned a diploma in Business Administration and Accounting from a Bradesco Foundation school. Then he studied Business Administration at Faculdades Armando Álvares Penteado (Faap), in São Paulo City. He spent over three years working in the sales department of Compaq, a computer manufacturer acquired by Hewlett-Packard. “I’ve never lived abroad, but I am familiar with different cultures. I know what I want out of life, and I think I was able to sell myself. There’s no point in being highly qualified if you can’t present yourself well,” he says.
Cristiane Giansante, who is now working in Strategic Planning in São Paulo City, was born in Araçatuba, São Paulo. By the age of 22 she had lived in the Brazilian states of Rio Grande do Sul, Maranhão, Paraná, and São Paulo, as well as Argentina. She also spent six months in Mexico studying Marketing and Psychology on an exchange course offered by the Faculdade Getúlio Vargas – the school where she earned her degree in Business Administration. Why Business Administration? Because Cristiane was just 17 when she took her college entrance exams, and she wanted to take a degree course that would give her the most options in the future. “My interests include people’s behavior, how to be competitive in the job market, consumer outreach, and communication in general,” she says. As a result, she decided to focus on strategic planning. “That way I will have a chance to familiarize myself with all the company’s units.”
Cristiane first met Rebeca Florêncio when they were taking hiring tests at other companies. However, they only ran into each other at Braskem after they both were hired. Now they are friends and spend their lunch breaks together. Rebeca has a BA in Economics from Universidade Estadual de Campinas - Unicamp. She worked in the financial market for a year and is now assigned to the controller’s department at the Polyolefins Business Unit in São Paulo. “This experience has surpassed all my expectations. I’m learning all the time. Since my first day at work, I’ve taken on fresh challenges and new responsibilities. What’s more, my co-workers have given me a warm welcome,” she says.
Marcos Duda Schmitz feels the same way. Marcos is an electrical engineer graduated by the Universidade Federal do Rio Grande do Sul. After a stint at Braskem’s Technology and Innovation Center in the Triunfo Petrochemical Complex in Rio Grande do Sul, he is interning in production while awaiting mobilization by the maintenance engineering program for which he was hired. “I had no idea the program was so well organized. I’m being very well groomed for my future here at Braskem,” he says.
Based on their descriptions, it might seem that these young people are all work and no play. But they are not like that at all. They go out on dates, watch movies, love music and parties, and work out at the gym. They find time for everything. After work, they even take language classes, and courses towards a master’s degree or specialization. And they are making plans. Lots of plans. They work at Braskem because they chose to join the company, after taking part in several selection processes. Some passed hiring tests at major European and US multinationals, as well as Brazilian conglomerates. “Braskem may be a young company, but it is already a benchmark in Brazil and a major player on the manufacturing scene,” says Uílson Almeida de Campos.
Uílson, 25, has joined the Basic Feedstocks Business Unit at Camaçari. An electrical engineer graduated by the Universidade Federal da Bahia - UFBa, he is studying for a master’s degree and writing his thesis on energy efficiency in machinery startups. After interning for two and a half years, he had joined a renowned European multinational, ABB. Then he learned about Braskem’s selection process and decided to give it a try. “It was an opportunity I couldn’t pass up,” he explains. Uílson has never left Brazil, but he has traveled throughout the Northeast and knows it like the back of his hand. In his spare time, he plays guitar, works out with weights and roots for the Bahia soccer team, “Which, I’m sad to say, is in the second division.”
Hired to work in the manufacturing area of the Vinyl Business Unit in Alagoas, concentrating on the automation process, chemical engineer Alberto Falcone Neto, 24, is from the state of Pernambuco and lived in the City of Recife all his life. He had already interned with two multinationals, but he wasn’t satisfied. “I wanted to learn more and get involved in my work. Braskem’s venture is fascinating.” Relaxed and communicative, he says he did not find the selection process all that stressful. “I like interacting with people.”