Rossmery Maturana: “I am very direct, I don’t beat about the bush!”

Honoring a commitment to bringing the safe practices driving cultural change into the field, Tecpetrol’s new Health & Safety Manager at Fortin de Piedra, talks about her experience in the first installment of a new series of interviews. 

At 34, Rossmery Maturana has just finished her 11th year at Tecpetrol. Born in Colombia, she started her career as a Young Professional in Neuquen, now coming full circle to return, two months ago, to take over as Health & Safety Manager at Fortin de Piedra. "It’s like a new beginning," she comments in an interview with Tecpetrol Today, as she talks about the personal challenges she faces in her new position, which she values as a professional growth opportunity. "It means a lot to be working at the company's largest project, an emblematic one at that, and an opportunity to find out more about unconventional and gas development."

Maturana is a chemical engineer by training, with a degree from the Industrial University of Santander; she found her vocation when she completed her studies in integrated management systems with a master's degree in environmental management. Today, she’s in charge of making sure that corporate guidelines on best practices, procedures and industry standards are put into practice in the field. "My job is to make people aware of these safety practices, and ensure that they incorporate and apply them to improve safety," she explains. "However, I haven't been here very long, I'm still getting used to how things work here, which is new for me, and it’s a very different culture, in terms of people’s way of working and expressing themselves, which I find very enriching," she adds.

In 2022, Rossmery Maturana left Bogota for Neuquento take on a great challenge at Fortin de Piedra.

What’s the point of contact between Safety, Environment, Health and the business?

This is more than a point of contact, as it’s a comprehensive strategy. A successful company needs to see that the sustainable development of its activity is an integrated process; it needs to understand that the business’s economic opportunities, its people’s health and well-being, the avoidance of accidents and care for the environment are all part of a unified strategy. That's where my role comes into play, in spreading that message across the board so we all understand we share a common goal.

From the experience of the pandemic, which had a relevant impact in your area, what aspects do you think will be maintained in the future?

Our ability to adapt swiftly to change, to see a challenge and believe that we can do something different to overcome it. I don’t think we set out thinking that we’d be able to achieve so much. Now we know that any idea, even if it might seem absurd in terms of logic, deserves its own space with good arguments, commitment and conviction. Also, today we’re far more attentive to our own health.

Diversity: getting there

People tend to think that oil & gas is a mostly male-dominated industry, do you think your case is exceptional, especially in a technical area?

I wouldn't say exceptional because there are lots of women working in the industry. In fact, I was surprised by the number of women working in the field, in all kinds of operational and administrative areas at the Neuquen operation. Although it’s still not that common, and we still don’t have any women directors in the operational area, I do think we’re on the right track.

What could help to achieve gender parity?

This is something that is moving ahead at its own pace, as it’s intrinsic to more widespread cultural changes taking place in the world: more and more women are choosing, without prejudice, what they want to do, whatever the area. At Tecpetrol, we need to continue identifying problem areas and tackling them, with initiatives such as maternity and promotional programs at different levels in the organization.

In addition to gender, our +D program seeks to foster exchange between people of different generations. How has that worked in your case?

The first thing is to understand and accept that there are different styles and ways of doing things between different generations. I’ve already worked with younger people, from whom I learned a practical and pragmatic outlook on life and a focus on making things happen. However, I’ve never had older people on my team before, so now I’m learning a great deal from all their experience.

The younger generation considers flexibility to be a key value, how do you handle these new variables?

Every day brings its own challenges. You have to understand the situation and adapt to make the most of what this generation has to offer. I focus on achieving objectives, and keeping things balanced. So we hold constant meetings to follow up what team members are doing, and as long as each one performs well, they can have all the flexibility they want.

How would you define your leadership style?

I think it's a very close way of working with people. I seek to connect to them from my personal experience, ensuring communication is as open as possible, giving people the room to express what they consider necessary, both at work and on a personal level. It’s about how they feel, what they want to do, where they want to go, even the difficulties they face.

Any personal tricks or strategies for critical moments?

I don’t have any formulas, what I try to do is to get the best possible advice about a given problem, consult things with the team, but also with other people to get as much input and diagnosis as I can. When I’ve listened to everybody, and with all the work done, based on experience and a little intuition, I try and take the best and most informed decision. I’m very direct, I don’t beat about the bush!

Learn more about Rossmery's lifeWatch this video

The future is today 

There are generally-held beliefs, including urban myths, which hold that the industry and the environment are irreconcilable. What’s this like in practice? 

There are indeed many urban myths and also old industry practices which in the early days damaged its image. It’s true that we can do more to demystify the idea that hydrocarbon development cannot be a sustainable activity. In some sectors of Colombia, there is this false paradigm of oil or water. From my training, education and background, I know that all productive activities can be sustainable, you just have to define exactly where, how, when and with what scope. These myths quickly collapse when you can show that there are ways of doing things well. 

In Health, Safety, and Environment, the industry is undergoing permanent changes. What do you think could be the rule for everyone in the future?

We are in the midst of widespread cultural change. We’re trying to transform safety management into an interdependent cultural issue, that is, one where all parties are committed and where teamwork forms the basis of mutual care. We are all getting there, not just the company, but the world in general, in the understanding that safety is intrinsic to all work and cannot be negotiated in any activity. This process also involves innovation, making changes in line with technological progress. At HSE, we have to keep up with everything that is happening, and ensure we’re all moving towards this common objective, one extremely well defined by UN’s Sustainable Development Goals, and I believe we’re moving in the right direction.

This is a broad question! How do you see Tecpetrol in 2025?

I’m going to answer this in a very specific way, from the point of view of my sector. I envisage very low accident rates, with a Lost Days Indicator below 0.2, and a more visible environmental management system, where there are more initiatives, more communication of what we are doing, and more joint objectives.

Experience at Fortín de Piedra

Energy connects us