Agustina Martin: "In terms of diversity, the challenge is to take more actions to the field"
As the Team Leader of the PAD operation for Tecpetrol in the Neuquén Basin, the 30-year-old engineer coordinates a team of men and women, believing that diversity policies should—like the golden rules of safety—be for everyone.
Before she graduated with a degree in Chemical Engineering, in Argentine Patagonia, Agustina Martín, the Team Leader of the Well Construction Project Department, (known as the PAD in Spanish) had already discovered her passion for teaching. She enjoyed working as a teacher and researcher at the National University of Comahue, where she was working with a team to design filters using nanoparticles to treat water in the oil industry. "I was working in the consortium between the university and companies from the private sector investigating specific developments," she says.
She joined Tecpetrol's planning area in 2017, when the Fortín de Piedra operation was in full development mode, and her career path led her to her current position as PAD Coordinator, where she has the job of managing a team of seven young professionals and the opportunity to guide them as they take their first steps in the industry. “I’m passionate about my work, and in this department I managed to find a combination between what I like about teaching and what challenges me in the development of new profiles at Tecpetrol,” she added.
The PAD team you coordinate was created to measure for Fortín de Piedra: what has been its innovation and contribution to the growth of the operation?
There wasn’t a PAD department in the Basin at the time, but then, this kind of area didn’t exist in the industry as a concept. Tecpetrol created this unit as one of its initiatives during the development of Fortín, and its disruptive aspect lies in its transversal nature, as it involves various operational departments. The PAD is effectively the measurement unit we use to monitor management, times, costs and performance, which is associated with the incorporation of the industrial model adopted by Tecpetrol from Tenaris. Although adapting pipe manufacturing know-how to creating PADs was—and still is—challenging, it’s led to many positive results: in the last five years, we’ve been able to see the benefits of working in a more standardized way. The results are visible in the numbers, and also in the work culture, in the development of a specific synergy thanks to the PAD approach, as it functions on the basis that we are a network of linked sectors working together.
What does your work involve today?
Over the last couple of years, I’ve been coordinating a team of engineers who plot diagrams in the field. Work with my team involves guiding them through the operations of the PAD cycle, such as drilling and fracturing for example, and defining strategies and methodologies for continuous improvement and standardization. Currently, we are going through a restructuring phase in order to define new responsibilities, which means that I split my work between two quite different worlds: the field and the office.
How would you define your leadership style in the team?
It’s a combination of responding to work demands and new learning challenges from the perspective of the human factor. My aim for the work team is for it to function first and foremost as a group of people. I try to maintain a close relationship with each person, ensuring we have room to talk about personal issues—in as much depth as each wants. I want them to feel that they are supported as they seek to balance and connect their work with their personal lives. In my sector, they’re all young professionals in the first years of their career, the gateway years which set the direction for their working lives in this industry. Added to this is the fact that they are handling complex operations in the field.
Could you give us an example?
They spend two weeks on-site, away from home, in harsh weather conditions, ranging from the cold and wind chill to extreme heat. But I'm also talking about complexity from the point of view of operational risks. The well construction phase is among the riskiest operations in the value chain and we also need to look after our investments: monitoring all the timing involved is key to the operation. It entails a great deal of responsibility.
How does technology contribute to your work?
Obviously, having a cell phone network so I can be in permanent communication with my team on WhatsApp makes life a lot easier, and it’s something that we still didn’t have at the beginning of 2018. Then, incorporating Data Science and new data management platforms enable us to access historical information and apply analysis to enhance decision-making.
What do you think are the most effective diversity actions Tecpetrol is taking?
I think that adding all the actions in the program together, taking it as a whole, is what produces the positive effect. The most valuable thing about diversity is for the topic to be talked about in different environments, for this to stop being a taboo subject or one that is only limited to certain spaces. It has to be disseminated constantly, we need to be getting emails, and it’s key for our leaders to promote it. What is still a challenge is how we take more actions to the field, inserting these lines of work into operational spheres. I think that the greatest value it has is that it recognizes the important contribution that minority groups can make—and I’m not talking just about women but all minority group—because this is key to enhancing the performance of those of us who are part of those minorities.
What has your experience as an engineer in the field been like?
As women working in the field, in general we are treated with a great deal of respect, even in locations where sometimes we may be working with 40 men from different companies with different responsibilities. I’d say that we are treated equally, which is an excellent sign of how we are evolving as a society and above all as a company. The fact that Tecpetrol doesn’t permit any deviations from its diversity guidelines means that our contractors also acquire the same values. In my sector, where there are 40 people working, only three are from Tecpetrol. Beyond how the diversity program marks out the internal climate, I’m interested in ensuring that our contractors acquire and pursue the same values. What we do with Safety, we should do in terms of diversity. To incorporate and understand it as a culture. And in the same way as we define our golden safety rules, we should do the same with our diversity challenge.