“It’s so exciting to discuss new ideas”
Alberto Narváez is Sr. Operations Manager in the Libertador field and looks back over a long and varied career—which began in biomedicine—to the responsibilities he has today.
Alberto graduated from the National Polytechnic School of Ecuador with a degree in Electronics Engineering and began working as a biomedical engineer, a task which took its toll in emotional terms as he was in charge of the vital signs monitors in the chemotherapy department of pediatrics. “I met so many children who would chat to me as I carried out the equipment inspection. Seeing their empty beds later was heartbreaking—but it was also a job that entailed a lot of personal purpose.”
Some time later, Alberto took a Master's degree in oil exploration at Madrid and Edinburgh, an experience "that allowed me to see the world and enjoy all kinds of experiences left a very positive mark." As with any trip, the many lessons learned were a source of new skills that enabled him to shape his ideas and achieve greater clarity: “Working with people from very diverse cultures has taught me to be tolerant, respectful, and has also fueled my curiosity.”
In 2012, he began working at Tecpetrol as a field production engineer, and today, “I’m Senior. Operations Manager in the Libertador field. I’m responsible for the areas of production, facilities, production engineering and security. Then there’s another aspect to my work which is a little more commercial, regarding my relationship with Petroecuador, the state oil company to which we provide services.” Meet Alberto Narváez, whose story and perspective bear the stamp of a natural leader.
Business and Sustainability
To what extent do the activities in your area have an impact on the energy industry?
Oil is the main source of income in Ecuador. We do have an impact on the sector from our production areas and facilities, but where we really make a difference is in the way we work. The entire Tecpetrol team, including all the different technical areas, is seen as a benchmark by other companies, both technically and in the way in which we have fulfilled this contract.
What are the most important challenges you face in your area?
Our counterpart is the state company and we carry out our operations in those areas bordering with Colombia where there are frequent clashes and a high risk of conflict. Drilling wells and building infrastructure works with quality and without encountering any problems is a major challenge.
How do you work on diversity issues?
As diversity is about attitudes, it’s a process that involves a change in mindset and in culture, and thus it’s important to set an example. You can’t change a culture if your leaders don’t believe in making those changes. It’s important not to opt for improvised solutions and instead to focus on long-term commitments that ensure that we not only achieve our diversity objectives and tick all the right boxes, but that these objectives spark genuine interest and concern for people.
What have you learned from people of other generations with whom you connect through your work?
We have a fairly broad age range on the team, from recent graduates in their twenties to more senior staff in their fifties. This presents us with several advantages and opportunities when it comes to promoting interaction between generations. Young professionals are digital natives and bring another perspective to projects. I also see that they’re eager to learn from their elders and more senior people on the team, and, if they develop their motivation properly, you can achieve a well-balanced team with an innate capacity for lateral thinking when analyzing risks. At Tecpetrol we have some excellent young professionals: I am constantly surprised by the speed at which they pick up information and assimilate it, as well as their ability to question things.
What kind of leader do you think you are?
My team can probably answer that one better than me!. But I can tell you about some of the aspects that I care about the most. I work to set an example and ensure that my actions bear out my values. I genuinely care about my team on both professional and personal levels, I don't believe that these are mutually exclusive, as a matter of fact. I’m not afraid to admit that I’m wrong or that I don’t know something and I encourage my team to do the same, to speak up. I encourage communication and active listening. I find it very exciting when we discuss a difficult problem and the team members clearly feel free to express their ideas and disagree. We’ve solved many complex issues like this, through frank exchange.
What’s your particular leadership style like when it comes to managing teams?
I aim to build trust in my people, based on respect for different points of view. I encourage them to be self-critical and analyze results. This has enabled us to grow and improve continuously. It's not always easy, but I also try to see mistakes as an opportunity to learn within the team.
What do treasure as values learned from your traditional training, and what new elements have you incorporated?
I believe that discipline in the team is vital, but I have also learned that as human beings, we are of greatest value when we incorporate a sense of purpose into our work.
What strategy works best when it comes to meeting challenging objectives as a team?
When the objectives are really tough, it’s more necessary than ever to be at peak efficiency. We hold a first meeting where I communicate our objectives and then prompt a discussion with open questions. I try to ensure everyone participates without exception. We establish responsibilities, priorities and play with the ideas to formulate a document outlining the risks and assumptions that could undermine our ability to achieve the objective. At the same time, there is also the need to identify and manage the mood of the main actors, particularly by homing in on misgivings and doubts.
Thinking about your area of influence... What opportunities do you see for innovation in the industry? Does this involve technological or cultural change?
Despite being a mature industry, there are operational requirements that are changing, and that creates opportunities. For example, just today, a regulation was passed to stop companies using gas flares in the fields in Ecuador in order to protect people's health. And from the perspective of the energy industry in Ecuador as a whole, its geographical location means that it has great potential for developing alternative energy projects. There is a long way to go in terms achieving the legislation to enable these projects to develop, but I have no doubt that it will happen at some point.
What’s your role in the activities proposed by the company regarding cultural transformation?
In recent years, I have participated in leadership programs mentoring young professionals for leadership positions, and currently, we’re running a pilot group as part of the Confianza program. I work closely with Human Resources on campaigns to prevent harassment in the workplace.
Some of the people on my team are actively participating as Allies of Change for workplace climate issues, and we’ve had the opportunity to discuss these processes with them.
What would you like Tecpetrol to be like in 2025?
In recent years, the scale of the business has grown exponentially. My hope is that we can continue to grow like this. I see myself working at a Tecpetrol fully committed to its role in the energy transition, making major advances and the cultural changes necessary to prepare us to overcome more challenges. In Ecuador, we want to expand our operation into new fields as these come up for tender or auction, and look at incorporating new opportunities into the current contract. We feel very capable of tackling those challenges.
Watch our video interview to get to know the more human side of our interviewee.