Diana Cedeño: “When we talk about equality, it’s about rights and opportunities"
Our Facilities Lead Supervisor in Ecuador is the only engineer in her family. Here she tells us what she does and talks about the great challenges she’s overcome during her eight years at Tecpetrol.
Every two weeks, Diana packs her suitcase with her computer, her diary, some hygiene essentials and a handful of healthy snacks, and sets off for Quito airport. A one-hour flight, followed by an hour-and-a-half‘s bus-ride, get her to the Shushufindi site where she spends the next two weeks, working at the Tecpetrol camp at EP Petroecuador's Central Station.
"I work in the Surface Facility Construction sector for the oil industry, specifically in the Quality area, to ensure that each stage complies with the required standards right from the start of the project execution process in the field. This goes from the moment when the drill bit starts to turn until the crude oil extracted is taken for final disposal." This is how Diana Cedeño describes her task as Facilities Lead Supervisor. In an interview with Tecpetrol Hoy, she tells us how her role keeps her on her toes, working under pressure and with different teams, both in the field and at her desk.
During her two-week sojourn at the site—where she keeps her boots, overalls and helmet—her routine can sometimes be quite variable, according to the stage of the project she’s working on. Sometimes she’ll be supervising a civil, mechanical or electrical work, coordinating activities with different teams, and on other occasions ordering the documents to be delivered to the customer. After work, she often chats to her family using the information technologies available onsite.
Diana has been working at Tecpetrol for eight years, notching up a total of 13 years in the industry. “Like everything, it has its pros and cons: sometimes you miss family events and the group photos, but then you have two weeks off to do whatever you want, go on a trip, hang out in cafes and spend time with family,” she explains. The last trip she took was to Iguazú Falls, at the same time as the World Cup final was being played, when the Argentine team was consecrated world champion. "My favorite thing is nature tourism. Here in Ecuador, you get amazingly biodiverse landscapes with great variations in a very short time and short distances: You have the Galapagos Islands, the coast, the Andean mountains and the Amazon rainforest, with all this exuberant vegetation, incredible animals and glorious sunsets, I really love it."
There, in the heart of the Amazon rainforest, is the site where she works. "What we’re trying to do from the industry’s point of view is to keep environmental impact down to a minimum, both regarding waste disposal as well as noise. Technology is certainly a great help here, but really, it’s a responsibility we must all shoulder, as much at work as at home: using natural resources with care is essential for the planet."
Possibly the greatest challenge that Diana ever had to face in her career came when she was working at Tecpetrol, in 2014. "We had eight rigs in operation at the same time, four drilling and four in workover, and some 2,500 people working at the same time at different points throughout the block," she explains. "Thanks to good teamwork and coordination, everything functioned OK without any downtime or accidents, and we were able to meet all the right quality standards," she adds. This was a time when her personal resources, her time, intellect and leadership, were stretched to the full. "It was such a massive challenge to ensure everything could be delivered on time, but we did it!" she recalls.
Seamless teamwork is a hallmark of Diana’s profile. "There are few of us on my team, just four men and one woman, so I make sure to communicate with them as much as possible about the organization of the documents and tasks to be done, which ensures the work is always on track," she describes. She underscores the close bond between team members, pointing out that, "My colleagues are really good at what they do, and are extremely generous when it comes to sharing knowledge, as well as for asking for help and communicating in general."
Women in the industry
The youngest of five siblings, Diana is the only one in the family whose professional life is about numbers and engineering. "Sometimes I have to go and check on a tank which is five stories high, perched up on the scaffolding with all the safety equipment on, and I think then that it’s actually quite difficult to explain what I do," she reminisces. "My work is in the tiny details of really big things, which are what make these milestones."
Diana is an Electronics Engineer in Automation and Control who graduated from the Army Polytechnic School, and was often the only woman in some classes. She’s also had to put up with comments from teachers such as, “come on then, let's see if you really did study what you say you did.” Although she agrees that some things have changed in recent years, “there’s still a deeply entrenched macho attitude in the industry, as there are often inappropriate comments, both from the customer and from my colleagues. My way of dealing with this is to avoid getting caught up in these sexist contests, but to demonstrate my worth through my work and show that it’s a question of merit, leadership and continuous training.”
Her experience bears out her words. "At Tecpetrol there’s no doubt that I’ve had an advantage: the opening up of my work group, where I’m treated as an equal because of my role. However, when I entered the oil industry as a supervisor, I once heard someone say, “But how can they leave people unsupervised? Where is the supervisor?” she recalls with a smile. “To have it taken for granted that they are talking to someone with the right background and knowledge has been intrinsic to my entire career at Tecpetrol,” she adds.
"Lots of people think that women are there to do administrative tasks, or that the few of us women whose work is considered to be in the male domain have forgotten their feminine side," she explains. "When we talk about equality, it’s not about us wanting to look like men, it’s more fundamental than that, it’s about equal rights and opportunities based on merit."
Hyperactive, a mountain climber and coffee lover, Diana Cedeño is very much connected to her role. "Things are happening today in the world that were unthinkable only a few years ago, and everyone from their workplace can help to bring about this change."