The Uniandina who broke work paradigms

Photo of Dora Muñoz
Dora Muñoz is an EMBA student at Universidad de los Andes and one of the most representative leaders in the Brazilian oil sector.
12/01/2018
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By: Sandra Gutiérrez P.

Entrepreneurial, pioneering, intelligent, feisty, a fighter, warm, and very feminine are all adjectives that describe Dora Muñoz: a woman who knows what she wants and how to get it. She has an undergraduate degree in petroleum engineering, post graduate diplomas in integrated environmental management and oil and gas project and business management (onshore/offshore), and she is currently an Executive MBA student in the Faculty of Business Administration at Universidad de los Andes. She believes that life offers opportunities, but you need to find them, accept them, and then take advantage of them.

The decision to undertake an EMBA in Los Andes did not seem the most feasible option as she has been based in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, for the past eight years. However, despite having been accepted for executive programs in the University of Cambridge and in the Getulio Vargas Foundation in Brazil, she says that, “I saw the quality of the teachers -all were excellent-, I compared the programs, and my inclination was the Triple Crown. Also, I wanted to get closer to Colombia again. To get things moving, I was travelling every two weeks.”

She adds that, “I love the program because of its connection with Latin America and because it has shown me how to adapt to a global and changing world. My experience with the EMBA has been fantastic: the university´s futuristic vision demonstrates its commitment to excellence. Also, my classmates have an excellent level. The EMBA gave me the opportunity to connect with my country´s reality, to recognize everything that needs to be done, and discover that Colombia has a lot of potential.”

The EMBA has helped her to strengthen her managerial skills and to put them to use in her work.

This woman from Bogotá, a citizen of the world, is an example of how paradigms can be broken. She has been married for seventeen years to Guillermo Santacoloma, who is also a petroleum engineer, has a newborn son, Gabriel, and has spent twelve years outside Colombia working in Canada, Russia, and Brazil: always in the oil sector. She is the only woman who has been in a directive position in this Brazilian sector, and, also, the first to be a member of the Colombian Association of Petroleum Engineers´ board of directors (Acipet), which is a government public policy advisory body for the sector. Dora Muñoz is an example that women can work in what is a traditionally masculine territory.

She states that, “the association advertised an opening to be part of the 17th Colombian Conference on Oil and Gas 2017 technical committee, which was held between the 18th and 20th October in Bogotá. I applied and I passed. This is the biggest event in the oil industry in Colombia and one of the most important in Latin America. For me, it has been a great joy to be involved in it, and I am proud to be the only female engineer who is part of this committee”.
A history of passion and goals fulfilled

“As a woman, the challenge has been interesting. For many of the projects in which I wanted to participate in my professional life, I have always been worried about being overruled as they are male activities. Once, in a packed auditorium, in which we were the only three women, the teacher asked me to move a heavy drill bit as a ´punishment´ for having arrived late. I asked several of my male classmates to help me, and they lifted it. “I moved it” I told him, and the teacher was completely bewildered. “Strength is not in the hands; it is in the ability to create cohesion, solidarity, and compassion”.

After finishing her petroleum engineering degree, 24 years ago she began working as a statistics instructor in Acipet. Ever since then, one of her goals was to be on the board of directors, which she achieved several months ago.

“From then, I understood the importance of people connecting, having identity, having an ethic, and sharing values. I think that this is what we lack as Colombians: convincing ourselves that union and solidarity are important for the common good.” I have worked in oil and service companies in Colombia, Canada, and Brazil, and this is the experience that I would like to share.

Subsequently, she started a Masters in environmental engineering, but she did not finish as she went to Russia with her husband. They travelled to Canada where she founded an oil services company, which she ran for four years. At the end of 2009 she moved to Brazil where she was in charge of a small operating company with which she managed to drill the first producing well, but due to the situation in the great South American country, they could not continue. She created a second company in 2012 –Trayectoria Petroleo e gas do Brasil-, with which she participated in a business network. In three years, it moved from being the 49th most important company in Brazil to the 7th.

“After almost five years in that country, I had the possibility to generate business opportunities. I participated in an oil fields auction, and, although we were the smallest company, we made an offer and we won, even beating Petrobras. We have always been operated austerely, but
we know the business, and for this reason, we beat the crisis”, she explains. “I am passionate about this industry. If there is anything I wanted to be, it is this”.
The key is in sharing

“Part of the success in life is having a person who you love and who you admire. In my case, it is my husband Guillermo. We have always been travelers and Wanderers; our suitcases are always ready by the door. Gabriel´s arrival is a miracle for us that has opened new possibilities and has made us believe in the future”, she admits.
She also recognizes that women´s adaptability in a masculine environment is fundamental. “As Connie Cárdenas, teacher in the Faculty of Business Administration in the Universidad de los Andes, says in her book ´In search of female leadership: a research journey´, as women we cannot lose our essence; what we have to do it adapt and transform ourselves. It is not easy, but it is clear for me that the female tenderness transcends.”

However, she admits that life is not simply based on sex. Differences enrich and “you always have to understand people as people…You have to grow together to transform, because you cannot do it alone. You have to make a team. For this reason, I think that I am a masterpiece…as is everyone” she says with conviction.

“If I were to be born again, I would be a woman because I have the possibility to educate generations. I want to tell you all that we all transmit values; we are dedicated and courageous women who are peaceful, powerful, love, and have self-control, and are made to not compete but to collaborate”, she concludes.

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