I had humble beginnings. I was born in Santa Cruz in Bolivia and grew up with three brothers and one sister. My parents were loving. We had a simple life. My father worked for the national bank and my mother was a secretary. We were very close. My father was not a professional person, but he always said it was his dream to see all of us become professionals. My parents made a lot of sacrifices and put us through private schools so we would get a good education. They pounded the importance of school into my head and drove me to do whatever it takes to get that done.
“I went to school from 7:30 a.m. to 2 p.m. and worked at the factory from 3 p.m. to midnight. I did my schoolwork after midnight … Being busy made me happy and more productive.”
VP of Engineering
Early on, I discovered I work better under pressure. I paid my own way through college. I was accepted at Chico State in California and got a job in a nearby match factory. I went to school from 7:30 a.m. to 2 p.m. and worked at the factory from 3 p.m. to midnight. I did my schoolwork after midnight. When the factory closed, I was able to collect unemployment. I had more time on my hands, but my grades dropped. I realized I couldn’t go on like that, so I got two jobs—one as a mechanic and another as a maintenance man for a 50-unit apartment building—and turned up the pressure. Being busy made me happy and more productive.
I also learned that persistence pays off. When I finished college, the owner of the apartments asked me to stay on. He said, “Oscar you’ve been with me for five years. I’ll pay you well. Stay with me and we can be partners.” I thought about it; it would have been easy to keep doing what I was doing. One day I read in the paper that a company called Bechtel was looking for a structural engineer. Then, it hit me: I went to school to become an engineer. I didn’t go to school to stay a mechanic. So, I set up an interview. The person who interviewed me said he couldn’t hire me because they were looking for people with experience. I told him that wasn’t what the ad in the paper said. The ad said they were looking for a new graduate. He told me he wanted people with structural experience. I kept arguing and told him that his ad was misleading. And then I told him that I’d go back to Chico and learn everything I needed to know to do this job. I told him I’d be back in 15 days and at that time I wanted him to give me a test on structural design. What I didn’t know was that his boss was standing behind me. He told the man, “Hire him. This is the type of engineer we need.”
It’s important to bring ideas to the companies you work for. At Bechtel, I brought the idea of computerized calculations and within six months, I was put in charge of a group. At Philadelphia Electric, I was senior engineer and reorganized how we did projects. We broke all of the records: production, quality, and integration. Now at Entergy, I embrace challenges. Because of all of my successes, I was named vice president for the entire fleet.
I believe the key to my success has been caring for the people I work with. Being from South America, I’m a social being. I enjoy working around people. It makes me happy. I’m very demanding—extremely demanding. But, my group knows I will always be right in front of them. I’ll take the first bullet. That earns loyalty and you can move mountains with people who are loyal.