Federico De La Torre has turned to his mentors for advice throughout his career, including at its most pivotal junctures.
“They helped me make one of the best decisions of my life, which was to come to the Big Four opportunity in the United States,” he confirms. “I’ve had great mentors, and I attribute a lot of my success to them. Now, I have a responsibility to the people who work for me and to my friends, and anyone whose sons or daughters are looking to go into the financial area. I will always make time for them because the people who helped me in my career always made time for me.”
De La Torre’s commitment to paying his success forward no doubt benefits his colleagues at Sempra, the North American energy infrastructure company where he serves as a senior tax director. He has been at Sempra for over twenty years, during which time he has assisted the company through a number of major transactions by drawing on his diverse expertise in both domestic and international taxation, as well as his bicultural and binational background.
A native of Tijuana, Mexico, De La Torre began his career journey in Mexico. After several years at accounting firm Arthur Andersen, he heard about an opportunity at a new team a Big Four firm was creating in San Diego––but he took a pause before deciding whether to take it.
“I went to a couple of my mentors––partners from the Big Four and the father of one of my best friends in high school, who was a CFO for a local company in Tijuana––and explained to them the two options that I had: stay and work for a Mexican company or join a Big Four in the US and learn the US taxation system,” he explains.
Based on his own instincts and his mentors’ input, De La Torre made the jump to the US, where he went on to earn his master’s degree and become a CPA in the state of California. He stayed at the Big Four firm until the firm opted to relocate his function to Mexico City, at which point he connected with Sempra. “One of the reasons I love Sempra is that I love living in San Diego, next to the city where I was born,” he says. “I knew that I wanted to stay in this beautiful area of the world, which I call Tijuana–San Diego.”
Another draw was Sempra’s growth opportunities. At first, De La Torre worked for Sempra on special projects related to US international taxation. Before long, however, the company recognized his wealth of Mexican taxation knowledge and invited him to expand in that direction. “When I started handling Mexican taxation, it brought me a lot of opportunities for growth and gave me a lot of exposure within the company because I was the only person who had experience in that area,” he says.
As he continued managing tax matters for Sempra’s Mexican investments, De La Torre got involved in a major project in South America. His work on that project advanced him to the rank of tax director and led to another opportunity down the line, when Sempra ultimately divested from its South American investments to focus exclusively on North America.
“The divestiture was one of the most challenging yet fulfilling transactions I’ve ever worked on,” says De La Torre, noting that the local divestiture laws were less clearly defined than their US counterparts. “I spent almost two years traveling to South America to talk to the tax authorities, and in the end, we were able to get rulings showing that we paid the right amount of taxes.”
In addition to the divestiture, De La Torre cites a 2013 project that took part of Sempra’s Mexican investment public as a key contributor to his career growth. More recently, he has focused on domestic joint ventures and project financing, while also prioritizing mentoring his team members and other junior colleagues––just as his supervisors, especially Sempra’s former vice president of tax, have done for him over the years.
De La Torre is part of a corporate mentorship program that allows him to share lessons learned with the next generation of leaders in finance. In particular, he encourages young professionals to build strong relationships, speak up with solutions when they notice a problem, and set clear goals for themselves. “I believe you always have to have a goal, and when you accomplish that goal, you have to set a new one,” he says. “Never stop setting those goals because the moment you do, you lose your purpose.”
As he continues to set his own goals for the future, De La Torre hopes that mentorship will become a defining aspect of his professional legacy. “I want people to remember me for not only the work I’ve done, but also the number of people I’ve helped in their careers,” he says. “That’s what drives me.”