Author:Sierra, Luis
Position:ENERGY: BP - Luis Sierra - Interview

Luis Sierra's desire for progress and dedication to his profession were primary drivers that helped him reach the top and become one or BP's most important executives.

Describing a pivotal moment in his life journey, Luis Sierra said: "My dad really drilled the importance of education into us."

And he did so by example--not just by preaching and lecturing. When the family--including Luis's brother and two sisters--landed in the U. S., neither of the parents could speak English. But the elder Sierra taught himself to code and--thanks to the dedication and long hours--eventually became a globe-trotting programmer in the airline industry.

Luis took that thirst for knowledge to heart. "I was good in math and science, and I loved to tinker. I was always taking things apart and putting them back together. Mechanical engineering seemed like the most natural and comfortable field for me," he said. And so he acquired a B.S. with honors at the University of Florida; an M.S. from the Georgia Institute of Technology; and capped it with an MBA (with distinction) from the University of Chicago.

He's worn many hats since joining BP in 1990--working in strategy, business development, mergers and acquisitions, corporate finance, planning, commodities trading and other related fields; CFO of the company's refining operation in Whiting, Indiana; and now as president of BP Aromatics' operations in the Americas, Europe and Middle East and as CEO of Global Aromatics.

That path included assignments in Miami, Chicago, Mexico City, London and other locales, as well as business-related travel to many other parts of the globe.

"I've actually lived outside the U. S. three times," he said, "in France, Mexico, and England. Living in those countries taught me that people are very similar around the world. Their appearances differ, but we all share the same basic human needs."

He also discovered a key difference. "People are much more worldly outside of the U. S.," he said. "They're more interested in what happening in other places than we are."

In his current position, Sierra is responsible for four manufacturing sites and 1,400 employees involved in the production of raw materials for the packaging, fibers, automotive and electronics industries.

"Obviously, I don't function as an engineer today," he said. "But that background is still valuable to me. First, engineering at its core is dedicated to problem-solving, and every business venture is full of challenges. And...

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