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Working across cultures and learning all the nuances of their different backgrounds is just one of her favorite work passions, celebrates Ana Amicarella on the phone somewhere within the Aggreko U.S.-Latin American network.
As managing director for Americas Power Projects (APP), Amicarella runs Aggreko’s $350 million temporary power division manned by 800 people sprawled across North, Central, South America, and the Caribbean. With 117 locations across The Americas, APP boasts the world’s largest temporary power generator fleet.
Given her vast work territory, travel is a big requirement and she can frequently be found on the go. For instance, in just the last week of June 2014, Amicarella commuted between Houston, Texas; Panama; and Bogota, Colombia, to conduct business.
During our interview, as Amicarella speaks of her current and past experiences, her words paint a picture of an urbane and global professional, an engineer, energy executive, community leader, dedicated wife and mother.
Appointed to managing director of Aggreko’s APP division this past January, Amicarella currently oversees the very successful business of supplying not single rental generators, but large scale (defined as 10MW – 200MW) temporary power solutions capable of powering up complete cities and companies in the electric utilities, oil & gas and mining sectors operating in any location.
Moreover, APP’s multi-megawatt power applications, such as an entire temporary power plant engineered to supplement insufficient power supply, can be delivered in a matter of weeks based on a customer’s specific requirements. No small feat.
For example, in South America and The Caribbean, many countries rely heavily on hydro power. During periods of drought or an unforeseen climatic event these sources drop off and APP is often asked to provide a temporary power solution for anywhere from a few months to several years on a large scale basis to meet the shortfall until hydro-generated levels recover.
“Economies across the world are growing at a phenomenal rate which is resulting in an increased strain on power generation, transmission and distribution infrastructure. Due to these issues and working with Aggreko, I’ve really been able to learn about each region, industry sector and the unique challenges and power needs of each,” Amicarella said.”
Amicarella is very pleased with the success she has had with Aggreko to date, but looking back it is clear her personal attributes, accomplishments and professional experiences helped to lay a solid groundwork for her chosen career path.
It stared in 1984 when Amicarella participated in the Los Angeles Olympics as a synchronized swimmer. She was then inducted into the Venezuelan Swimming Hall of Fame in 1989 for making her mark among the youth of the world in the sport. Through this remarkable achievement, she adopted a strong passion for challenges and an unbreakable can-do attitude.
Amicarella ventured into the professional world in 1988, taking a job with GE. She joined the company’s energy business as a power systems engineer in Detroit, Michigan and held the position until 1992, a year before completing an M.B.A. at Oakland University.
During the first 14 years of her career on GE’s energy management fast track she moved through critical jobs such as business development manager in Schenectady, New York; Caracas, Venezuela; and Miami, Florida. She was Disney global account executive—driving all aspects of the corporate relationship with GE and Disney; a strategic initiatives manager for GE Power Systems in Schenectady, New York; and the general manager of sales operations based in Atlanta, Georgia.
“The first big [career] decision I made was to become an engineer as it aligned with my natural skills and abilities,” Amicarella told Hispanic Engineer & Information Technology magazine. “The second big decision was starting in a field role with GE,” she said. “That really set me on a path of being hands-on and having field experience. I had an opportunity to manage people early. By age 26, I was already managing a group of engineers.”
From there, Amicarella branched into other functions. She got into a sales training program— selling power plants in Latin America; strategic planning and operations, which, for her career, gave her a 360-degree view. By the time she got to run a business and become a general manager she had worked in various roles from engineering to sales to planning to operations. That set her on a course for being well-rounded and able to relate to a variety of different functions.
“Not that you can see everything,” she cautioned, “but I clearly had significant varied experiences. You also need to be a good negotiator and know at what point you can make a decision, when you can’t, and how to escalate that,” Amicarella explained. “You work commercially through the terms with a customer to deliver on your promises and execute. It’s synchronized work.”
From 2005-2007, Amicarella off-ramped—using a two-year hiatus from GE to focus on her family and as an aside created a startup targeted at real estate investments in the Northern Nevada area. Amicarella met her husband when she was 21, on her first day at GE. The couple has a 17-year-old daughter, who is off to the Colorado School of Mines to swim and study biochemistry, plus two sons, aged 14 and 10.
Amicarella returned to GE as GM Oil and Gas Services for North America in Houston, Texas, running a $400 million business serving exploration and production to downstream, stretching from Trinidad to Alaska.
In 2011, Amicarella joined current employer Aggreko and served as a vice president of the North Business Unit where she was responsible for several regions in the United States, from California to New York. She then moved into a similar role as vice president of the South Business Unit exceeding business growth and profitability expectations— leading natural gas strategy and deployment of temporary power generators for the increasingly popular shale plays.
“During the time when my position was focused on North America, there was growing demand for supplemental power support and Aggreko was part of this humungous unconventional oil and gas development boom,” she said. “The shale explosion transformed our business and introduced new product lines.”
Oftentimes there isn’t an electrical line where people drill, she explained, so they require power. “Aggreko comes in on the production side with temporary power generation once a well has been set to run the pumps. In the local business, we have hundreds of units supporting temporary power needs,” she said.
Now as managing director of Aggreko’s APP division, Amicarella has come a long way from the 1984 Olympics and her first job as a GE field engineer…and still believes in the importance of encouraging young people to continue to do internships and co-op programs as she started a co-op program in her first role at GE.
Adds Amicarella, “If there is any parting advice I can impart onto professionals in any stage of their career, I would say to be very clear on what it is you need to accomplish. For me, work is like a sport given my experience as an Olympian. First, have the discipline to train through the pain, long hours, and exhaustion, with endurance. Those traits serve the same basic principles in business and can be applied to work or family life. Second, understand that you can’t do it alone. Bring to the table an ability to work as part of a team that is clear on goals and objectives.”
Clearly, abiding by those two simple philosophies undoubtedly helped Ana Amicarella become the successful global executive, wife and mother she is today.
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