Cecilia Wagner, Business Development and Permitting Advisor
Business Development and Permitting Advisor
EGL, seconded to TAP project
Cecilia Wagner joined TAP as a Project Advisor in July 2009. She is one of a number of highly skilled professionals on the team who, equipped with the best international knowledge and a fresh perspective, are working to deliver the pipeline.
Before TAP: Latin America, USA and France
Cecilia initially studied Economics in Lima, Peru before moving from Latin America to the USA to finish her Bachelor degree at the University of Texas, Austin. After graduation, she worked for the management consulting division of Black and Veatch in Houston, Texas, providing consultancy services in market analysis, risk mitigation, and valuation to the gas industry.
After four years at the company, Cecilia moved to Europe to seek new challenges, enrolling in an MBA program at the INSEAD school of business in Fontainebleau, France (ranked among the top five MBA schools in the world). At INSEAD, the demanding program was split between two campuses in France and Singapore, allowing students to get the best business development experience from both Europe and Asia.
Upon completion of her studies, Cecilia wanted to continue working for the energy sector in Europe. She says, “I was looking to get more hands-on experience in the industry and was pleased when the position with TAP came up. It sounded interesting enough that I was ready to leave Paris for a small town in Switzerland.”
Moving to Switzerland for TAP
When Cecilia moved to the project’s headquarters in Canton Zug, she was already familiar with the gas industry from a commercial perspective. “Coming from a consulting background, I was used to jumping from one short-term project to another. TAP is different because it is a long-term project with many short-term deliverables.”
“However, you always have to keep your eye on the target, even if it’s several years down the road. The biggest surprise was to find out that the progress and future of the project depended not only on its commercial and technical advantages but on the political will of decision makers in the countries involved,” she says.
Cecilia joined TAP when the project was going through a lot of change. She says of this period, “It was a perfect time to join and be a part of this process.” A number of developments followed: a new shareholder, E.ON Ruhrgas, joined TAP and the project’s management and organisation changed. As a result, Cecilia’s job was reinvented.
Working for a project like TAP requires a lot of flexibility, says Cecilia. “You have to love change and accept that the focus of your work and your strategy will adjust continuously according to external developments.”
Tasks and duties
In her position as Business Development and Permitting Advisor, Cecilia contributes to her department’s primary goal of securing the permits and authorizations needed from various governments in order for the pipeline to be built. In practice, this means she is involved in helping project executives prepare for political and commercial negotiations, and organising project management meetings.
Cecilia is often the first one in the project to know about major decisions made by the Board of Directors and the management team. “Working directly with project executives is a great learning experience for any young professional. They are a diverse group with many years of industry experience. Each one of them brings a different perspective on the same issue, which sometimes leads to a heated debate, and it’s usually the best way to reach the best solution to a problem,” she says.
One of Cecilia’s most recent tasks at TAP is to visit Croatia, Montenegro, Bosnia, Kosovo and other Balkan countries in order to introduce the TAP project to local stakeholders and discuss what it can bring to the region. “We explain our pipeline concept and how reverse flow and 'tie-in' points along the pipeline route can be used in the future to secure energy supply for the Balkans.”
According to Cecilia, feedback from the local authorities has been positive. “TAP is welcome. They see it as a big opportunity for the whole South East European region.”
Like many others at TAP, Cecilia expects a lot from the upcoming year and views 2011 as a decisive time for the future of the project. “TAP has many advantages which will help it to become successful. Working on this project you can take great pride in what you are doing, especially considering the project’s huge potential impact on the whole of Europe.”
Small but international
Cecilia, who is used to working and living in hectic metropolises like Lima, Houston, Singapore and Paris, finds life in the Swiss town of Zug very different, but still rewarding.
On the one hand there is a small-town feeling where one can hear cow bells in the morning and see the mountains only 15 minutes from the TAP office. ”I admire the Swiss transportation system which gets you everywhere exactly on time. Now in winter I enjoy travelling around and snowshoeing, learning how to ski, doing all kinds of winter sports,” she says.
On the other hand, the place is very international. “The diversity of the team in TAP makes me feel at home. It’s a great pool of talent and there are at least five languages spoken around my desk on a typical working day."
Recently, Cecilia decided to make an effort to become even more integrated into Switzerland and learn German, which will add a new language to her native Spanish, and fluent French and English, making her “quadrilingual”. Ultimately, TAP’s chances of success are excellent, so she should have plenty of opportunities to use her German.