7 Questions with Alex Romero
Name: Alex Romero
Current title: Founder
Current organisation: Raramuri Ventures
I help companies achieve a successful digital transformation, operational excellence, predictive maintenance, top performance management and best-in-class technical troubleshooting and optimization.
Before my current role, I had a similar role 2 years for KBR, and 5 years for Shell Global Solutions. Prior roles include several technical and strategy roles for Shell, BP, GlaxoSmithKline and Procter & Gamble.
I'm an Industrial and Systems Engineer, with an MBA and graduate studies in Artificial Intelligence and Robotics.
Have 2 children, daughter who recently graduated from Cornell and son who still attends A&M.
1. What have you found most challenging as a CEO or executive of a large enterprise?
Control myself, my own impulses and ego.
2. How did you become a CEO or executive of a large enterprise? Can you please briefly tell the story?
My career started in customer service at P&G. I then evolved into several sales and marketing roles until I moved out to lead a national sales team for a pharmaceutical company that was then acquired by GSK. I then had the opportunity to help a small chocolate company export their products to the rest of the world. That is what made me move to the US, and when I moved to the US I had the opportunity to join BP at a time when they wanted to restructure their global operations and how they got to market, which allowed me to lead global strategy teams but keep interacting with sales. I was then asked to join Shell to conduct a similar global transformation of their commercial operations, which I did successfully. After this, I created large loyalty programs for the retail and lubricants businesses for Shell, and then moved to the technical side, supporting refineries and upstream operations. As I did that, I also started selling these technical services to Shell's customers (other oil companies), liaising with governments and bankers around the world to materialize new large projects. This led me to creating such a business, including digital transformation for KBR, from zero. And after leading this for almost two years and finding that the opportunities in the market were huge, I decided to pursue my own venture.
3. How do you structure your work days from waking up to going to sleep?
I view work in monthly and weekly units, not days.
My week always starts on Sunday afternoon, at around 4, where I plan what I want to achieve in the week. Usually 2-3 objectives, no more. I also review meetings in the calendar, and put some blocks in for time for me to do thinking and work. During the week, I usually wake up at 5, prepare, get to work... work from 6:15 am or so until about 5:30 pm, exercise a bit, spend time with family, then prepare anything needed for the next day and sleep early at about 9:45 PM.
4. What's the most recent significant leadership lesson you've learned?
To do the right thing no matter what the consequences. I think to be able to lead you have to first be courageous so that when you are tested (and tested you will be), you react with principles instead of with fear. I recently had a case where a person in my team was treated unfairly by other people in the company and despite being unpopular, I defended this individual as best as I could.
5. What's one book that has had a profound impact on your leadership so far? Can you please briefly tell the story of how that book impacted your leadership?
The four hour workweek by Tim Ferriss. I read this book during time off work and it made me realize first that being rich is not about income nor even money, it is about time. Second it made me realize how much more I could do by thinking differently, delegating more, subcontracting more, and focusing only on the core (which is very difficult to do sometimes). Best part about this, is that you are able to free time for yourself and what you love doing!
6. How do you build leadership capacity in a large enterprise?
CCCC... which stands for character, courage and competency - and doing this consistently will bring results, then trust, then growth, and ultimately leadership capacity.
7. What is one meaningful story that comes to mind from your time as a CEO or executive of a large enterprise so far?
When I changed my role from strategy into the technical team, I had to learn most of the job from zero. It was a very difficult time for me. However I embraced it, without shortcuts. It was frustrating at times as I did not see my own progress. But almost a year after working quietly, keeping my head down, focusing on deliveries, my manager took me in her office and showed me the statistics on work orders brought by all team members, including me. And I was on top of the list. And then she told me that the thing she liked most about me was that because I was new, I was able to listen and be coached, I was humble, and that enabled me to learn and achieve. This story comes to my mind several times, when I am doing the daily grind trying to deliver sales or results and don't see progress spikes... is not about one-time results, but daily, steady improvement, which over time accumulates.