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Fernanda Flores – Sulzer Pumps Mexico and Sulzer Chemtech Mexico

Head of legal took roundabout route to legal leadership

Fernanda Flores was at her cousin’s wedding when one of her cousin’s classmates approached, swooped her up, gave her a big hug and introduced her to his wife.

“She was the one who defended us from the bullies,” he told his wife. “And I really appreciated that she did that for us—she cared about us even though we were small.”

Flores’ cousin, who is three years her junior, and his friends were nerds, Flores recalls affectionately. They got picked on at school, and they needed someone to look out for them. As she explains, “I was always the anti-bully, so I defended everybody.”

Fernanda Flores | Head of Legal and Compliance Officer | Sulzer Pumps Mexico and Sulzer Chemtech Mexico

Fernanda Flores | Head of Legal and Compliance Officer | Sulzer Pumps Mexico and Sulzer Chemtech Mexico

It was this drive to defend the underdog that led her into law, although she took a roundabout route. She began studying law when she was 18, but her father’s untimely death and her mother’s cancer diagnosis (plus the need to help her then 7-year-old brother) when Flores was 21 led her to abandon her studies and join the workforce.

At 23, Flores got a job as a hostess at a restaurant in Mexico City called Beer Factory. It lasted one day. The owner of the restaurant group approached her and told her to quit so she could fill the newly created position of public relations manager. Thus began Flores’ career in public relations, an experience she still draws on to this day.

“It taught me to be good with people—to talk to people, to see what we can do for them to be in a better position or for a good deal,” she says. “In all of my work, I think I’m skilled as a people person.”

Overhauling contracts and infrastructure

Eventually, Flores returned to her legal studies and graduated with honors. Today, she’s head of legal for Mexico and Latin America and compliance officer for Mexico at Sulzer Pumps Mexico and Sulzer Chemtech Mexico, affiliates of the global industrial engineering and manufacturing company. At Sulzer’s Mexico City office, she’s been building the legal department from scratch, which has brought challenges.

For example, she and her team had to create procedures to review the company’s contracts. Then they set out to update individual contracts because of changes to Mexico’s laws.

“We are working right now on several contracts with refineries in Mexico and big oil companies in Latin America,” she says. “They are the biggest refineries in Uruguay and Argentina.”

Fernanda Flores | Head of Legal and Compliance Officer | Sulzer Pumps Mexico and Sulzer Chemtech Mexico

In 2022, Sulzer partnered with the second largest oil company in Latin America, which runs Mexico’s second-biggest refinery—located in the city of Tula, in Hidalgo state—to improve its facilities. The coordinated effort has meant that the oil company’s Tula refinery, together with its Dos Bocas refinery (on the Gulf coast) and its Deer Park refinery (outside Houston), can cover 80 percent of Mexico’s national demand for gasoline and all its demand for diesel.

Flores says this project generated thousands of jobs and helped to develop the Tula area, which is home to a Toltec archaeological site that includes the famous Pyramid of Quetzalcoatl.

“Sulzer Equipment is part of this project, which will reduce the environmental impact on the atmosphere of Hidalgo and Morelos by around 474,000 tons of sulfur dioxide per year,” Flores explains. “And the contracts were very important for this wonderful outcome.”

Memorable mentoring

When she joined Sulzer, Flores had her first female mentor, who taught her a great deal, and now she’s determined to pay it forward. For example, not long ago, Flores noticed her intern—now a junior lawyer at the company—looking crestfallen. The intern had wanted to review a contract and was disappointed she wasn’t able to yet.

Flores tried to cheer her up, telling the intern that, “every day is a battle to win, a smile to give, a sight to live and a heart full of love to accomplish your goals,” she says.

The next day, Flores opened Microsoft Teams and saw that her intern had pinned that quote to her Teams account. It drove home to Flores how influential she can be as a mentor. She says she tries to teach her intern that effort and dedication can bring success.

Fernanda Flores | Head of Legal and Compliance Officer | Sulzer Pumps Mexico and Sulzer Chemtech Mexico

“I’m a very big momma mentor,” Flores laughs. “I tell her that she is my daughter from work. We’re a very good team. We manage to do all the document reviews every day.”

Flores says mentoring has taught her to be patient and to love her work even more than she did previously. And it’s her way of giving back to Sulzer’s company culture.

Using the Force

As for her own legal career, which included a stop at one of the world’s largest commodities trading groups, Flores took on a more significant legal leadership role in 2019. She then became legal manager at Alcázar & Compañía in January 2021. She joined Sulzer that November.

Now settling down, she’s engaged to be married to her partner, a fellow lawyer who she met through mutual friends right before the COVID-19 pandemic arrived.

“I think having a good partner in your life who makes you see the bigger picture, a partner who supports you, it’s a good thing,” she says. “And also, my mom and brother have been amazing.”

Fernanda Flores | Head of Legal and Compliance Officer | Sulzer Pumps Mexico and Sulzer Chemtech Mexico

Flores also has a home office buddy: her Great Dane, Luke Skywalker, who’s almost 3 years old.

“He’s been very important in my life,” Flores says. “He teaches me that support comes not only from words. And when I see his cute face, I start trying all over again to reach my goals.”

View this feature in the Vanguard Spring II 2023 Edition here.

Published on: March 23, 2023

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