In tough economic times, it’s not about what you’re given, but what you do with it
RUTH AMARILLA IS QUICK TO BOAST THAT SHE HAS A LOT of fun at work. But that doesn’t mean what she does is easy. The Argentinian-born manager at ConocoPhillips Canada oversees the company’s strategic spending. It’s an important role at the best of times. And during times of falling commodity prices and company-wide layoffs, getting the job done right is absolutely crucial.
Amarilla’s day involves finding cost-savings in the company. She sorts through enormous amounts of data, looking for the key pieces that will complete the puzzle. If the task sounds arduous, that’s because it is. “Sometimes I think that the most challenging thing is [just] to find the right data,” Amarilla says. And, given the unprecedented amount of data available today, that challenge has never been greater, or more financially rewarding. “In times of adversity you need to be more efficient and provide a different type of value.” It’s a lesson she’s learned in both her personal and professional life.
Originally from Rosario, Argentina, the 42-year-old Amarilla says she knew from an early age that she loved to learn. She adopted her parents’ strong work ethic and focused on her studies. “Everything that I got at the beginning was from them,” she says. After high school, Amarilla pursued a degree in engineering at the Universidad Catolica Argentina and, later, an MBA at the University of CEMA in Buenos Aires. She started her career at Tenaris, an Argentinian manufacturer and supplier of pipe products for the oil and gas industry. But in the early 2000s, Argentina’s economic and political landscape was in turmoil. Safety became an increasingly vital concern for Amarilla until, eventually, it became a priority.
In 2004, Amarilla and her husband moved to Canada. They had no family or connections in the country, but they valued its reputation as a diverse and welcoming place to live. “We really wanted to know different cultures and we weren’t really experiencing that [in Argentina],” Amarilla says. “We saw that [Canada] was a great country to work in and meet people.”
Shortly after arriving, Amarilla was able to secure a job with Tenaris Canada in Calgary, but she didn’t stop there. She went back to school and got her master’s degree in engineering at the University of Calgary with a focus on program management, as well as her PEng from the Association of Professional Engineers and Geoscientists of Alberta (APEGA). When ConocoPhillips Canada needed someone to implement strategic spending changes within the company’s supply chain system in 2012, Amarilla found herself in the right place at the right time.
Finding cost efficiency has become something of a mantra in the energy business lately. But it’s a mantra Amarilla has taken to heart at ConocoPhillips. “One of my biggest successes at work is related to the development and implementation of a program that changed the supply chain management approach within our company,” says Amarilla. “In oil and gas, you have to be flexible and adapt to different needs.”