Wednesday, May 6, 2020

When Roberto Gutierrez (BBA04) first moved to the state of Iowa, he thought it would only be for his senior year of high school. He was a competitive diver as a teenager in his native Madrid, Spain when he decided to follow in the footsteps of other divers in his club and came to Iowa.

Gutierrez went to high school at Regina in Iowa City and trained for diving at the UI Field House. It was at the pool that long-time Iowa diving coach Bob Rydze recruited him to dive for the Hawkeyes. And that’s where the Tippie College of Business got involved.

“At Tippie I went through four majors before I decided finance and economics were for me,” Gutierrez said. “After two years of core requirements, I was able to try all these different courses. Looking back, it was my favorite time at Tippie because it opened my mind.”

While he remembers college as “wonderful," the toughest time was the first six months in the U.S. But the adjustment proved to be a formative part of his life, and something he wants his own children to experience.

Gutierrez as a Hawkeye diver.
                                             Gutierrez as a Hawkeye diver.

Gutierrez started a two- to five-year commitment with 3M Brazil as their finance director in January 2019. His wife Jackie (Callahan) Gutierrez (BA04) (a Dubuque, Iowa native) and three children Alicia, Lydia, and Luca came along with him by design. He foresees resilience, adaptability, and flexibility to come out of this family-sized culture shock. Gutierrez views this as a gift, though his children may not see it that way for another 15 years or so.  

He has had the international business stint in mind since he joined 3M, which runs 60 percent of its business outside of the United States. He is currently stationed in Campinas, Brazil, an urban area of about three million people an hour and a half north of São Paulo. In addition to 3M, other multinational companies in the area include John Deere, Honda, and Caterpillar.

“For me, I thought it would develop me both professionally and personally,” Gutierrez said. “I wanted to see how this subsidiary works because at headquarters you’re not close to operations. I also thought it would be good to have the difficulty to live in a different country. With all the headaches it creates, the good things offset the bad things. And professionally, the experience provides me a competitive advantage in my career.”

Gutierrez changed from a relatively removed headquarters position to a fast-paced supervisory role of a post with $600 million a year in revenue.

“The biggest challenge has been leading our team through a lot of change,” Gutierrez said. “We’re seeing a lot of change both in Brazil, which is coming out of a recession, and internally at 3M, where we are changing how we operate.”
3M announced a restructuring plan in March 2019. The reorganization cut 2,000 jobs worldwide and reduced their number of operating units from five to four.

A challenge for any finance director, sure, but a good fit for someone who has prioritized and co-opted the values of resilience, adaptability, and flexibility into his very way of life.