On Fernando Flores' university experiences and early career, as shared by a friend.
Bernardo Andrews is known for his work with various bureaucratic structures during the Allende government and his subsequent career with Fernando Flores in the consulting and design space in Chile and other Latin American countries. The interview conducted on October 25, 2022, provides insights from a friend of one of our main podcast protagonists, Fernando Flores. We learn about Fernando's university experience, his interactions with fellow students, and reflections on his early career.
Evgeny: Bernardo, you’ve known Fernando Flores since you were both teenagers. How did the two of you meet?
Bernardo: I was born in a small town in the north of Chile. Later, I relocated to the south, about a thousand kilometers south of Santiago, where I spent my years until I turned 17. My school was part of a monastic institution run by dedicated brothers who focused on education. Interestingly, they also operated colleges in Talca – that’s where Fernando was born – and Santiago.
So, we crossed paths when we were 17. We both enjoyed playing basketball and were proud of our respective teams. We initiated a conversation during medical examinations and discovered our shared educational background, which drew us closer. We exchanged stories about different professors we had and even challenged each other intellectually. That's how our friendship began.
We both relocated to Santiago to study around the same time. I believe it was in March of 1959.
Evgeny: What did you both study in Santiago?
We both began our journey in civil engineering. The program was designed in a way that for the first three years, all the students studied the same curriculum. By the fourth year, we had to choose our specific fields. Fernando chose industrial engineering, while I continued with civil engineering.
Evgeny: Can you share any other impressions of Fernando from that time?
Bernardo: Fernando was a small-town kid, like myself, who moved to Santiago. He was eager to make a name for himself, much like I was. We were both slightly out of place among the wealthier students from Santiago, so we naturally gravitated towards each other and formed study groups with other students from different parts of Chile.
Evgeny: Did Fernando's life change during university?
Bernardo: At that time, Fernando was courting a woman named Gloria. He had expressed his intentions to marry her to one of his close friends when he was around 15 years old. However, they were not married yet, nor did they have a formal relationship acknowledged by their parents, given the conservative times.
His life underwent a significant change when he married her, I believe it was during our third year at the university. He was absolutely certain about his decision to marry her, regardless of any hurdles. His new marital status pushed him to seek work and provide for his family.
Evgeny: Can you share any anecdotes or stories about Fernando from your time studying together?
Bernardo: Fernando was always a curious and rigorous learner. At the start, I would say I had a slight edge over him in mathematics, but he quickly surpassed me due to his rigorous study habits. He was more interested in understanding the sources of knowledge, the materials our professors were reading themselves, and following up on these leads than simply attending lectures. He was truly a curious individual.
Another interesting aspect of Fernando was his admiration for his mother, who ran a lumber business. He often spoke about how she inspired him, which was rare for our generation. Like Fernando, I was proud of my parents' hard work and their aspirations for us to have good lives through education and acquiring professional titles.
Evgeny: Was there a particular episode or incident where other students understood that Fernando clearly has some leadership skills?
Evgeny: Could you share your experiences about Fernando Flores during your early years?
Bernardo: Today, I can interpret those early experiences in my own way. There's a saying, "silence speaks volumes," and this applied to Fernando. He had a remarkable academic record, but people often chose not to discuss this. Fernando once shared his achievements with me, and I found myself wondering why others didn't mention them.
Take for instance, our tests in Rational Mechanics, a very complex subject. It involves solving challenging problems such as determining the movement of an object in space after various actions. This requires the execution of complex equations. However, Fernando always approached these problems in a very elegant and efficient manner, often outperforming even the assistant professors. Strangely enough, no one seemed to acknowledge his accomplishments in this area.
Evgeny: Why do you think others did not acknowledge his achievements?
Bernardo: In my view, some might have been envious or unprepared to praise someone as unconventional as Fernando. Despite being from a province, his ability often surpassed that of the locals, which caused discomfort. This is something Fernando had to navigate in many ways.
Fernando never dwelled on negative experiences or humiliations. Instead, he chose to look past them and didn't let them affect him. For example, in Operation Research, a field studied by Industrial Engineers, Fernando once wrote a paper in response to a problem, drawing from various sources. His approach, rather than providing a simple answer, was applauded by his professors. However, his classmates were less appreciative.
Evgeny: What do you believe drove and motivated Fernando?
Bernardo: Fernando was always very dedicated and hardworking. But more than a desire to earn money or provide for his family, I believe he was driven by a commitment to succeed and to validate his worth. His achievements were a form of tribute to his mother, whom he admired greatly. One incident that stands out involves a consulting company where he worked. Despite being a student, he outperformed even qualified engineers, earning their respect and proving his worth.
Evgeny: Can you recall any specific instances which highlight Fernando Flores' tenacity and problem-solving abilities?
Bernard:o Definitely, one story that stands out happened while he was working for a significant consulting company. They were struggling with an issue, the details of which escape me now, but it involved providing services for the railways and had something to do with British Sigma. At the time, Fernando was technically underqualified for his position; he hadn't yet fulfilled all the company's criteria. But he was hired on the condition that if he didn't perform better than an engineer, they could let him go. Fernando took on the challenge confidently, resorting to unconventional methods like combing through directories and making hundreds of phone calls to find a solution. It was his ability to take action and confront difficulties head-on that made him stand out.
Evgeny: Why did Fernando choose not to pursue academia after his degree?
Bernardo: Fernando didn't leave academia due to professional reasons. It was more about his desire to overcome challenges, irrespective of whether they were technical, career-related, or something else. It was the human element, his sheer determination that drove him. This determination was also evident in his personal life. For instance, when he decided to marry his girlfriend, Gloria, despite opposition from her father, he told him straight, "No matter what, we will marry, be it today, tomorrow, or next year." Eventually, her father had to admit Fernando's unwavering commitment and gave his support.
Evgeny: What significant impact did his first son's polio diagnosis have on Fernando?
Bernardo: His son Rodrigo's diagnosis with polio indeed brought about a big change in Fernando's life. While he did not express his suffering openly, it was evident that he was deeply affected. He continued working and managing his company, Gloria, enduring his personal turmoil until things improved. His ability to mask his suffering was a testament to his resilience.
Evgeny: Fernando only formally completed his studies – i.e. got the title of the engineer – in 1970, correct?
Bernardo: Indeed, Fernando finished his university studies around 1963-64, but he didn't receive his professional title until 1970. The reason behind this delay was that we had to complete a thesis under the guidance of a professor. Fernando, who was already working by then, did not find the time to do so. However, I believe that the necessity of possessing a university degree for a political career motivated him to eventually complete his thesis and receive his title. His thesis was, interestingly, more focused on the sociological aspects of industrial management than on engineering.