At Dow Chemical, everything but agriculture
While his earliest roots were related to agriculture, Juan Luciano had spent his entire working career in the chemical industry before joining Archer Daniels Midland Co. in 2011.
“I’m from Argentina, and it’s very difficult to be in Argentina and not have roots in agriculture,” he said.
Mr. Luciano was born in San Nicolas, in what he described as the heart of Argentina’s soybean producing area, 40 miles southeast of the major river port of Rosario.
On his father’s side, Mr. Luciano comes from a long line of lawyers, each named Juan Luciano, dating back many generations.
“My father passed away when I was six, so we went to live with my mother’s parents, and they have been farmers for many generations,” he said. “My grandfather, with his brothers, used to own an elevator, and people would come and unload grain, and they would buy fertilizer, seeds and all those things. I spent a lot of time playing around in the mountains of seed bags..”
Breaking the tradition of attorneys named Juan Luciano, Mr. Luciano chose to study engineering at the Buenos Aires Institute of Technology, where he graduated with bachelor’s and master’s degrees. He joined Dow Chemical Co. in South America in 1985 in a position in commercial sales.
After about eight years with Dow in Argentina, he was promoted to a position in São Paulo, Brazil. At numerous points in Mr. Luciano’s career, across different countries, continents and divisions, he rarely considered whether his skills would translate to new assignments.
He credits his educational background as a significant factor in his success. His two children studied engineering at the University of Michigan.
“As engineers, you don’t learn anything in particular other than the method to solve problems,” he said. “In that sense, it’s very useful because it helps you with your mindset about how to approach problems in a rational way and to get to the best decision. I don’t think I have ever worked as a true engineer in my life, but it is very helpful for whatever you approach in terms of business.”
At Dow, Mr. Luciano retired as president of the Performance Products and Systems Division, having worked before as head of Plastics and Hydrocarbons and Energy. When he left the company to join ADM, Mr. Luciano was a corporate executive vice-president.
“I had worked in every division with the exception of the agricultural division,” he said. “Interestingly enough I didn’t run that one.”