Andrea E. Bertone, Class of 1995
Head of the international branch of the largest electrical energy utility company in the United States
Andrea Bertone is the president of Duke Energy International (DEI), the international business segment of Duke Energy that operates diverse power generation assets in North America and Latin America. Originally from Brazil, Bertone earned a law degree from the University of Sao Paulo and established her own practice in Brazil before coming to the United States, where she earned an LLM in International & Comparative Law from Chicago-Kent and worked at the Chicago office of Baker & McKenzie. She later returned to South America and worked as the lead lawyer for projects such as the first bilateral sale of power in Brazil and the first pre-payment of gas in Argentina. Bertone joined Duke Energy in 2001 as assistant general counsel for Energy Services in Houston, Texas. She served as general counsel for DEI from 2006 to 2009 and also served as legal director for DEI Paranapanema, a generating company in Brazil. She was appointed president in 2009.
What’s been your biggest challenge?
There were so many. The biggest challenge of all was, first of all, to move from Brazil to come to the US to embrace the culture, to learn how business is done here. That was a humongous challenge. But then others presented, and then I had several decisions that I had to make as I went through my career path. Decisions to move or not move. Decisions to, over the 12 years that I’ve been with Duke, I got approached to go work other places, and I ended up deciding to stay. The fact that I stayed was a challenging decision at the moment, but I think it was the right one. And obviously the challenge of moving from a legal job where I was extremely comfortable to a terrain that was completely unknown to me, which was the business side and being in charge of a large business.
What has been your greatest professional achievement?
I think that I can cite lots of things that I’ve done in terms of contributing to the results of my company. All of this is very nice, but to me when I think about an achievement, and I think about working with a bunch of people, I have 1,200 people in a team that is under me now at Duke. The biggest achievement is giving people the opportunities to grow as professionals. I’ve taken the opportunity throughout my career to find people that were very talented and sort of hidden in the organization without an opportunity. When you bring them to light and make them flourish, it’s just incredible. To me, that is a great reward. But when you see people achieving things and that you can make a difference, and that they can see that you care and want them to succeed and they’re thankful for that. To me, that is achievement-more than any number or result that I can present.
How did Chicago Kent prepare you for your success?
I think CK opened all the doors; it was my encounter with American culture and American education. It was the first time I went to school in the US. It helped me not only with the language and the culture, but the culture of business. It helped me shape myself to become an American, which you need to be when you’re in business, because it’s a completely different language in all respects. I look at Chicago Kent as the door to my American life.
What advice would you to young attorneys just starting out their careers today?
I would tell them to just keep their minds very open and preserve. I think sometimes young people see the first bumps in the road as killers. I think bumps in the road have to be seen as opportunities to grow. I would advise them to keep their opportunities very open and very flexible, because sometimes your life is going to take you to places you never imagined before you were going to end up at.
How would you persuade a potential student to attend Chicago Kent?
It was a school that was very technically capable and advanced. It was a school that had everything we needed to be able to go through school and have the quality of education that I was expecting at least, at that point. We had new facilities, very good labs, it was very good. I think that the quality of the professors, but also, I think that the atmosphere at school was very pleasant. I think that law school can already be something very stressful for students, because obviously it’s difficult, time consuming, and it’s expensive. There’s a lot of stress involved. I remember having a lot of support from the professors. I have very good memories of it.