Sergio Velasquez-Terjesen
Sergio Velasquez-Terjesen
Home Region

Houston, TX

Undergrad Education

Louisiana State University, BS Engineering, 2009

Previous Experience

ConocoPhillips

HBS Activities

LGBT Student Association VP; Retail & Luxury Goods Club co-president; Diversity, Equity & Inclusion Council co-facilitator and LGBTSA rep; Section H Manbassadors Rep and Community Values Rep; Harbus contributor

“My number one motivation was to change the trajectory of my career and my life.”

Sergio Velasquez-Terjesen (MBA 2019) is accustomed to changing directions. At age fifteen, he moved from his home in Venezuela in the midst of civil and political unrest, seeking safety and opportunity in the United States. He pursued chemical engineering in university. "I thought I would go into biotech and genetics," he says of his initial ambitions. But after two years as a lab assistant at Louisiana State University, he found that, although the science was "fascinating," the work was "lonely, tedious, and monotonous."

Eager to find a way up and out, he embraced the oil and gas industry because "it offered excitement, good pay, plus opportunities for international travel—I wanted to explore connections in the larger global community."

At ConocoPhillips, Sergio not only applied himself to work assignments in the in the US, Norway, and Australia, but seized an opportunity to change the culture of ConocoPhillips itself, becoming the co-founder of the company's first LGBT employee group. Over the course of four years, Sergio and his colleagues moved ConocoPhillips' Human Rights Campaign Corporate Equality Index score from a low of forty-five to a perfect one hundred.

Using the MBA as a pivot point

Encouraged by his success, Sergio was eager to add an "environmental and social impact" dimension to his life while pursuing an entirely different kind of career—in fashion. "At the time, my goals were amorphous," Sergio says. "My number one motivation was to change the trajectory of my career and my life. I saw HBS as an opportunity to explore my options and figure out where to go next with my ambition of using business to positively contribute to society."

He didn’t waste time. During his first semester and January break, he participated in HBS's Start Up Bootcamp program, in which he worked with three HBS peers to launch a new line of children's clothing made from sustainable merino wool. "The marrying of fashion with sustainability is what interests me," says Sergio.

Ultimately, Sergio and his team chose not to continue the business. "But the experience was fantastic," he says. "I learned a ton about what it takes to launch an apparel line. And I discovered how much I didn’t know about manufacturing and supply chain management – the things that can give you a real advantage in the marketplace and where sustainability can be most impactful."

Changing directions again, Sergio has secured a consulting internship with McKinsey in Houston. "Consulting touches all aspects of business. It seems like a logical way to learn more about operations and management while building relationships—and fashion is very much a relationship business."

Despite the shifts in direction, one things remains constant for Sergio: a passion for social justice. "The private sector can drive positive change through thought leadership and best practices," he says. But he believes that action should not be deferred until after graduation. Regarding the underrepresentation of African-American, Hispanic, and LGBTQ people at top business schools and in business management, Sergio believes that, "to make progress, we need people who can see past what HBS was a hundred years ago to what it is today and what it can be in the future. Not only can you come here because you want to be a leader who makes a difference in the world, but you can make a difference at HBS itself, which can have significant influence in driving positive change for the next generation of business leaders."