What is the relationship between Dante and renewable energies? To find the answer, we have to talk to a young man in his early twenties who has just started working with ACCIONA and who challenges some of the clichés associated with his generation, the centennials. He has barely been in his current position for a year, but he already has a lot to say, both personally and professionally.

Ismael Moral Díaz speaks to us from Chicago, the city he moved to just two years ago. The initial conversation revolves around the typical small talk about the weather and the winter cold of the American city, but it does not take long for the conversation to tread deeper territories. “When I was six years old, I discovered that there were bigger problems than mine,” he explains serenely, as he crosses the video call screen with a forward-looking gaze.


An Italian childhood in the heart of Spain

Although he grew up in Chamberí, a traditional neighborhood of Madrid, the capital of Spain, “the eldest of four brothers in a normal family,” Ismael had early exposure to other cultures. “From the age of three, I went to the Italian Lyceum […], so from a very young age I was able to speak Italian and learn a completely different culture from the one I saw at home.” The immersion was so thorough that Italian nearly replaced his mother tongue: “At one point in my life, I spoke better Italian, at least on a technical level, than Spanish.”

There he also received a deeply humanistic education: “At the Italian school, I did the Liceo Scientifico, as they call it, and in that environment, I practically learned to translate texts from Latin without a dictionary and art history.” He also learned something that his teachers constantly emphasized and that he would later connect with his engineering career: “To see how things were interrelated, that the subjects were not isolated blocks, but that everything in the end is related, that everything that happens in science also has to do with the point in history in which we are.”


“Technological development has to do with history, with literature, with how people thought at the time.”


And he delves into this connection between technical and humanistic knowledge: Technological development obviously has to do with history, with literature, with how people thought at that time, and I think that environment shaped me a lot.

A miracle of half a kilo

But, going back to the beginning, what happened at the age of six to change his view of the world so markedly? It was the arrival of his twin brothers. Not only were there two of them, but they were also premature. Two months prematurely? “Much less so,” he says. And he clarifies: “They weighed 625 and 550 grams and were, well, they are a miracle.” The present-tense conjugation with which he rectifies on the fly says it all: in the end, it turned out well and his siblings live completely normal lives.

However, it was a challenge for the whole family. “My parents made a titanic effort to raise my two siblings and I had to grow up a little fast, let’s say, because I was six years old, my next sister was four, and at that time, we lived with my grandparents,” he says. Taking care of those fragile and miraculous lives thus became the focus of family life.


“I learned to reflect on my own problems: my parents had far more worrisome things on their minds for me to tell them that I had failed a math test or lost at soccer.”

At that time, he learned a lesson that has stayed with him forever: “I appreciated the importance of things. When I saw my parents, at the end of the day they were tired, they had much more worrisome things on their minds than for me to tell them that I had failed a math test or that I had lost at soccer. I learned to reflect on my own problems”. To relativize? “Yes, exactly.”

Afternoons with the grown-ups and many handwriting workbooks

In the midst of hospital comings and goings, with the family on edge, a crucial figure in Ismael’s development began to emerge. His name was the same as his, and he was a veterinarian. He studied law, published several books, and became a royal academic of gastronomy, but above all, he was his grandfather. In this section of “Our People,” we often talk about the importance of mentoring and role models for growth in a company.

However, nothing compares to mentoring in the family, academic, or social environment in the early years of life. That teacher who inspires us to choose a career, that family friend who introduces us to literature, or, as in this case, that grandfather who instills values in us and opens the windows of our minds so that we can peek into the world. “My grandfather was the one I grew up with […]. When I was born, he went out of his way for me, and even more so in that context [of premature twins].”

From his side, he learned countless things: “I remember going to the zoo with him since I was a child. But not to see the animals normally: it was an actual examination with their scientific names”. As mentioned, his grandfather was a veterinarian and, along with the knowledge of things, he taught him a love of animals and an early idea of sustainability, closely related to food and the impact of economic activities.

And all this with an almost military discipline: “I remember the summers with him. He never made me repeat Rubio’s [a Spanish classic] handwriting workbooks. And if we went for a walk and there was a plant that he had explained to me and I didn’t remember, he would scold me.” Although he qualifies: “But always with that feeling of wanting me to form myself, to grow”.


“My grandfather took me to many social events with his friends that were not for a child because I was very small, I was ten years old; but there I learned a lot, to see how people thought.”

And that also involved the social learning of sharing after-dinner meals with the grown-ups, with his grandfather’s former colleagues in the Ministry of Agriculture and other friends in the gastronomy field. “He took me to many social events with his friends that in principle were not for a child because I was very small, I was ten years old […]. I learned a lot there, to see how people thought […].  I was fascinated to be in those conversations.”

From humanism to technical rigor

By then, two axes that would mark Ismael’s vital and professional development were already configured. Firstly, his humanistic education at the Italian Lyceum, together with the discipline learned from his grandfather. Secondly, the autonomy and sense of duty that he suddenly learned with the arrival of the premature twins to the family.

Ismael was already attracted to renewable energies, but at the same time, he wanted to maintain the global vision he had learned in high school. “My father is a ‘teleco’ [as telecom engineers are known in Spain] and what he told me didn’t really appeal to me either,” he reflects. “Industrial engineering, on the other hand, I had the option of going into energy […] Besides, they always say that it is the most general engineering, the least specific, and I think that at that time I had a lot of things in my head and opting for a profile that was not excessively technical suited me better than doing something super-specific.”

However, the idealistic discourses of Renaissance interconnection of the disciplines soon came up against reality: “I started Industrial Engineering and in the first year I was a failure, because of course, everything was about technical rigor and accuracy, which is what is sought after in an engineer.” And he explains that in high school they had not even studied Chemistry or Technical Drawing, which resulted in poor results: “In the first year of my degree, out of ten subjects, I passed two. I took my first exam, for which I had studied, and I got a 0.3, which is not even a zero,” he recalls with a laugh.

The brutal learning curve gave him serious food for thought. “It’s not enough with the big picture here, you have to put your mind to it, and you have to get the numbers right, be technically rigorous,” he thought to himself. There were a lot of gaps to fill if he wanted to get his career off the ground. The results of his logic were not long in coming: “Then I never failed a subject again,” he says. He specialized in electrical engineering, always with an eye on renewable energies.


From Chamberí to Chicago

Not only did he manage to complete his degree in four years, but he also began a two-year master’s degree in electricity. For the latter, he was given the opportunity to travel abroad.  “I was motivated to live in the United States,” he explains. And he made the leap to Chicago, where he opted to study electricity markets. “It combined the technical basics I had wanted in electricity with a more global vision of finance, strategy, and how the bidding markets are formed.” Again, the fascination with the global vision.


ACCIONA: when passion meets excellence

He had barely finished his master’s degree when he had the opportunity to interview for a position at ACCIONA Energía in Chicago. Did he already have any knowledge of the company? “The people I knew had worked in other areas [of ACCIONA] and all I had were very good references on a personal level.

“ACCIONA seemed like a company that I was going to be able to contribute to, that was going to represent me perfectly, and that I would be able to represent as well.”


He had also seen the kind of projects the company was undertaking and the values it embodied: “It seemed to me that it was a company I could contribute to, which would represent me perfectly and which I could also represent […] I wouldn’t have to do anything that went against my thoughts and my ideas. For me it was the best option.”

“There’s a fair that about eighty industrial students go to every year in the U.S.; it’s organized by the Polytechnic University of Madrid with companies,” he recaps. It was there that he met ACCIONA’s Human Resources department. After two interviews, the understanding was mutual. “They sent me the contract and I didn’t give it a moment’s thought.” His job title? Interconnection Engineer, a term that, as we have already seen, has always been a mantra for him.

He summarizes his responsibilities: “Fundamentally, we are the company’s liaison with the electricity market throughout the entire process: from the moment there is nothing, from the moment you say, ‘here, in this barren soil, I am going to build a solar plant,’ until you reach commercial operation.” He explains: “It is a very long process with a lot of technical, legal, contractual, and financial requirements.”

How has the experience been so far? “It was my first job and for me everything was new and exciting. And it still is today. I think that obviously speaks volumes of the team and the environment I’m working in because I’ve been there for a year now and I’m still excited to go to the office and work.”

Sometimes you need to leave a place to understand yourself better thanks to the new perspective. And that is what Ismael points out about the impact of cultural change and working with Americans: “I had never thought that we Spaniards could be a bit dry or rough in general, but Americans tell us that a lot, that we are very direct. They are clearer, but less concise.”


“I joined ACCIONA at a historic moment: we went from building only one solar farm a year to six at a time right now.”


In addition to being a sector that appealed to him, Ismael arrived at a time of transition: “The truth is that I was incredibly lucky because I entered when the company was at a historic moment. ACCIONA here was building only one park at a time and last year we were already building six.” He was also fortunate in terms of mentoring: “As soon as I joined, I was assigned the Texas market because there was a senior engineer who could teach me. He was the best teacher.”  

Soon after, that manager returned to his native Jordan for family reasons and Ismael had the opportunity to take on more responsibility and to feel that they trusted him: “Obviously, there were my two bosses; it doesn’t mean that they left me alone, far from it, but it was an impact because I had to deal with day-to-day things with three months of experience and I learned a lot because I had the basics explained to me by that person”.

That time coincided with one of ACCIONA’s major milestones in the U.S.: “At that point we completed the first mega-battery in the country, ACCIONA’s first, which is Cunningham. I was present at the ancillary services tests when we reached commercial operation.”

He also witnessed the commissioning of ACCIONA’s largest photovoltaic plant in the world: Red Tailed Hawk, in Texas. “It was an incredible experience. I had the opportunity to be there when we powered the substation,” he says with infectious enthusiasm. And he speaks of the impact of seeing the workers on the ground every day, in the early hours of the morning: “It was very inspiring to be surrounded by, on average, four hundred people working, module installers; many of them humble people who had come to the U.S. wanting to make a living. […] It made an enormous impact on me. It showed me the real impact we have as a company.


“It was very inspiring to be surrounded by, on average, four hundred people working; people who had come to the U.S. at the time wanting to make a living. […] It showed me the real impact we have as a company.”


Ismael tells one story after another. He talks about his work at ACCIONA as if he’s been there for years, but in reality, it’s only been twelve months, but they’ve been very intense. So, do you feel you’ve been given autonomy? “Totally, the first day when I joined, my boss told me: ‘This is a position that requires you to have a lot of initiative, to be very proactive, because that’s the reality in many projects. No one expects you to know everything because you’re new, but we want everyone on the team here to lead because these are your projects.’”

That means moving quickly on a daily basis to expedite the many formalities, involving emails, phone calls, and sometimes a lot of ingenuity. “Just yesterday I was told about a co-worker on my team working in Canada who knew that the person who had to push a button, so to speak, was a neighbor of his. He found out and then, when he saw her walking the dog, he took out his button so he could talk to her,” he says with a chuckle.


“My way of returning that gratitude is to work and give my best every day”.


And he sums it up with these words: “I have always been left to my own devices, but with that sense of security of someone supporting me […]. To train yourself when you have just joined a company is incredible because they give you responsibilities, but without fear; you can do whatever you think is best because you have that safety net.”

What would be your final balance? “For me, it has been a unique opportunity, and I am incredibly grateful to the company and the team that hired me for giving me this opportunity because I know that it is not easy even with such young people. In a company like ACCIONA, you must give your all because they are companies that are on the cutting edge, they are high-performance, excellent companies […]. My way of repaying that gratitude is to work and give the best of myself every day.”


A debt of gratitude

The interview continues, and we talk about his desire to continue training, his love of basketball and sport as a social unifier, his plans for the future – to visit other countries like Australia and one day return to his country – in short, a whole life ahead of him. It is difficult not to leave things out, but the time has come to conclude.

Throughout the conversation, words such as “passion”, “vision”, “rigor”, “excellence” or “responsibility” have been mentioned, but Ismael has also given an insight into another term of great importance to him in many of his reflections: gratitude.

When asked about his inspirational figures, he once again conveys this sentiment: “Without a doubt, I would say that the person who has marked me the most was my grandfather. Because of his ability to keep learning, to maintain his curiosity and to live with very different people.” And he pauses: “He passed away unexpectedly two years ago, just before I came here, and the last gift he gave me was to pay for my year here in the United States. And for me that is also incredible, because everything I am living here today is thanks to him.”


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