Q&A Oct 24, 2022

Boldly Moving Forward with Digital Solutions and Advisory in Asia: A Q&A with Rajitha Herath

Our Digital Operations Lead for East and Southeast Asia, Rajitha Herath, discusses how our digital solutions and advisory services are helping solve some of the most complex problems in Asia and his vision for Jacobs’ digital portfolio.

Meet Rajitha Herath

After 12 years of stage acting and directing, Rajitha Herath decided to commit to an engineering career. Cut to today, he has helped deliver programs worth more than U.S. $70 billion of total capital value in his career spanning over18 years.

Recently appointed as Jacobs’ Digital Operations Lead for East and Southeast Asia (ESEA), Rajitha is all set to expand our digital solutions and advisory services in the region. We sat down with Rajitha to talk about his new role, addressing market challenges with digital, vision for Jacobs’ digital portfolio, memorable projects and more.

Let’s chat with Rajitha:

Congratulations on your recent appointment. Can you tell us a bit about this new role, why it was created and what excites you the most?

Thank you, and much appreciated. Yes, I’ve just taken on the role of Operations Lead for ESEA Digital. This role was created in response to the momentum building up here in Asia, both in our capability and presence in the region and our clients’ need for digital solutions.

Data and analytics, digital advisory, intelligent systems and geospatial solutions are verticals prominent in most regions at Jacobs. In Asia, we’re looking to do the same and are expanding our digital solutions capability in these areas.

In my role, I hope to strengthen and expand our digital capabilities in these areas. Combined with Jacobs’ wider expertise and deep domain knowledge in sectors, I hope to grow the digital solutions and advisory services. I’m excited about the opportunity for Jacobs to provide transformational digital solutions to our regional clients and play a part in solving some of the most significant global challenges.

Tell us a bit more about your background and what sparked your interest in pursuing a career in this field.

I completed my schooling and degree (in environmental engineering) in Auckland, New Zealand. I then went on to become a chartered civil engineer and chartered project professional (Association for Project Management).

My career has mainly been in project and program management roles of major infrastructure projects spanning New Zealand, Australia, the U.K. and now Singapore.

It was during the delivery of the iconic Thames Tideway Tunnel project (United Kingdom) and Tuas Water Reclamation Plant (Singapore) that I learned two things, thanks to the mentorship of industry-leading digital experts: the efficiencies that can be built into engineering and construction delivery of big programs with transformational digital applications and the cultural change required to achieve it.  

This sparked my interest in digital solutions, and I expanded my horizons in information management and digital delivery. I also became a Building Information Modeling (BIM) level 2 certified project information manager. I then went on to oversee transformation initiatives leading to step changes in how we deliver projects and solutions to clients.

Today, I continue to immerse myself in digital solutions to help create opportunities for our Jacobs teams and add value to clients.

“Digital transformation is about cultural transformation just as much as it’s about systems and applications. I strive to embody that transformation and encourage a culture within my team and projects to do the same.”

Rajitha Herath

Rajitha Herath

Jacobs Digital Operations Lead for East and Southeast Asia (ESEA)

How is digital and technology addressing some of our market challenges? Can you share some examples?

Improvements in technology and the adoption of digital ways of working have started to help in areas such as project delivery.

For instance, Jacobs made ground-breaking advances while delivering the Tuas Water Reclamation Plant (TWRP) mega project in Singapore by really pushing the boundary on delivering digital engineering to meet the operational requirements of the project.

We did this by building a truly federated information model during both design and construction data. Then, the graphical and design information were brought together into an easily navigable cloud-based platform via the Bentley iTwins platform. We also mapped the data drops required very early on to ensure operational data is embedded during construction. In the future, this will allow the asset owner (the operator of the country’s precious water resource) to create a digital twin – an information model to improve the efficiency and cost-effectiveness of their operations.

We also partnered with PUB, Singapore's National Water Agency, in an R&D project to develop and trial a whole plant simulation model for the Changi Water Reclamation Plant (CWRP). The Replica™ whole plant simulation model - digital twin of the plant - features real-time data feed and predictive capabilities to test operational changes and improve operator training. We’re currently piloting this operational, first digital twin of PUB's CWRP and gaining valuable insights into the practical application of this digital technology.

Digital transformation is also helping industries like environment services, transport and infrastructure to collate and manage a large influx of data more efficiently. These pools of data that would have otherwise taken weeks and months to collate and organize are now being processed and utilized within days. This enables clients to deliver time-critical solutions much faster.

For example, in London, Jacobs created a data visualization platform and Key Performance Indicator-driven Geodesign processes to synthesize data from multiple sources into a common data environment to support decision-making. And in Malaysia, we delivered a land use master plan study by compiling spatial data from a wide variety of sources into a consolidated database and created hybridized maps and analysis layers to uncover interrelationships between spatial data and key goals for the client. We also helped the client evaluate whether the land was suitable for primary land use activities based on innate characteristics of the land and available geospatial resources.

What are some of the digital solutions and opportunities in response to global challenges that you’re most excited about?

It’s fascinating to see the speed at which technology is improving and the parallel increase in the clients’ requirements for digital technology. I’m excited about all technology combining to provide the tools to solve some of the complex challenges around climate resilience, decarbonization and social value for cities and countries. At Jacobs, our digital technology and solutions, backed by our deep domain knowledge across industries, uniquely positions us to tackle these challenges and create smart and connected cities.  

All this will create unique opportunities for our talented staff to deliver meaningful solutions to our clients. It’s an exciting time to be in this space.

What are you most passionate about and what’s the favorite part of your role?

I’m most passionate about promoting the work of our people who deliver amazing work and connecting them with the right client to provide the right solution. The favorite part of my role is the opportunity to learn every day in this cutting-edge space – from my team, clients and the wider industry – and be in a position to do my part to meet clients’ needs.

Tell us about a memorable project you’ve been involved in and its impact to the community.

I was fortunate to be part of the client’s delivery partner CLM (a consortium of CH2M – now Jacobs, Laing O’Rourke and Mace), in charge of program managing the London 2012 Olympic and Paralympic Games infrastructure build. The client had committed to massive and ambitious legacy and sustainability plans for the program back in 2005.

On a personal level, this program is memorable because it taught me leadership, collaboration, teamwork and tenacity that enable teams to achieve ambitious goals. I also learned to plan ahead to ensure the positive impact of infrastructure projects on the community, environment and economy. It’s amazing how we were delivering Environment Social Governance (ESG) objectives much before ESG was official!  

I always look forward to going back to the Queen Elizabeth Olympic Park to see the legacy development there and how that part of London is thriving. 

People would be surprised to know that ….

I pursued a career in stage acting in parallel with my schooling and engineering studies. Hope to go back to it one day.

When you’re not at work, you enjoy…

Spending time with my kids, doing everything and nothing. I have played (and continue to play) cricket and touch rugby for social leagues and you’re unlikely to get my attention when an All Blacks (New Zealand’s rugby team) game is on.

What’s something you learned in the last week?

How to make the perfect drip coffee. It has opened up a whole new world for me!

What do you enjoy most about being part of #OurJacobs?

The ability to deliver work as part of a global team, the diverse range of work to deliver a complete solution for our clients, the flexibility of how, when and where we work, the global opportunities in some of the world’s biggest programs (I’ve been fortunate enough to be part of a few of them), and the avenues to grow professionally. I feel very fortunate to have amazing colleagues, mentors and subject matter experts to learn from and be inspired by.  

What is your vision for Jacobs’ digital portfolio over the next five years? 

My vision is for Jacobs to become a recognized consulting brand in the digital solutions and advisory field in Asia and directly contribute to our Asia strategy goals by being a pivotal, diverse, inclusive and innovative accelerator team for the company. I hope those in the team achieve their career goals and have a fulfilling time bringing that vision to life.

About the interviewee

Rajitha Herath

Rajitha Herath is a chartered civil engineer, chartered project (management) professional and certified project information manager with over 18 years of client-side and principal contractor delivery experience in mega infrastructure projects in Singapore, the United Kingdom, Australia and New Zealand. Rajitha has been recently appointed as Jacobs’ Digital Operations Lead for East and Southeast Asia. In this role, he is leading digital solution and advisory services for the region, covering digital advisory, geospatial, data and analytics and intelligent systems.

Join #OurJacobs team

What drives you drives us as we work to build a better world – together. At Jacobs, every day is an opportunity to make the world better, more connected, more sustainable. We’re always looking for dynamic and engaged people to join our team. Bring your passion, your ingenuity and your vision. 

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