No job is too big or challenging for Jonathan Chamberlain to tackle with his Utilities, Environment and Infrastructure team. He’s brought together people from all corners of the globe to support the Middle East, a region full of transformative projects, while gaining a reputation for delivery excellence. Jonathan shares his highlights on what it takes to succeed as a leader while navigating global and regional changes on some of our world’s most impressive infrastructure.
Jonathan uses practical business acumen, his curiosity to solve problems, a down-to-earth leadership style and keen ability to coordinate across project disciplines and geography to deliver major projects as the Head of Sector, Utilities, Environment, and Infrastructure in the Middle East. He shares insights from his career and what it takes to motivate teams to perform at their best for their clients and communities.
What are you most excited about in the Middle East?
The Middle East has the biggest and best projects in the world right now. The Kingdom of Saudi Arabia (KSA) is a good case in point in terms of opportunities. The projects in the works there are some of the grandest and most ambitious I’ve ever seen and it’s not just greenfield projects ─ new cities and infrastructure programs are in play that push the boundaries of engineering and design – whether it’s sustainability or technology. In addition to our work across the United Arab Emirates (UAE) and Qatar, we have current opportunities and clients across all Five Giga Public Investment Fund (PIF) Programs in Saudi Arabia– it’s an impressive stack.
What is your strongest trait? Or what is the most valuable skill or tool you bring to your job?
I’m generally a good problem-solver and am known to deliver, which pretty much fits my job description.
As a business, Jacobs likes to be predictable and if we provide our forecast, we need to deliver it. This gives our investors and shareholders confidence. If I commit to a plan or deliverable, then I will make it happen.
What was the best contribution you’ve seen from team members recently? A project or win example? Teams working together in a new way? Showing kindness to others, etc?
The way my team pulled together to deliver enormous volumes of quality deliverables on projects in a short span of time ─ I’m talking 10,000+ deliverables in eight weeks. The whole team, including 12 disciplines, had to pull together, communicate and coordinate efficiently to make this happen.
Can you share one initiative you’re focused on right now?
I’m aiming to provide an identity to our Utilities business in the Middle East by leveraging our global market solutions team in a way that will grow the overall Utilities, Environment and Infrastructure (UE&I) sector.
How do you support inclusion and diversity on your team?
I actively support inclusion and diversity in our recruitment efforts and finding new roles for staff coming off major projects and programs. We are fortunate to have the most diverse team I’ve seen across our business and we are focused on further improving diversity in our workforce.
“The Middle East has the biggest and best projects in the world right now. The Kingdom of Saudi Arabia (KSA) is a good case in point in terms of opportunities. The projects in the works there are some of the grandest and most ambitious I’ve ever seen and it’s not just greenfield projects ─ new cities and infrastructure programs are in play that push the boundaries of engineering and design – whether it’s sustainability or technology. ”
Would you share how you’ve motivated your team in the past?
A significant chunk of my job involves an aptitude for leadership and motivating staff. This means setting goals and targets, monitoring progress, providing feedback and giving recognition when it’s due.
I have a natural ability to collaborate and facilitate collaboration. Sometimes when some teams don't want to work with others or certain personalities that are different don’t want to engage with each other, I have a very good way of making that collaboration work.
What gives me the most enjoyment is seeing the potential in people; mentoring them and seeing them demonstrate that leadership.
What is something you didn’t know last week?
The egg came before the chicken (I finally worked it out.)
What gets you up in the morning? Hopefully not just your alarm clock. What motivates you or keeps you going?
I’m not a morning person, but what gets me out of bed is the excitement of new challenges to come and thankfully there’s not a shortage of challenges.
What is your favorite vacation spot and why?
My favorite vacation spot is Italy ─ more specifically, Rome with its history, architecture, food and drinks.
When you’re not working, where can you be found?
You’ll find me playing or mostly watching sports. I like all sport but In order of preference, I would rank it as follows: 1. Football 2. Cricket 3. Rugby 4. Formula 1.
What is the best piece of advice you have received?
Always be fair and reasonable. Treat people with the dignity and respect that I would expect to be treated.
Share a lesson learned in the last five years.
One of the key lessons I’ve learned in the region is that learning the art of negotiation and compromise is very important to our jobs. Clients can be demanding so we need to learn how to balance their needs while maintaining a strong position for Jacobs.
How are you working to be the type of leader that you would want to follow?
I just try to be myself. Be as open and honest as I can and also continually try to learn and improve which is something that I learned from my mentors
About the interviewee
Jonathan Chamberlain started his career as a graduate highways engineer at Jacobs in the U.K. His nearly two decades with the company are marked by milestones ranging from BeyondZero CEO awards to heading Built Environment and GID Operations in India. After moving to the Middle East to replicate his GID Operations success and stint as a Director of Operation for Urban Development, he now heads the UE&I business in the Middle East.
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