TogetherBeyond TogetherBeyond
Q&A Jan 16, 2023

Lifting While Climbing: A Q&A with Jeffery Dingle

Jeffery talks with us about his childhood and how it's driven his career, his commitment to inclusion and diversity, as well as his efforts to improve access and education and career access equity within historically marginalized communities.

Q&A with Jeffery Dingle Vice President, Strategic Sales Team Leader and Client Principal for People & Places Solutions Buildings & Infrastructure (P&PS BI) Americas

A problem solver and trusted leader, Jacobs Vice President, Strategic Sales Team Leader and Client Principal for People & Places Solutions Buildings & Infrastructure (P&PS BI) Americas Jeffery Dingle has built an impressive career in engineering, construction and program management, as well as management consulting. He’s become a senior leader within the Jacobs’ sales organization, as well as human resources, but it’s his overall professional objective and intended leadership shadow that sets him apart. Jeffery wants to make the people around him successful, whether that be mentoring and advocating for emerging talent, developing growth and sales professionals, or growing and maintaining strong client relationships to help them overcome challenges within their businesses.

As an inclusive leader, he’s persistent and deliberate about doing his part to maintain a work environment that focuses on common decency within a culture of belonging for all. And it all started in southern California.

We sat down with Jeffery to find out why he chose a life of “lifting while climbing" :

Tell us a bit about yourself and your background.

After receiving my Bachelor of Science in civil engineering from California State Polytechnic University-Pomona, I started my career with the California Department of Transportation (Caltrans) as a junior civil engineer in a roadway design group in San Bernardino. Then I transferred to the Division of Structures, where I managed several bridge and unique structure design and construction projects around southern California before moving again (to Sacramento this time) to design bridges and seismic retrofits. I then served as a resident engineer on bridge construction projects across the state.

I really benefited from people who looked out for me and mentored me from the very beginning of my career. In response, I dedicated myself to being excellent in everything I did so they would feel like the time spent with me was worthwhile. When I first started at Caltrans, they hadn’t hired young engineers in a long time. I had an older boss, as well as older design team co-workers, who set me on a great path. They put me on challenging assignments and deliberately mentored me. They happened to be white men, and even though we had very different backgrounds and life perspectives, they were purposeful about getting to know me and including me in every element of the team dynamics.

My initial experience with that first work group helped me develop the confidence I needed to deal with other, not-so-inclusive bosses, co-workers, and contractors I worked with early on in my career. It was with those less inclusive (and even at times hostile) bosses, co-workers and contractors that I depended on what I call “strategic aggression” to navigate those challenging times within my career.

Practicing  “strategic aggression” while dealing with a “difficult construction superintendent”

Strategic aggression is a unique perspective I bring to work every day, and it’s always served me well. It’s a mentality that I learned within the neighborhoods I lived in during my youth — neighborhoods where we all had to stand up for ourselves when challenged, but to also extend grace to others as they extended that grace to us to create a “neighborhood brand” that people respected. Those of us who mastered strategic aggression learned to meet people where they are, and to match up to whatever energy and attitude an individual brings to a situation. Bringing that mindset to my career has always served me well as I’ve navigated through the decades of serving as a problem solver, strategist and people leader.

Eventually I moved to the east coast and worked my way up to be a principal within three small and minority owned firms in Atlanta and Washington, D.C. I eventually joined a mid-sized majority firm that was acquired by Jacobs in 2008. All of my life and career experiences really came into play at Jacobs — I like working within a large, diverse business and I’ve always enjoyed the size and scale of our operations.

(Photo of Jeff practicing "strategic aggression" while dealing with a difficult construction superintendent)

What has your Jacobs journey looked like?

At Jacobs I initially led sales and operations within our Water business in Metro Atlanta and eventually as the sales manager for our Southern Region. As our U.S. Water business grew, I was appointed as a vice president and Jacobs’ Water business leader, with responsibility for better linking together and growing that business across the U.S. During that time I also enjoyed working with my European and Asia Pacific counterparts, developing some strategies about scaling our global water business across the three regions, as well as early planning around mergers and acquisitions within the Water business.

During integration of a major acquisition in 2017, I found myself with two children about to enter college and my “nest” about to be empty. For the first time in my career, I was completely flexible to travel and I joined a Global Strategic Pursuit Team as one of our global strategic sales directors. I enjoyed that job immensely as it allowed me to lead key sales pursuits across our global business.

In late summer of 2020, we at Jacobs were in the middle of having “courageous conversations” in the aftermath of the senseless killings of George Floyd, Ahmaud Arbery and Breonna Taylor. Seeing that, and hearing the pain it caused within our employees, took me back to high school when Ron Settles (a young, Black football player, like me) died while being held in custody by the Signal Hill Police Department in Long Beach, California. That incident shocked me at the time, and the events of 2020 simply brought those feelings to the forefront again.

At that same time, my attention was drawn to an Expression of Interest to lead Jacobs’ approach to inclusion and diversity, TogetherBeyond, as global director. I saw an opportunity within that role to set the groundwork and infrastructure to leverage TogetherBeyond to enhance our culture of belonging at Jacobs, driving it further into our business and to ultimately make it a key element of our business growth strategies.

My time leading TogetherBeyond and serving within the Human Resources Leadership Team was one of my most fulfilling assignments. However, as we prepared to begin fiscal year 2022, I was offered an opportunity to return to our sales organization to stand up what is now called Strategic Sales within our P&PS BI Americas business. A key element of that job is all about culture change within our sales organization and I’m blessed to be able to bring a lot of what I learned in the TogetherBeyond role, as well as my prior sales and operations experience, into my current role.

“As a leader, I try to cast a strong shadow as an inclusive leader by being persistent and deliberate about doing my part to maintain a work environment that focuses on common decency within a culture of belonging for all. I’ve been known to say often, “No more jerks at work!” ”

Jeff Dingle

Jeffery Dingle

Jacobs Vice President, Strategic Sales Team Leader and Client Principal

What inspired you to be an engineer? Did you have a mentor or someone you looked up to in the field?

As I grew up, I really didn’t even know what an engineer was until my sophomore year of high school. I was really good at (and enjoyed) math and sciences. Math was my safe space, but I was definitely in the minority in my advanced math classes at my predominantly white high school. My high school counselor didn’t help — she kept trying to steer me to go into the military, even though I was thriving in my math and science college preparatory classes. However, a friend of mine in my math class (who happened to be white) had the same counselor. He shared with me that she had shared with him an engineering magazine (Engineering News-Record) that featured successful Black entrepreneur engineers in Atlanta (H. J. Russell & Company, Williams-Russell & Johnson Inc., and Delon Hampton). Although my counselor never offered that magazine to me, I was able to obtain a copy. Within it, for the first time, I saw people that looked like me who were civil engineers, electrical engineers, that had great careers with other companies and then created their own companies. These men had become (and still are) iconic in the engineering consulting industry in Atlanta.

That magazine and the images within it had a profound effect on me, but the means by which I had to obtain that magazine (and enlightenment) created a level of frustration and even a bit of anger for me. I questioned why my high school counselor would have purposefully kept that magazine from me. However, I tucked it deep down inside similar to other incidents like that and life went on. Fast forward to the second decade of my career after I moved to Atlanta, I ended up being mentored by all of the men I saw in that Engineering News-Record magazine.

My life and career have been tremendously enriched by mentors at every stage, particularly after coming into Jacobs where I was able to connect with a diverse array of men, women and individuals who represent different ethnicities and identities from all over the globe.

We read recently about the new SEED LA boarding school opening. What excites you about that opportunity?

Our donation to the SEED LA school aligns exactly with what Jacobs’ Action Plan for Advancing Justice and Equality is focused on, so I was thrilled to engage with our folks who brought that idea forward —  Senior Vice President & General Manager of P&PS Americas Ron Williams and Vice President and Account Manager Judy Johnson.

We were able to provide a $1,000,000 donation as one of the first grants of our Action Plan and we look forward to other opportunities to support The SEED Foundation nationally in the future. The SEED LA school is going to make a tremendous difference in the lives of these children — adding more diverse talent into the pipeline of innovative solution providers to build the infrastructure our society needs.

We should all be eternally grateful for the actions of Senior Vice President & General Manager, P&PS Americas South Katus Watson who began the work that led to the launch of our Action Plan for Advancing Justice & Equality, as well as to Judy and Ron for bringing the idea of the SEED LA school grant forward. I was honored to work with them  and several other inspiring colleagues who, together, brought the Action Plan to life and make support for SEED LA possible.

Can you share an important lesson you’ve learned in recent years?

Jacobs is a large company with endless possibilities for career paths. You really have to stay aware, get connected and think big here. If you don’t dive into Jacobs and learn how to navigate it, it’s easy to literally get lost in perceived hierarchy. At this stage of my career, I see part of my role as mentoring staff to see all Jacobs has to offer. I have noticed a sea change in terms of the younger people coming through now — they are confident and willing to step up and be assertive, which is terrific to see.

When you’re not working, you can be found…

I really like to hike and enjoy the outdoors, so I can be found getting away from it all on the trails close to my home as well as many across the Atlanta area. I also enjoy volunteering and serving on boards. I’ve been a member of the Board of Trustees at the Chattahoochee Nature Center, Inc. (CNC) for the past two years. It’s just a short drive from downtown Atlanta and connects people with nature through the Chattahoochee River and wildlife. A couple of months ago I spent the day (along with other Jacobs colleagues) at the CNC working to maintain the amazing CNC Unity Garden that grows fresh organic vegetables for food pantries across Atlanta. Through Jacobs’ charitable giving and volunteering platform, Collectively, we’re supporting the great work of the great people at the CNC, led by CEO Natasha Rice, as they positively impact a diverse group of youth and adults exploring nature on this property along the Chattahoochee River.

I also love to spend time with my kids (Iana Monet and Samuel Isaac). They’re both adults and beginning their careers and I enjoy watching them thrive

Tell us the significance of ”lifting while climbing.”

When you go through difficult times, I think there’s a natural tendency to try to make sure that others don't have to go through that and have those ”near misses” that you may have gone through. Being purposeful in engaging others to avoid pitfalls and to clear their path of unnecessary obstacles is the basis of ”lifting while climbing.”

While in college, I got involved in regional and national roles within the National Society of Black Engineers (NSBE). Within that organization we were not only focused on supporting each other to finish our engineering degrees and start our careers, but also keenly focused on giving back to the communities we all came from.  

Our support of SEED LA was a very rewarding experience, but it also brought me full circle from my days as a student in NSBE. At the corner of Manchester and Vermont streets where the school is being built, this lot had sat blighted for 30 years since the Rodney King verdict uprising. But before then, that very same location is where we had buses pick up students from that neighborhood for our annual NSBE Camping Conference. That program allowed those young people to travel well outside of their neighborhoods and into the San Bernardino Mountains to learn about what it’s like to study engineering over a summer weekend.

Now we are seeing a ‘SEED’ being planted at the intersection that will trigger much needed South LA economic development within California’s first public boarding school for 400 students from that same underserved community we worked with back in my days with NSBE.

What excites you about the future of Jacobs?

Our company culture, approach to inclusion and diversity and our focus on a culture of belonging for all are deeply ingrained in our values and how we operate day to day. We’re continuing to mentor our people leaders to lead with culture and supporting them along the way. As a leader, I try to cast a strong shadow as an inclusive leader by being persistent and deliberate about doing my part to maintain a work environment that focuses on common decency within a culture of belonging for all. I’ve been known to say often, “No more jerks at work!"

What’s your proudest moment?

Jeffery Dingle accepting the Georgia Engineer of the Year Award, 2014

Being selected as Georgia Engineer of the Year in 2014 was a big one. But I’m most proud when I hear people talk about my kids…they have actually created — and continue to create — my proudest moments.

(Photo of Jeff accepting the Georgia Engineer of the Year Award, 2014)

What advice would you give to young professionals, especially those interested in STEAM ?

Whether you are in an environment like a SEED School or not, you have to push yourself to live in a big world — and think big to match it. Dive into whatever you chose and don’t be denied.

One final question - What do you enjoy most about being part of #OurJacobs and why should people want to work here?

For me it’s our culture. I took my last two assignments because they were focused on culture. At this stage of my career, I’m way more interested in helping others be successful and to share the blessings I’ve benefited from.

About the interviewee

Jeff Dingle

Jacobs Vice President Jeffery Dingle has more than 30 years' experience across several markets as well as a strong global network, including leadership roles in many industry organizations in the U.S. He currently serves as strategic sales team leader and client principal for our P&PS BI Americas business and brings a broad perspective to the role, having served in California state government, as well as a principal within three small minority-owned firms before joining Jacobs in 2008. Jeffery is a registered Professional Civil Engineer with a bachelor's degree in civil engineering.

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.

external Let's see the impact we can create, together