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Q&A Jun 2, 2022

Looking Back on AAPI Heritage Month: A Q&A with Julie Chang, Chen Chen

This year, we celebrated AAPI Heritage Month with two of our leaders – Julie Chang and Chen Chen – who shared their insights around belonging and how their Asian heritage has helped shape their careers at Jacobs.

Looking back on AAPI Heritage Month

May is Asian-American and Pacific Islander (AAPI) Heritage Month, an opportunity to celebrate our colleagues of Asian and Pacific Islander heritage and recommit to #StopAsianHate wherever we encounter it.

This year, we celebrated AAPI Heritage Month with two of our leaders – Julie Chang and Chen Chen – who shared their insights around belonging and how their Asian heritage has helped shape their careers at Jacobs.

Let’s get to know Julie and Chen:

Share a little about your background and your role at Jacobs.

Julie: I am Chinese-American, born in New York. My roots are from mainland China in Anhui province. My parents moved to the U.S. for graduate school. My current role at Jacobs is Executive Advisor to Steve Demetriou, our Chair & CEO.

Chen: I'm from Nanjing, China, and I work in Corporate Development at Jacobs (M&A, Divestiture and Equity Investment.)

What's your favorite childhood memory involving Asian culture?

Julie: Absolutely the food! Making dumplings, buns and porridge with my family.  The sights, the sounds and smells of the food market.  Getting together for big family celebrations that always revolved around food.

Chen: The Lunar New Year. Every year it’s time to get together with family. And delicious food!

How does your Asian heritage and upbringing give you a unique advantage in your career?

Julie: I am disciplined. I work hard. I also have a deep sense of community.

Chen: Diligence and persistence are two traits that have definitely helped me a lot.

Share a time when you have navigated adversity in your career.

Julie: With respect to racial adversity, there have been strange points where things come up.  Earlier in my career there was one assignment where someone said I shouldn’t be the project manager because "Asian women were too deferential".  Well – I became the Project Manager and the client asked that the individual be removed from the team.  It turned out our client had an adopted Chinese daughter.

Chen: One challenge for me was getting out of the comfort zone and developing new skills. I was tasked to lead an IT project a few years ago and had no prior experience. The project didn’t go well in the beginning - it was late on schedule and costs were overrunning. But I quickly adapted to learn some hard lessons, listen to others and find ways to manage through. Eventually the project was finished on time and well received.

Do you feel like you belong at Jacobs? And what's the impact of that?

Julie: I do feel like I belong at Jacobs and I hope that I can help pave the way for others to feel like they belong and thrive at Jacobs.  That sense of belonging helps me express what I am passionate about.

Chen: Yes, I do. By having this sense of belonging I can make a real difference professionally, because it enables me to think like an "owner" for everything I do here.

Why is it important to our business that people feel they belong?

Julie: We are in the business of ideas and solutions.  You need everyone’s energy and expression to come up with the most innovative solutions.  That’s why it is important that people feel they belong.

Chen: Jacobs is a people business. The identity recognition will retain and attract talent, and eventually drive performance.

About Inclusion & Diversity at Jacobs

At Jacobs, we understand that “inclusion” is a verb, not a noun. It means being transparent and taking action on our statements, commitments and initiatives that drives meaningful, measurable change both in our company and in the communities that we serve.

It means creating a workplace where our differences are accepted, celebrated and harnessed to bring the innovative, extraordinary solutions clients demand from us. It means creating a culture of belonging where everyone can thrive — a culture that we call TogetherBeyond℠.

Explore TogetherBeyond

About the interviewees

Julie Chang

Julie Chang is currently the Advisor to Jacobs Chair & CEO Steve Demetriou. Prior to her current role, she served as Vice President of Jacobs’ Northeast region overseeing a portfolio spanning from Maine to New Jersey and leading 1,200 professionals delivering client engagements ranging from major climate response and energy decarbonization initiatives, expansion of regional aviation and rail networks and the build out of healthcare and life science facilities. Previously, she was also the Director of New York Operations. Under Julie’s leadership the New York office grew to a combined team of more than 450 professionals providing consulting, planning, design and construction management services for a host of New York and regional clients.

Prior to joining Jacobs, Julie was the NY General Manager for Sam Schwartz, an engineering, planning and consulting firm.  Julie also launched the resilience practice and was a Chief Economist providing consulting services around the globe in China, Malaysia, Singapore and Morocco for more than a decade with Ecology and Environment Inc. and Waterfield Portola. 

She serves on the Boards of Sustainable Westchester, the New York League of Conservation Voters and ACEC (American Council of Engineering Companies) New York. She holds an MBA from MIT Sloan and Bachelor of Arts in International Relations from Tufts University. Julie lives in Pelham, New York with her husband and three sons and splits her time between Dallas and NYC.

Chen Chen

Chen Chen is the Vice President of Corporate Development and based in our corporate headquarters in Dallas, Texas. Chen’s responsibilities focus on corporate development initiatives including M&A, joint venture investment, corporate venture capital and M&A strategy across the entire enterprise.

Since joining Jacobs, Chen has played pivotal roles in executing Company’s M&A initiatives to deliver the Company’s strategy including execution of CH2M acquisition, ECR divestiture, KeyW acquisition, Wood Nuclear acquisition, The Buffalo Group acquisition, strategic investment in PA Consulting, and most recently technology-driven deals like BlackLynx and Streetlight Data.

Prior to joining Jacobs, Chen worked at Restaurant Brands International (NYSE: QSR, a 3G Capital primarily owned company) where he served in a number of leadership positions and completed multi-billion dollar acquisitions including the $10B+ merger of Burger King and Tim Hortons, and ~$2B acquisition of Popeyes. Prior to his role with Restaurant Brands International, Chen started as an investment banking analyst with Deutsche Bank Securities and Bank of America Corporation, where he worked on various M&A, capital raising and strategic advisory assignments. 

Chen obtained his bachelor’s degree in Math and Economics with Summa Cum Laude from Emory University.

More about inclusion & diversity at Jacobs