Grace Moujaes began establishing the Strategic Consulting business for Jacobs in the Middle East shortly before the COVID-19 pandemic changed the world. Two years later, after a challenging trial by fire in that difficult market, her rapidly growing team is pursuing opportunities with clear focus. Grace tells us what inspired and motivated the growth story.
Grace currently leads the Strategic Consulting team in the Middle East. In this role, she manages a team that focuses on economics, social value, equity and policy, sustainability, and climate response and technology-enabled advisory solutions for some of the most transformational projects in the world. When she’s not building futuristic cities in the desert, Grace loves to channel her inner Antony Bourdain and explore cultures through travel and food.
Let’s get to know Grace:
What are you most excited about in the Middle East?
The projects in Middle East are, in one word, transformational. Strategic Consulting in the Middle East is developing a team in a period of accelerated growth and change, particularly in the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia (KSA). The scope of projects we’re involved in give me a feeling that we have a part to play in the Kingdom’s ongoing transformation. KSA has an ambitious Vision 2030, and we are building the kind of team to address it. This is the most exciting thing for me.
What is your strongest trait?
Resilience. When breaking through this market as an entrant, you’ll face plenty of challenges. There’s a huge mountain to climb and through hard work and grit, the team is reaching an inflection point where we are winning projects and winning over clients. The Strategic Consulting team is now a recognized group of policymakers and thought leaders and this couldn’t have happened without a lot of resilience.
What do you enjoy most about being part of the #OurJacobs family?
The culture of collaboration, openness and exchange of ideas, while being kind to each other. The team understands that there is a common goal. The team’s strong foundational values are crucial to our continuous growth.
Can you share one initiative you’re focused on right now?
With KSA’s National Transformation Program in full effect and to achieve Vision 2030 it is imperative that we grow as market leaders in social value, equity and economics, while implementing sustainable and climate response frameworks to support the intelligent and smart connected spaces domain using our cohort of subject matter experts.
We are not all about the bottom line, but also building more thoughtful and resilient communities for the future.
How do you support inclusion and diversity on your team?
The makeup of the team tells the story. The team is reflective of where we are in the region. Our clients are more international and diverse, and we are sector agnostic, so diversity is important in our group. We need people who are agile enough to move between projects – so a diverse way of thinking is critical to add value and perform a business. In our current projects, we collaborate strongly across all our sectors and that enriches the product we offer. In the Middle East, our sector strengths are Cities & Places; Utilities, Environment & Infrastructure; and Transportation & Logistics.
Would you share how you’ve motivated your team in the past?
We always go through ups and downs, whether it's macroeconomically-induced or challenging projects. I’ve learned over time that when you empower people to make decisions, people don’t feel isolated during challenging situations. For example, in sales or delivery, I bring people together from different disciplines and encourage them to voice their concerns and indulge in open communication to solve problems. The common purpose and goal is growth – so open communication helps motivate others.
“We are not all about the bottom line, but also building more thoughtful and resilient communities for the future.”
What gets you up in the morning?
This is going to sound cheesy but simply put, it is my team. When you’re in a phenomenal phase of growth in the Middle East, you want your team to have the best opportunities. Showing up is the least I can do for the team.
What is your most proud moment?
When I was tapped to becoming a sector head – because it seemed like all the hard work paid off.
People would be surprised to know that you…
I once randomly met Mo’ Salah. In a shiny city like Dubai, celebrities are bound to be in every corner so keep your eyes open. And eating – I love food. And now that travel restrictions have lifted, I’m back to traveling and learning about new cultures; like learning about the nuance of tea and rice production and preparation in Sri Lanka.
What is the best piece of advice you have received?
Don’t put yourself in a box. Don’t assess your capability by others' validation. Push yourself because you probably will surprise yourself.
How are you working to be the type of leader that you would want to follow?
To quote Jacinda Ardern,
“It takes courage and strength to be empathetic, and I’m very proudly an empathetic and compassionate leader.”
This type of leadership – to be a compassionate and empathetic leader and be equally capable of making tough decisions – resonates with me. Empathy and compassion should not be confused with weakness. We must demonstrate that we are capable. In the long run, it’s the givers that win. I also recognize that as a leader, you face constant criticism; however, my advice is to always take it in stride. And, to quote Indra Nooyi,
“Whatever anybody says or does, assume positive intent.”
About the interviewee
Grace Moujaes studied chemical engineering in the United Kingdom (U.K.) before embarking on her career at Jacobs more than 14 years ago. She joined Jacobs as a graduate process engineer, working in the Energy, Chemicals and Resource (ECR) business before it was divested to Worley. Grace found her passions for project management while working on some iconic projects including the Palace of Westminster Program and Heathrow Expansion Program.
Grace strengthened her business acumen by pursuing her MBA at the University of Cambridge before moving to the Middle East where she kick started the Strategic Consulting team. She is now Head of Sector for the Strategic Consulting Group in the Middle East.