Q&A Feb 26, 2021

Q&A: Talking with Senior Strategic Consultant – Renewables, Stephen Zhao

Power systems engineer and Real Madrid fan Stephen Zhao talks with us about choosing an impactful career, his favorite parts of his role at Jacobs and how he is working with our clients to reduce their carbon footprints.

Future of Energy Meet Stephen Zhao Senior Strategic Consultant - Renewables

At Jacobs’, we think differently about the future because today’s challenges of urbanization, resource scarcity, climate change, information overload and system security demand innovative approaches to deliver a more connected, sustainable world.

In our ‘future of energy’ series, we’re getting to know the next generation of leaders who are solving the world’s most pressing challenges in sustainability and will shape the energy industry of tomorrow.

For this interview, we connected virtually with Stephen Zhao, Jacobs’ Senior Strategic Consultant - Renewables to tell us about his role in Jacobs’ Power Generation and Storage group, why he chose a career that focuses on renewable energy technologies and how he is working with clients to reduce their carbon footprint. Read more in this Jacobs.com interview.

Tell us a bit about what you do at Jacobs.

I am a power system engineer in Jacobs’ Power Generation and Storage group. My main work includes renewable technology evaluation and implementation, power system analysis, grid planning and strategic consulting.

What sparked your interest in an energy/sustainability career? 

Climate change and the latest natural disasters are the main reasons for me choosing an energy career. We need to change our lifestyle and the impact that we are having on the earth. I believe this is an impactful career choice. A career in energy also allows me to work outside and enjoy nature while gaining a better understanding of the world around us.

What’s your favorite part of your role?

My role allows me to work on a very wide range of challenging projects across the entire Asia Pacific region (and sometimes other continents). It is also a great experience to work with people in our global business. 

Your work as a renewable engineer helps to build a greener world. Can you share how renewable engineering shapes the world around us?

We work very closely with our clients trying to reduce their carbon footprint by installing cleaner energy sources. However, this can be quite challenging in some cases due to both technical and economic reasons. Our job is trying to make our world more sustainable while keeping the cost of energy relatively low.

What’s something you learned in the last week?

Australia could become home to the world’s largest solar farm in the near future. With more consumers turning to solar energy, the Northern Territory will see a 12,000-hectare solar farm being built. The giant solar project will transform the Northern Territory into a renewable energy powerhouse with the capacity to export significant sums of solar electricity each year.

Most interesting career moment?

The most interesting career moment for me is how I started my career with Jacobs. After I completed my PhD at the University of Auckland, I applied for a position in the Auckland office. I thought my interview went relatively well. After a couple of months of waiting, I finally received an offer. However, what surprised me was that I got a position from the Sydney office!

Proudest career moment?

My proudest accomplishment would have to be when I became the manager of a large design team. I started with no previous design experience in the solar/renewable field. I transformed to a renewable engineer quite quickly and got a promotion to design manager in just two years.

Stephen Zhao and family

If you aren’t in the office, what would we be most likely to find you doing?

I love travelling around the world. However, at this point in time, you will probably only be able to find me in a children’s playground or park as I have a very energetic two-year-old boy to look after now.

People would be surprised to know that I….

I am a big fan of Real Madrid (Football Club).

What do you enjoy most about being part of the Jacobs family?

This would have to be the great Jacobs people. They are very knowledgeable, open minded and caring for each other. I have had a great pleasure to work with some senior gurus – Peter Apperley, Richard Fairbairn and Charles Barrett – on many of the most interesting renewable projects across the entire Australia-New Zealnd region. In addition, I also quite like the flexible work arrangement I have with Jacobs. During this pandemic period, I have been allowed to work overseas in order to look after my family. This has significantly reduced the amount of stress we are having to take care of a two-year-old boy and a baby on the way.

About Jacobs

At Jacobs, we're challenging today to reinvent tomorrow by solving the world's most critical problems for thriving cities, resilient environments, mission-critical outcomes, operational advancement, scientific discovery and cutting-edge manufacturing, turning abstract ideas into realities that transform the world for good. With $14 billion in revenue and a talent force of approximately 55,000, Jacobs provides a full spectrum of professional services including consulting, technical, scientific and project delivery for the government and private sector. Visit jacobs.com and connect with Jacobs on FacebookInstagramLinkedIn and Twitter.

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