Top 25 Execs to Watch in 2019: Darren Kraabel, Jacobs

Darren Kraabel, Jacobs

Darren Kraabel, Jacobs

It’s been almost a year since Jacobs’ two companies came together and the synergy executives are seeing in operating the business, growing its portfolio and driving innovation “has been truly inspirational,” said Darren Kraabel, chief technology and innovation officer at Jacobs.

This is particularly true in Jacobs’ water infrastructure, environmental and nuclear markets. Jacobs has also earned some transformational new contract wins during 2018 including a $778 million contract to operate and enhance the global IT environment for its Special Forces and the opportunity to lead the iconic California Waterfix project.

“Through these projects, we’re making a tremendous difference in protecting national interests and by improving the lives of our citizens,” Kraabel said.

In a business where success is driven by the talent solving problems for clients, attracting and integrating the right people at the scale needed can be a challenge. The acquisition of CH2M and the award of numerous large contracts required the hiring and integrating of tens of thousands of new people into Jacobs last year.

“That can be a distraction that negatively impacts project performance,” Kraabel said. “However, our staff has done a tremendous job finding the right people and assimilating them quickly into Jacobs without impacting our projects. As a result, we’re well-positioned for success in 2019 and beyond.”

In 2018, the internet of things and cybersecurity technologies really started to pervade every end market Jacobs serves across the globe.

For example, predictive maintenance analytics enabled by low-power sensors, edge computing and 5G connectivity gathered momentum in Jacobs’ Intelligent Asset Management solution portfolio. The company is applying those solutions for large industrial facilities, water infrastructure, nuclear complexes and others, delivering significant ROI for Jacobs clients.

The investments Jacobs has made in cyber over the past few years are enabling it to design digitally-integrated systems with a cyber-first approach.

“In 2019, we’ll see more innovation around those technologies, but I also expect to see advancements in automated or generative design mature to the point where they can realistically be applied to concept design,” Kraabel said. “In the future, AI will likely help us enhance our own knowledge management as well as create new forms of value for our clients.”

Jacobs created the CT&IO role this year to drive innovation into every aspect of its business — to make innovation a pervasive part of its culture alongside safety, integrity, sustainability and inclusion. In the coming year, the company will be investing in innovation differently; enabling even greater global collaboration and consistency to achieve better outcomes for its clients.

“Those investments will be both internal and external, optimizing our business operations and using new approaches and technologies to solve our clients’ most difficult problems,” Kraabel said.

Why Watch:

From a technology perspective, Jacobs is focusing on five areas: cybersecurity, applied geospatial science, automated design, internet of things (5G and edge computing) and predictive analytics/machine learning.

“These aren’t necessarily the cutting-edge technologies that capture the attention of futurists, but in our business, we are finally seeing the maturity of those technologies reach a point where their application at scale can now deliver a return on CAPEX investment,” Kraabel said.

Jacobs is transforming into a digital engineering company, Kraabel said, looking to discover the intelligence in its own data, its clients’ data, and the rapidly expanding global data sphere to deliver better, sustainable solutions for a connected world. The company will still be designing, engineering, building, operating and maintaining capital assets in the industries it serves.

“But we will be doing so in fundamentally different ways, harnessing the power of innovative thinking, emerging technologies, and data analytics to enhance decision-making on what to build, where to build it, and how to build it,” Kraabel said.”Our focus on innovation is clearly at the forefront of this transformation.”

However, there are other critical elements such as Jacobs’ PlanBeyond strategy for sustainability where the company is driving solutions that achieve triple bottom line (economic, environmental and societal) positive outcomes. Along the way, Jacobs employees get the opportunity to make an impact in the communities where they live and work via the projects the company delivers.

“They are making the world safer, more sustainable, more secure, more economically viable, and simply better,” Kraabel said. “That’s incredibly inspiring. I can’t think of a better place to work.”

See the full list of 2019’s Top 25 Execs to Watch.

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