The finalists for WashingtonExec’s Chief Officer Awards were announced April 15, and we’ll be highlighting some of them until the event takes place virtually May 27.
Next is Chief Operating Officer Award finalist Bob Pragada, who’s president and COO at Jacobs Engineering Group. Here, he talks proud career moments, primary focus areas, learning from failures and more.
What are you most proud of having been a part of in your current organization?
I am most proud of the progress we have made as a company on our business and cultural transformation journey over the last 5 years. As a unified senior and executive team, with the support and endorsement of our board of directors, we took a previously very successful company that had stalled after a difficult post-recession comeback, and enhanced the culture, transformed our market focus, and delivered unprecedented value to our clients.
By all metrics, our clients, employees and shareholders have seen greater returns than during any other period in the company’s history. Our work is only beginning to create an inclusive, connected and sustainable world.
What are your primary focus areas going forward, and why are those so important to the future of the nation?
The purpose of our business is to create a more connected, sustainable world. We realize this by putting our knowledge and imagination together to reinvent the way we solve problems and shape the next generation of innovative solutions.
We are continually challenging ourselves to find solutions to the world’s biggest challenges such as national security, multidomain cyber and intelligence, space exploration, climate action, social and environmental resiliency, next-generation infrastructure, the global energy transition, emerging contaminants, and water and food security.
My focus is to continue to foster a culture that exemplifies our values and enables our people to bring their whole selves to Jacobs, starting with my leadership team and ending with every new hire. It’s how we’ll facilitate a positive future for generations to come and solve these challenges.
How do you help shape the next generation of government leaders/industry leaders?
By providing continuous support, encouragement and mentorship to help them achieve their goals and be the best that they can be. It is incumbent upon me as a senior leader in our business to ensure that we provide equitable opportunity for everyone to reach their full potential.
To achieve this, we have a powerful set of values and a strong sense of purpose which includes an absolute commitment towards our value of living inclusion. It’s very important to us as a company, and to me personally, that we support our internal and external community to embrace diversity and equality globally by creating a culture of belonging where we can all thrive.
What’s one key thing you learned from a failure you had?
Patience with myself. Though it is not quite as significant a negative attribute as it was when I was in my 20s, I still find myself expecting immediate results from hard work — both from those I work with and, more often, myself. I probably should have thought through the decision to transition from the Navy at the 10-year point in my career with more deliberation.
Looking back, I should have stayed to retirement tenure then moved on to the next phase of my professional life. I was caught up in the pace of personal advancement rather than fully considering the depth and breadth of experience I would have gained over the next 10 years. I have played those learnings forward and really assess situations for all the benefits, not only for me but for those in my sphere of influence.
Looking back at your career, what are you most proud of?
I’m most proud of the achievements of the amazing folks that I have worked with over the years. Working in a company like Jacobs with 55,000 talented and inspiring people I learn something new every day, and I am in awe of the accomplishments that we collectively achieve for our clients and the communities that we serve.
Watching so many of my colleagues reach their professional development goals and become the future leaders of tomorrow makes me very proud indeed.