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 Financial Officer Award finalist Kevin Berryman, who’s president and CFO at Jacobs Engineering Group. Here, he talks proud career moments and turning points, shaping the next generation of leaders, career advice and more.
What was a turning point or inflection point in your career?
In the ’90s, I was working in corporate M&A and treasury for Nestlé and I knew unless I got more operational experience, I would have trouble advancing my career. I remember deciding to take a lateral role, which could have been considered a step down.
I rebranded myself as an operational leader and took a position that ultimately led me to an international role in Switzerland working for one of the top executives in the firm. It was a big step forward for my position in the company and eventually led me down my current career path.
What are you most proud of having been a part of in your current organization?
No doubt the transformation of Jacobs that’s occurred over the last 5 plus years has been extraordinary. The enterprise value of the company was about $5 billion when I joined; now it’s over $20 billion. The fact that we’ve been able to engage our collective teams to go through this transformation with us has been very rewarding.
The first few years we set the stage for incremental accountability, change in leadership and an ability to inspire which set up a stronger foundation for growth. We made choices on which businesses we wanted to focus our efforts to grow and those that we did not. This led to the selling of our oil and gas business and the acquisition of CH2M, a large global business focused in environmental and infrastructure.
I think that the people part of Jacobs, our culture, has been an incredibly important part of the journey and the transformation. The fact that we’ve been able to keep our people excited and engaged during this time of change has been extraordinarily powerful. We are truly a company like no other, and having been a part of that transformation has been unbelievable.
What are your primary focus areas going forward, and why are those so important to the future of the nation?
Jacobs has always had a culture of doing things right, but we rebranded our company and crystallized how we want to drive our business aligned with ESG principles. Now, we are a company that is well positioned to help change the world, providing solutions to our clients that help them be more energy efficient, carbon neutral and environmentally friendly. At the same time, we are also setting the bar on being an inclusive organization and a leader in driving change for those that are underrepresented.
How do you help shape the next generation of industry leaders?
It’s a combination of creating inspirational leadership that understands the power of inclusion. We need leaders to ask, “How can I create an organization where the culture is developing an environment where every single one of our people feel they are a part of the change agenda, and can help nourish and make it better?”
By bringing that to life you are able to gain perspectives from people from different geographies, races, religious beliefs, educational backgrounds and ethnic cultural upbringings. It’s about accepting and celebrating our differences, which ultimately leads to an incredible richness in decision making and insight.
At the same time, we must hold ourselves accountable to drive and deliver an agenda in which our business is focused on performance. While doing that, we must cultivate and develop the ability to inspire people and to have everyone feel like they are part of that agenda. I think great leaders are able to do that by being authentic as a leader and trustworthy.
The other piece that’s important for the next generation is understanding how you drive value for a company. I’m not talking about shareholder value, I’m talking about how a company can become better, increasingly able to reinvest, continue to grow and prosper and nurture people. That ability to have that general business acumen is important.
What’s your best career advice for those who want to follow in your footsteps?
I would suggest that everyone gain international experience. This helps embed the concept of inclusion and diversity, understanding differences and celebrating it. I also believe it is important to think laterally as one manages their career. Enriching yourself through exposure to different parts of an organization and different responsibilities allows one to be more well-rounded in business, facilitating the ability to engage with all parts and functions of an organization. That’s a powerful asset.