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 Executive Officer Award finalist Steve Demetriou, who’s chair and CEO at Jacobs Engineering Group. Here, he talks proud career moments, primary focus areas, career advice and more.
What has made you successful in your current role?
I’ve been fortunate in my role to be surrounded by highly talented, passionate and diverse leaders, all of whom share a common goal of making Jacobs a company like no other and the employer of choice. It is this shared vision that has helped create some of our most important initiatives, like our global inclusion and diversity strategy, TogetherBeyond and our Climate Action Plan. The passion of our leaders has further strengthened our brand promise — Challenging today. Reinventing tomorrow. — and I cannot wait to see what we do next.
What are you most proud of having been a part of in your current organization?
I’m most proud of our culture transformation which is built upon a companywide commitment to inclusion and diversity, positive mental health and inspirational and supportive leadership. I’ve always believed that the most important thing in any company is to take care of your people so they feel a sense of purpose and belonging.
To do that, we must treat people with respect and show we have their best interests at heart. I think we’ve done a great job of demonstrating our commitment to our people through our Action Plan for Advancing Justice and Equality, our Mental Health Resiliency Program, and our continued focus on flexibility for employees as we continue to define our new normal.
These programs and the passion of our employees have helped lead to record high employee retention and shareholder return.
What are your primary focus areas going forward, and why are those so important to the future of the nation?
Our focus continues to center on providing innovative solutions across all parts our business, but several markets are top of mind. We are very passionate about overcoming the challenges behind the global transition to a net zero society and we recognize our biggest opportunity to affect climate change comes from the solutions we provide our clients — from the world’s largest infrastructure projects to mission-critical outcomes and cutting-edge manufacturing. I
n addition, national security, digital transformation and cyber continue to bring complex and interesting challenges for our teams to solve alongside our clients. Delivering these innovative solutions is a crucial part of creating a tomorrow we can all be proud of.
How do you help shape the next generation of industry leaders?
At Jacobs, developing and shaping the next generation of leaders is a top priority. This means even more of a concerted effort around mentoring and coaching, and while we are focused broadly on all potential talent, we must ensure we engage women and people of color.
At Jacobs, we’ve shifted the executive leadership team from all male to 50% female, while increasing overall diversity of the Jacobs board of directors to 50% female and ethnically diverse.
We want to be the employer of choice and to do that we must attract, retain, develop and advance the world’s most diverse talent.
Looking back at your career, what are you most proud of?
There are many proud moments that come to mind, but the portfolio transformation at Jacobs — shifting from a low margin, cyclical engineering and construction company to a technology enabled solutions provider — is at the very top of the list.
Jacobs had a great legacy, but there was a lack of growth, challenges with M&A and a lack of global strategy. There was great need for change. We embarked on an unprecedented portfolio transformation starting with the acquisition of CH2M at the end of 2017, followed by the divestiture of our Energy, Chemicals and Resources business and additional acquisitions in FY19/20. This portfolio transformation enabled us to shift to a higher margin portfolio through a total focus on our Critical Missions Solutions and People & Places Solutions lines of businesses.
What’s your best career advice for those who want to follow in your footsteps?
Throughout my personal and business life, my father has been an important mentor to me and taught me the importance of motivating the people around you to achieve great results. His advice:
- Be a great listener
- Be a positive and authentic leader
- Have a relentless focus on engaging and inspiring all levels of the organization