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Executive Perspectives: Steve Demetriou

COVID-19 is teaching companies how to reduce their carbon footprints—and help preserve the planet for future generations, says Jacobs’ CEO and chair.
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Since taking the helm of Dallas-based Jacobs in 2015, Steve Demetriou has instilled a culture-first philosophy, streamlined business processes, and driven M&A deals that have had a multibillion-dollar impact on the global conglomerate. It’s why D CEO named him its CEO of the Year for 2019.   

How are you coping amid the COVID-19 crisis? 

This is a very unsettling time in the world. Each of usalong with our families, friends, colleagues, and communitiesare experiencing the development of the coronavirus pandemic and grappling with feelings of concern and uncertainty. And although this is uncharted territory for all of us, the safety and well-being of our people and communities remain our top priority. 

As we shifted from office to home, we took our strong BeyondZero safety culture with us to create and maintain a safe working environment for our teams. As part of that, positive mental health is paramount. I have encouraged our teams to be mindful of their mental health and to check-in regularly with their colleagues to collaborate and uplift each other. 

Have you found silver linings in these difficult times? 

As we looked for a few bright spots in this situation, we found several. For one, we are spending more time with our families and calling to check on friends, colleagues, and neighbors more often than before.

We are also learning that we can work much more seamlessly and effectively than we thought of using technology to connect virtually. And we can have fun doing itwith virtual planning sessions and even virtual coffee breaks. This leads to another bright spot: if we come out of this pandemic with different work patterns and less reliance on extensive travel, we can significantly reduce our carbon footprint, and in doing so, help preserve our planet for future generations.  

How are you maintaining your company culture? 

I am hosting a global virtual town hall once a week for the foreseeable future to bring as many of our 55,000 employees together, share critical information, and answer their questions during the broadcast. Through virtual coordination with our executive leadership and our regional leaders across the globe, we share weekly updates on our people, talk about how we’re supporting our global communities, highlighting all the things we are doing to support the COVID-19 response, and discuss how we’re ensuring business continuity.   

We’re also crowdsourcing heartwarming and inspiring content from our employees and sharing it on our intranet. This includes everything from virtual workouts and home office setups to STEAM (science, technology, engineering, arts, and math) activities for parents trying to balance work while keeping their children occupied. 

Do you have advice for other local business leaders? 

Connectivity is key. Like companies all around the world, we have maximized remote working. We are leveraging technology to collaborate and are continuously optimizing our networks and technologies to facilitate more flexible working scenarios for our peoplewhile at the same time delivering on our commitments to our clients. 

It is times like these that call on us to join forces as business, government, and community leaders, combining our collective knowledge and expertise to tackle this pandemic and help our communities recover together. I am truly inspired by the actions and sacrifices we are making as a collective community in the face of this pandemic. To see people across the world, pitching in and helping each other in ways big and small fills me with confidence and optimism for the future. 

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