The Future of Business is Driven by Data, Digital Solutions: A Q&A with Sarah James | MarketScreener

We’re living in the era of digital disruption and need bold digital and technology leadership now more than ever before. Leading this change demands knowledge, imagination, new thinking, an appetite to reinvent and the courage to challenge conventions.

In this series, we’re celebrating our team of digital and technology experts and visionaries, spearheading the development and delivery of our technology-forward solutions for smarter working and better living in the Asia Pacific and the Middle East.

For this feature, we caught up with Sarah James, our principal and market sector lead for the Australia-New Zealand (ANZ) region to understand the role of data solutions in navigating digital transformation, its importance in Jacobs’ new strategy and why organizations should strive to become more inclusive.

Let’s get to know Sarah:

Tell us a bit about your career background and role at Jacobs.

I have over 21 years’ worth of experience, and my career spans three areas: engineering, technology and executive leadership. I have visually summarized my career highlights in this Mural to make this more attractive to the readers.

I started working in the IT field in 1997 before university and then worked for engineering firms through university. My career began by supporting IT globally and remotely for a company that supplied parts for BMW, Jaguar, Airbus, Mini and Land Rover all the way around the world.

I joined Halcrow as an intern and traveled around the world in 2002. I went to Plymouth University, worked with the dean to invest in creating a year in the industry for students, and did my Master’s in Geographic Information Systems in 2003 at the University of New South Wales. I worked for Halcrow (which then became CH2M HILL and eventually Jacobs) throughout university and beyond for six years, moved to Mouchel (now WSP Global Inc.), and worked for them for six years.

I am a Royal Geographic Society Chartered Geographer and also sponsored for Business Analysis Skills by the Australian Computer Society. I won an award from the British Computer Society for Innovation in Project Management and became a certified PRINCE® Project Manager and an International Project Manager. I have also been creating startups since 2009, some successful and some not so much.

I emigrated to Australia in 2011, where I met my now partner. I joined CSC (now DXC) and worked for many, many clients over the years around the world. I also had a short client-side stint with BHP and got tapped on the shoulder to work for one of the Big 4 financial services companies.

What led me to Jacobs? I began writing my book “Are You Ready To Change The World – Technology Leadership for the future” in 2016 and eventually published it in 2021. An old mentor who worked for Jacobs read it and introduced me to the new digitally-enabled Jacobs.

I am a sum of my many parts. I am a mum, a wife, an immigrant, a startup business owner, an engineer, a technologist, a geographer, an author and a farmer.

My role at Jacobs is as a Principal in Digital Solutions. I have grown the Data and Digital Advisory team in the ANZ region from 10 to 23 in 11 months and challenged clients to look from secondments to project work. I have also been instrumental in implementing our Neurodiverse Internship Program, supporting the Women in Technology Western Australia (WITWA) Diversity and Inclusion program, and considering how we hire differently.

I see my role to inspire our teams, to be a courageous leader who makes the impossible possible. To challenge the accepted and look after our clients and #OurJacobs people while wholeheartedly ensuring that we encourage diversity in everything we do.

As Walt Disney says, “It’s kind of fun to do the impossible.”

Data solutions is one of the growth accelerators in Jacobs’ new strategy. How is Jacobs adding digital capabilities, products and tools to serve clients navigating digital transformation?

In every solution we propose to our customers, we add a dash of digital. This is how we grow. In every discussion with our colleagues and clients, we think about what would help our clients and how can past data or future data make a difference.

Our digital solutions push the boundaries of what is possible by helping our clients look into the future. We are always considering what is coming next to stay ahead of the curve and bring new and innovative digital solutions to the market. We are aware of new and emerging technologies and not be afraid to learn, research and have a go. Look at our next three years of growth with our accelerators for Data Solutions!

We will need to look at leveraging our long-standing relationships with our clients to enhance our robust business portfolio. It will enable us to take advantage of influential trends with data and other new areas of business like the environment, new energy and Environmental, Social and Governance (ESG) to move the company forward into 2025 – and beyond boldly. Thinking beyond what we currently do for our clients encourages them to think differently and encourages them also to do the impossible. Those I have worked with know I enjoy working on challenges today that reinvent tomorrow.

Jacobs’ new strategy is based on an extensive evaluation of global trends, capabilities, and markets to understand our largest opportunities, projected spend, and growth rates. This resulted in the identification of three growth accelerators: Climate Response, Consulting & Advisory and Data Solutions. I have been lucky enough to work across all three in my career. From flood mapping to coastal erosion, from hydrogen plants to predicting the cities of our future, it’s fantastic to see us grow sustainably and use data and digital to do so.

These growth accelerators cut across the entire business and open opportunities for significant high-value growth with our existing and new clients. They can be pivotal in changing how we work together and how we can deliver for our clients.

As part of this new strategy, we also announced a plan to form a new business unit – Divergent Solutions. It is great to see an organization taking Data Solutions as a growth accelerator. With many organizations thinking about becoming a data-centric organization, a targeted approach to this is a great idea. Data can often help organizations understand their past to predict or invent their future. Divergent Solutions will help to develop and deliver innovative, next-generation cloud, cyber, data and digital technologies.

Embracing digital disruption and innovation can be hard work, requiring resilience and an openness to change. At Jacobs, we have specialists who can help to unleash the momentum needed to drive data-enabled solutions across the organization. Leveraging the strength of our existing business creates focus and agility to deliver the bold outcomes we want to create for our clients.

Our Jacobs’ new three-year strategy is bold, and I look forward to being part of this journey, supporting PlanBeyond 2.0 and focusing on industries like solar, wind and energy, hydrogen, sustainability and future emerging market focuses.

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