Inside Look: Working in Operations
We’re showcasing our people in a series of #InsideLook blogs where they share insights on the roles they play to achieve our purpose of delivering a better world. First up is Jason Kroll, who shares highlights and challenges of his current role as chief operating officer of Middle East and Africa. Jason works in Abu Dhabi, United Arab Emirates.
Can you tell us how you got started in your role?
My career started in a laboratory while working for the Australian government. I quickly learned that lab work was not inspiring to me so I embarked on postgraduate studies in landscape architecture. From there, I worked on incredible projects throughout Asia Pacific, including Putrajaya in Malaysia and the rowing venue for the 2008 Beijing Summer Olympics, and eventually landed in the Middle East.
In my career journey, I’ve had the pleasure of working with leaders who gave me a broad range of assignments, geographically and technically, that enabled me to grow beyond my technical design background. In 2004, when I was working with EDAW, a landscape architecture firm, I moved from a design operations role in Shanghai to lead an office in Melbourne, which helped me develop a much deeper understanding of business fundamentals, including strategy and performance.
What do you like best about your job?
I enjoy the diverse responsibilities, which span operational issues, such as cash flow and business unit performance, to working with our people and clients to solve various challenges. But there is no greater satisfaction than seeing our projects delivered on the ground and the positive impact we have on our community and environment.
What are some challenges you didn’t expect?
One of the challenges I found was more of a cultural difference of how to approach complex issues and how having strong relationships were key to resolving them. It can take a long time to build connections and so you must have a high level of patience and determination to forge these bonds, and that often takes many years. One of the challenges I found was more of a cultural difference of how to approach complex issues and how having strong relationships were key to resolving them. It can take a long time to build connections and so you must have a high level of patience and determination to forge these bonds, and that often takes many years.
What advice would you give to someone exploring an operations role?
The COO role is quite broad and covers a range of areas from business strategy to financial performance to people. I would recommend anyone interested in operations to consider the following:
- Be agile and proactive
Look for opportunities to gain experience working in teams of various sizes, diversity and environments. Some of the experience I found managing a small design team in Shanghai was applicable to much larger teams in Melbourne and Qatar.
- Be curious
Take time to understand the breadth of the business and the forces that shape the industry — this includes identifying and nurturing colleagues around you who will help you in the journey.
- Invest in education
I pursued an Executive MBA in 2016 that provided a deeper understanding of key functions such as marketing, people and financials that have informed my decision-making and enabled me to engage more productively with leaders in those areas of expertise.
At AECOM, we believe infrastructure creates opportunity for everyone. What does creating opportunity mean to you?
Creating opportunity means putting in place the fundamentals, whether it is personal, professional or technical learning, that enable people to thrive within new environments or challenges. Creating opportunity requires building blocks to be in place for other endeavors to be successful.