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Executive Spotlight: John Karabias, VP of Strategic Development at Jacobs

Executive Spotlight: John Karabias, VP of Strategic Development at Jacobs - top government contractors - best government contracting event

John Karabias, vice president of strategic development at Jacobs, recently spoke with ExecutiveBiz about his strategic goals to continue the company’s growth with the launch of its new Divergent Solutions segment coming in October. 

Karabias also discussed the company’s winning culture as the challenges of talent recruitment and retention impacting the federal workforce and drives digital transformation efforts for Jacobs in such a competitive marketplace during the latest Executive Spotlight interview.

You can read the full Executive Spotlight interview with John Karabias below:

ExecutiveBiz: What can you tell us about Jacobs’ recent growth initiatives and your strategic goals for the coming year to drive value for your customers across the federal sector?

John Karabias: We released our three-year corporate strategy in March that has three growth accelerators aligned to some of humanity’s most important challenges and which Jacobs is uniquely positioned to help address. 

The first growth accelerator will provide solutions to help the world address climate change. Specifically, this includes the transition to a clean energy future and the various ways that we are helping clients effectively mitigate and adapt to the effects of climate change.

The next accelerator deepens our offerings in consulting and advisory. This is anchored by our investment and majority stake in U.K.-based PA Consulting. PA is a global leader in digital, cyber, health care, and climate and energy consulting solutions. We are expanding the consultative work that we perform, in partnership with PA consulting, to deliver additional value to our clients and complement the technology delivery and professional services that are such important parts of our heritage.  

The third accelerator focuses on data solutions. The animating idea behind this accelerator is a recognition that data, digital technologies and cyber are transforming nearly all our client’s missions. 

From national security to the transportation sector, we are increasingly working with clients to leverage digital technology to significantly improve business outcomes and protect their assets and people from cyber-related risks. It was critical for Jacobs to build a business of scale with the right operating model that could help our market-facing businesses implement data solutions for the broad swath of contemporary client challenges.  

As a result, Jacobs has stood up a new operating unit – Divergent Solutions – which will be fully operational in October and led by EVP and GM Caesar Nieves. It will be a truly global business that brings together our digital and cyber programs across the United States, Europe, Australia and other locations. 

Divergent Solutions will deliver solutions in digital, cloud, cyber, advanced analytics, data management and other critical horizontal capabilities across end-markets.  We are also bringing to market new software products and creative vendor partnerships built around our client’s unique technology ecosystems.  

We are also laser focused on building the right culture and building the talent development infrastructure to enable Divergent Solutions. We have created a new data academy for internal digital skill building and are working with our global talent team to identify and retain the next generation of digital leaders and change makers while simultaneously giving current staff the ability to upskill and move into the growing number of technology focused positions. 

So, we are just incredibly excited to fully launch Divergent Solutions in October. Our leadership team is confident that we’ve built the right operating model and have the purpose-driven team to meet the needs of an increasingly digital world. 

We have communicated to our stakeholders strong growth projections through 2025, and the pieces are in place to accomplish what we’ve set out to do as a new Jacobs business. 

ExecutiveBiz: What are the core values that are the most important to your company culture? How has your team developed its workflow and ability to drive success in such a competitive market? 

John Karabias: In order for Divergent Solutions to be the force multiplier for our market-facing businesses that it’s intended to be, we knew it would be important to focus on one of our core values – inclusivity. 

This meant deeply understanding the needs and professional expertise of our teams around the world as we brought some of them into Divergent Solutions, as well as prepared to deliver data solutions with and through their programs. 

The personal relationships and delivery model with the market-facing businesses is fundamental to our success. We’ve conducted a large number of listening sessions to ensure that a diverse set of perspectives shape Divergent Solutions and that we leverage our team’s market knowledge to set priorities for growth.  

Another important element of our mission statement is “Reinventing tomorrow” and being passionately purpose driven. This means that we see every project as an opportunity to create a more connected and sustainable world.  

These are fundamental tenets of our global culture, and we see them as inspiring our employees to develop highly complex solutions to truly hard problems. We also think it’s a key talent differentiator as we continue to compete for and retain the best workforce in the industry. 

Employees want more than just a job in today’s job market; they want to work at a place where they have autonomy, a career track and a sense of purpose in the work that they perform each day. 

At Jacobs, reinventing tomorrow means establishing a purpose-oriented North Star for all that we do and supporting our employees with the right culture and investment that enables them to be successful.   

ExecutiveBiz: How does your company ensure long term success for your workforce to drive value for your employees as you continue to face the uphill challenge to recruit and retain the best talent in the federal marketplace? 

John Karabias: Allow me to focus on cyber which is an area I’ve spent a large part of my career thinking about. There is an acute cyber skills gap in the global labor market right now. At a basic level, it’s simple supply and demand.  But the redress is obviously highly complex and involves a variety of stakeholders. 

I’m more confident today than I was 12 months ago that there is a consensus in industry and government that we must think differently about how to reduce the cyber skills gap. Industry and government both need to create more accessible cyber training for existing employees. 

This is non-controversial, and we are making some progress nationally doing so. At the K-12 and higher education levels, we also need to be considering new ways of credentialing and creating pathways for cyber talent to be cultivated and enter the workforce. 

What also makes this particular area challenging is the evolving nature of the threat landscape and the required cyber and technology proficiencies required to fill these positions. It’s a dynamic area. 

However, there are some fundamental skills, from basic system administration to more sophisticated threat hunting and incident response, that we can and should be delivering at greater scale to the American workforce.  

At Jacobs, we have recently established a data academy where employees can get access to the very latest in cyber skill building. We are also creating new pathways for employees with related skills to move into more cyber focused positions within Jacobs. 

Our talent management teams are recruiting at universities and new venues to identify the next generation of cyber talent.  I’ll also mention that we are participating in a few national cyber talent initiatives. One worth noting is our participation in the recently announced Global Cyber Talent Hub with partners NightDragon and ThriveDX. 

This hub unites educators and employers across commercial and government organizations and will serve as a comprehensive ecosystem designed to attract, retain, foster and continuously develop cyber talent.  

Jacobs is a founding member and will be contributing cyber training to the hub. We are working with stakeholders accessing the hub to deliver training and a talent pipeline to meet national cyber skill needs.”

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Written by William McCormick

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