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Q&A: Talking with Suzanne Lopes, Vice President, Market Director Cities & Places, Europe

With a career spanning the Expo 2020 Dubai, FIFA World Cup Qatar 2022™, London 2012 Olympics & Paralympics and other major programs, we talk to Suzanne about what inspires her.

Having worked on major programs around the world that often entail transforming hundreds of acres of site with placemaking and sustainability goals at their heart, Suzanne is applying that passion for the places we live, work and play in to her new role as Vice President, Market Director Cities & Places, Europe.

With a background in architectural technology, Suzanne has designed offices, hospitals, police headquarters, hotels and sports stadiums, before working on major programs around the world including Expo 2020 Dubai, FIFA World Cup Qatar 2022™, London 2012 Olympics & Paralympics and many others.

Now developing our Cities & Places strategies across Europe in the context of emerging market trends, Suzanne is looking to the future of urban design and infrastructure integration with better technological interconnectivity.  

We caught up with Suzanne to talk about what inspires her and her career working on some of the most exciting programs in the world.

What’s your favorite part of your role?

People, engaging with enthusiastic, creative, problem-solving people. I love a challenge, but even more I love finding a solution and I love working in situations where this thrives – whether it’s how to identify the way forward to address a challenge a client is facing or how we can improve the end-user experience.

What inspired you to pursue a career in STEAM?

At high school I loved mathematics, physics and technical drawing – the latter I was particularly gifted at, I loved my drawing board! That led to taking an apprenticeship as a draftsperson and then onward to undertaking a degree in Architectural Technology. It all goes back to my love of problem solving – and the biggest problem can be how to make a building successfully come together. 

Tell us more about your role as Design and Technical Director at Expo 2020 Dubai.

Through my role I had the opportunity to engage with most of the client team at Expo 2020 Dubai – listening to their vision and transcribing this into the design briefs for much of what you see on site at Expo today. A major part was also managing the team of design managers, external consultants and contractors, on behalf of the client, to oversee execution of their vision.

As Expo 2020 Dubai is a program, not a project, I worked with the Joint Venture technical team to create a set of standards that provide the baseline for how the multiple projects were delivered to the same specification across the digital platforms we used such as Building Information Modelling (BIM) and Geographic information systems (GIS).

You’ve now moved into a new role, tell us more about that.

After five years on Expo 2020 Dubai and a career working in the built environment, I returned to the U.K. to head up the growth and sales of the Cities and Places market. This was a new opportunity for me after a long career in program delivery – however the daily interactions with very senior clients over many years has been instrumental in helping understand what is important to and motivates our clients.

I also get the opportunity to work with a fantastic team of regional growth directors that have in-depth detailed knowledge of their geographies and client account managers that are focused on growing our Cites and Places offering to our clients.

Your story is so inspiring. What inspires you?

Happy clients and happy end users of spaces whether that’s within buildings, or the urban realm. When you meet a client for the first time, they will have a vision of what they want; taking that vision and supporting, finding solutions and bringing it to life is a real buzz for me. And that can be a student using a new school, a patient in a cutting-edge healthcare facility, an athlete in a stadium or a visitor enjoying a major event such as Expo 2020 Dubai.

What is a typical day like in your role?

At the moment, lots of Microsoft Teams! Generally lots of conversations and team meetings, internally in Jacobs reviewing bids that are going out, discussing with the teams market developments and strategy, aligning with our global teams to make sure we are always ahead of the game on emerging trends , preparing papers or thought leadership pieces to respond to global challenges, researching on client pain points and market developments, writing business cases, developing growth plans around particular topics.

If you aren’t working, what would we be most likely to find you doing?

Renovating houses, or planning to renovate a house, or drawing up plans for my next house! I love refurbishing old houses and I’ve just bought a 200-year-old listed building that I plan to remodel and move into.

Most interesting career moment?

Being famously known at Expo 2020 Dubai for being responsible for the ‘toilet strategy’ – an exercise that included many iterations to define how many facilities were required on the 480 hectare site – made interesting by the multiple presentations at the highest levels of client leadership and the degree of scrutiny it came under.

What’s something you learned in the last week?

I’ve learned a lot about Esports in the last week. Off the back of a client engagement I’ve been researching the Esport movement and the massive acceleration of these events due to the global pandemic. I didn’t know until this week that this is such a phenomenon with events that are watched by millions of global fans – it’s a far cry from Wii Fit!

Most proud career moment?

Taking my parents to the Athletics events at the 2014 Commonwealth Games at Hampden in Glasgow where I had played a huge part working for the organizing committee in the transformation and design of the athletics venue. It was amazing to enjoy this with them – including seeing Usain Bolt winning the 100 meters race on a unique running track design that I was instrumental in developing. Read more here.

People would be surprised to know that I….

Started my very first apprenticeship doing craft training which developed some random skills such as soldering and welding (albeit not so sure I am competent in that now.)

What do you enjoy most about being part of the Jacobs family?

That it is a family, one that provides support – all our leadership are accessible and hugely supportive. Our Culture of CaringSM and values are being lived, it’s not just a strap line.

What drives you drives us as we work to build a better world – together. At Jacobs, every day is an opportunity to make the world better, more connected, more sustainable. We’re powered by more than 55,000 people across the globe who deliver innovative scientific, technical, professional and program-management solutions for public and private clients around the world.

We’re always looking for dynamic and engaged people to join our team. Bring your passion, your ingenuity and your vision. Let’s see the impact we can create, together.

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