Moving to the global stage - wave of digital transformation opens new career opportunities
Tim Shelton is a prominent alumnus and regional ambassador of The University of Manchester who has used his Global MBA experience to support his career as he grows his role on the back of a wave of digital transformation sweeping across his company and industry. Tim has recently moved from his regional position to a global leadership role while remaining in the Middle East – a testament to the power of digital communications. As Tim says, “the MBA set me up for success.”
This is Tim’s story.
Arcadis International Limited is a consultancy working in the built and natural asset space, from large buildings to the construction of dams and waterways and other infrastructure.
“We believe we can solve a lot of the world’s challenges through asset delivery – our corporate tagline is ‘improving the quality of life’ and we aim to help solve the world’s challenges and empower people. It’s a mission that resonates with contemporary global challenges.”
Three years ago, the company’s CEO announced its ambition to become a digital front runner in the industry, which had been relatively slow in adapting digital to improve productivity. It’s an industry with a high degree of fragmentation and legacy issues, and which struggles to collaborate successfully, while focusing on costs.
“We believe that digital transformation can genuinely accelerate change within the industry – and also change the image of the industry itself, which is vital because it continues to score badly for attractiveness among young people. Skill sets such as engineering have become more commoditised but we believe we can bring innovation to clients and help the industry, at the same time.”
“This is why we decided to invest so heavily in digital transformation and to create new digital products, to replace the time, materials and consulting capabilities we would routinely take to clients. As a result, we will become agile and nimbler, retaining our domain expertise and take digital products to complement the people we put in front of clients; so, we are also undertaking a big people transformation in the process.”
Digital transformation leads career opportunities
Tim’s role is changing as he takes on a new global leadership role, as a part of a new global operating model evolution within Arcadis.
“Previously, I was the regional representative in the Middle East leading digital transformation and innovation – with 50 percent of my time focusing internally on our people to create new products and automate processes, rally support, and look at the people processes from a technology perspective, and 50 percent on client development – understanding their problems and developing solutions to address their issues and then to scale them across the region, and potentially globally. It was a regional role and focus that fed into the company’s global strategy.”
This was no mean challenge for a company of 27,000 staff – including 2,000 in the Middle East. But the pandemic has accelerated the company’s digital transformation ambitions – creating a new opportunity for Tim, thanks to his distinctive background and professional experience, technology expertise and the additional business acumen he acquired through his MBA studies.
Tim initially trained as a quantity surveyor and developed a very specific skillset in construction consultancy. This included data gathering and structuring and has evolved into broader strategy, such as PMOs, quality assurance and consultancy. This is where the MBA helped Tim acquire a broader understanding of business, and additional skills. For Tim, the company’s focus on digital products means the workplace has evolved into an area in which he has a special interest. Arcadis saw his potential to assist in the digital transformation process – Tim had already completed his Global MBA.
“The MBA played a big part in my move to a new global role with Arcadis, building on my experience from a domain expertise and also from a strategic perspective – technology, people and processes, how to meet market needs and scale, manage stakeholders, supply chain and markets - a whole range of people to manage and to align to common objectives.
“The MBA taught me a lot, such as the use of frameworks, including the McKinsey 7s model for marketing gap analysis, to help us understand where we are going as an organisation and so to develop a roadmap. It’s all relevant. The presentation skills we developed and the group work with a heavy focus on the Manchester method, sharing experiences and learning by doing – these are all very portable skills and experiences and help give you the confidence to speak out and articulate thoughts in a way that resonates internally and with clients.”
In his new role in the redesigned organisation which is now split into different solution areas, Tim is leading Digital Programme Management Solutions as Global Product Owner - looking at the global business model and building and evolving global solutions powered by technology. This entails finding and developing digital products that can be scaled globally across the company as it rolls out a new operating model across the global business with a focus on the productisation of solutions – ensuring investment in the right products that are also scalable.
‘Global Product Owner’ is a new, defined role within a scaled, agile methodology. The position sets the roadmap, steers investment into the right product features, looks at client development, and the go-to-market strategy. In fact, the role covers many of the elements of the MBA programme – it’s strategic but also hands-on, getting to market fast and making money.
The company C-suite (of 5 executives) is sponsoring the seismic shift of the digital transformation initiative, which includes a digital learning platform for ‘Arcadians’ with materials around how the industry is being disrupted, and how the company is responding. One challenge is to address the fear of growing workplace automation but this should mean more time spent on value added activities but new skills will be needed so staff must become lifelong learners.
Tim’s new role is a virtual position in the global Programme Management team, and he will remain in the Middle East, where the company is doing a lot of project work, especially in major capital programmes in Saudi Arabia. It’s part of a new three-year strategy for ‘maximum impact’ and accelerating digital transformation with a focus on key markets, a more selective approach to clients to ensure alignment with Arcadis’ own sustainability aims, as ESG rises up the corporate agenda.
“This concentration on niche technology offerings is aligned with the company’s aims and commitment to sustainability – a key theme across everything we do. This can also help differentiate us in market.”
On the impact of the pandemic, Tim believes this has accelerated the existing trend towards digitalisation and highlighted the need to shift the company operating model to accelerate technology adoption. As he says, we all learned very quickly how to use online meetings, which helped with technology adoption more generally and to think more deeply about the opportunities of technology to create new solutions.
“Digital transformation is a major opportunity for the company and the industry and the more the sector can partner with top global institutions the better. From my own experience on the Global MBA, collaborating with like-minded motivated people who wanted to change their organisations as well as their careers, it gave me the confidence to speak out and articulate my ideas about contemporary business challenges. This wave of digital transformation hit my career at the right time, as I move into middle management, so the MBA set me up for success.
In his new role, Tim will be spending even more time on video calls with his global team – and highlighting another role as a devoted Tottenham Hotspur football club fan, as anyone will quickly notice when speaking to him online.