Growing my leadership skills in business development


Thanks to his great determination and business acumen, Jeff Pearson is one of our firm’s young leaders. In this blog post, he tells us about his journey and the role BBA’s Leadership Program has played in developing his career. He also shares five key takeaways from his experience to date.

Building on a strength

In 2018, I was fortunate enough to be selected for the Business Development component of BBA’s Leadership Program, which lasted three years. I had been recognized for past successes in this area. The Leadership Program was a career accelerator for me, helping me advance towards achieving each of my professional milestones. For example, in 2020, the firm gave me mandates in handling a major account and in leading pricing strategies. So far, 2022 has been a big year for me. I became a partner and was appointed interim Department Manager – Mechanical Engineering at our Vancouver office.

BBA’s Leadership Program: A career accelerator

The purpose of this program is to identify individuals with the potential to support our organization over the medium and long term in our four leadership areas: Talent Management, Business Development, Expertise and Business Management. The program establishes the necessary means to develop and engage future BBA leaders.

For example, it provided me with access to personalized development, touchpoints with our organization’s thought leaders, deliberate coaching and business development projects to help us grow while being exposed to a global perspective.

Not only does this program help us improve technically, but it also further enriches our approach to client management, client value development and risk reduction. In short, it’s a golden opportunity—both for us as employees and to help grow the business.

Photo 1: The first cohort of BBA’s Leadership Program at the ACEC-Canada Young Professionals Forum in Ottawa (October 2019)

Leadership program EN JEFF ACEC Canada

Here are my 5 takeaways on leadership since beginning my adventure

The maturity I’ve gained since joining BBA has helped me realize five key things about developing my leadership skills. Naturally, my education is far from over! Thanks to BBA’s knowledge-sharing culture, I’m still on this adventure every day through my involvement in projects and reaching out to my internal network of BBA expertise.

1. Build relationships and stay connected

Over the years, I’ve had the chance to work with people from a wide variety of organizations—of all cultures, genders, generations, technical approaches, and more—which helped me broaden my thinking and learn a great deal from this plurality of ideas. Also, if there’s one thing I’ve realized, it’s that it’s important to maintain relationships and always assume that you’ll be working together again in the future. You never know when former connections will resurface; they may even become ever more valuable over time.

2. Go for it: Embrace new responsibilities

I’ve learned that it’s normal not to feel 100% ready when given new mandates or roles outside your usual work environment. In the BBA Leadership Program, I was given the opportunity to coordinate and setup the framework for a committee for post-COVID business development and marketing approaches. Various business development and technical experts as well as marketing leaders from the organization were brought into the committee to share their views, provide recommendations and draw major conclusions together. I used some of the ideas that were generated by this committee to develop a presentation to the Executive Committee. They were also used for BBA’s 2022 Business Development and Marketing budget.

Having never carried out such a mandate, I admit that at first, I didn’t really know where to start, but I surrounded myself with reliable people and trusted in myself! Let’s just say that this helped me learn the workings of corporate communication and strategy very quickly and enriched my network at the firm.

3. Find a mentor or coach and give back

Photo retouchée blogue jeff

I honestly never looked for a mentor; my mentor found me! Shortly after setting off on my adventure in BBA’s Mechanical Engineering team, Nick Hawley, Department Manager –Mechanical Engineering, took me under his wing. He assigned responsibilities to me that I didn’t think I was ready for at the time (remember my second takeaway?) and acted as my safety net. This let me test out my own methods, and even make mistakes without serious consequences, as I was being supervised by an experienced engineer. Nick was generous with his time and experience and is still having an incredible impact on my career, and I will always be grateful to him.

I also benefitted from coaching in the Leadership Program, which helped me learn the importance of being close to our clients and understanding the problems they’re currently facing and how they will actually implement any solutions we bring to them. Today, I’m still being mentored on certain subjects, but I also return the favour by mentoring a few promising engineers and helping them see how different paths today will impact where they’ll be in years to come. Going through the whole learning cycle like this is really rewarding.

4. Seize every opportunity to improve yourself in the field

BBA has a reputation on the market as a firm that works closely with its clients and has a strong onsite presence. Having significant field experience myself, I can attest that assignments on site are an excellent way to learn and springboard your career. It helped me practise my leadership skills and, by doing, learn all the different aspects of a consulting engineer’s role, such as project management, operations, technical expertise and understanding client needs. The first two years of my career were spent full time on site at an oil terminal. There, I was exposed to operations, client decision-making and how consulting services are used to support existing facilities. We can broaden our horizons by being exposed to various corporate cultures and dealing with different types of personalities and work methods. We learn about ourselves, to adapt and to find innovative solutions, even in the most complex situations. In short, being on site doesn’t just shape us into engineers but as consultants, helps us immerse ourselves into client realities!

5. Ask yourself real questions to guide your career

The current labour shortage means that as workers, we have flexibility in choosing our employer. While salary, project types and opportunities for progression set the base criteria that candidates consider most, I know it’s also important to consider an organization’s business model, values and operations. For example, is there company-wide collaboration or competition among teams? How good is the rest of my team? Are the people I’m with pulling me up?

Personally, I like BBA’s partnership model, since it sets a culture where engineers and technologists who represent the firm’s values become involved in all areas of the business where they can provide value, even while they’re still developing. This means that it’s in everyone’s best interest to share their expertise, management approach and business acumen with the rest of the team, based on our value of “fun and collaboration.”

Career advancement is not linear

This was probably one of my biggest realizations: my career has looked more like a zigzag than a straight line, and that’s fine! It helped me acquire experience that complements my career path, to trust my instincts and know that others in the firm have my best interests at heart. This is what I found at BBA and what continues to motivate me daily: the possibility of experiencing a multitude of adventures, of pushing my development even further and, most of all, of being supported by a team where we believe in each other.