Leading ALEC into a new era: an interview with new CEO Barry Lewis

Leading ALEC into a new era: an interview with new CEO Barry Lewis

Barry Lewis, the newly appointed CEO of ALEC, an engineering and contracting subsidiary of the Investment Corporation of Dubai (ICD), provides insights into his motivation, growth strategies, commitment to core values, technological advancements and empowering the workforce in his new role. 

Barry Lewis, CEO, ALEC

As the newly appointed CEO of ALEC, what motivated you to take on this role and what do you envision for the company’s future under your leadership? 

I have had the good fortune of working alongside and learning from our former CEO, Kez Taylor, a true industry visionary and charismatic leader, over the last 22 years. Sharing a similar approach to business growth and diversification, we have established ALEC as the construction industry leader it is today. Kez, with his new role on the board will still guide and support the business. 

Having navigated the turbulence of the last four years, ALEC has emerged stronger than ever, and we are on the cusp of our next phase of accelerated growth. Our priority will be to further ALEC’s expansion into new geographies and related fields of business whilst continuing to make investments in our people and technology. 

ALEC has a strong presence across multiple regions and sectors. How do you plan to leverage this diverse portfolio to drive growth within the company? 

Our vision has always been to maximise the value proposition to our clients by distinguishing ALEC as the holistic provider of world-class construction and related services. Over the last two years alone, we established two new construction-adjacent lines of business; ALEC Data Centre Solutions, which is pioneering the design and development of new data centre paradigms such as liquid immersion in the region, and LINQ Modular, which recently received a modular construction licence from the Dubai Municipality to start executing a pilot modular construction project for a G+6 building. This has been in addition to our landmark acquisition of TARGET Engineering, a move that buffeted our established capabilities in marine and industrial construction while enabling ALEC to mark its entry into the oil and gas sector. 

Our different lines of business draw on each other’s strengths and expertise and collaborate with unrivalled efficiency. By offering clients, even those with the most complex and ambitious of projects, everything under one roof, from consultancy and construction to fit-out and MEP works, we eliminate many of the greatest impediments they are facing in achieving their desired outcomes, on time and within budget. This is the differentiating value that resonates strongly with our clients and prospects and perfectly positions us to be the partner of choice as we look to be part of some of the region’s most ambitious projects. 

Quality, safety, functionality and aesthetics are emphasised in ALEC’s construction solutions. How do you plan to ensure that these core values continue to be upheld while the company evolves and takes on new challenges? 

Our success over the decades can be attributed to the concentrated efforts made at every level of leadership to promote a corporate culture that fosters our ability to yield these highly desirable project-related outcomes. 

At its core, our company’s ethos boils down to five immutable principles. Recognising the immeasurable importance of our human capital, we value every member of our organisation and empower them to achieve their utmost potential. We hold ourselves to the highest standards of integrity and implement policies and procedures that make possible the highest levels of transparency and accountability. These checks and balances also enable us to demonstrably deliver on our commitments and uphold the reliability that has become a hallmark of our brand. Our courage and passion for innovation are the driving force behind our readiness to boldly chart new paths for the industry, undertaking the groundbreaking projects today, that become the benchmarks of tomorrow. 

Explain the rationale behind ALEC placing so much emphasis on defining and promoting its values. What benefits does this bring to internal and external stakeholders? 

Construction is a challenging sector to be in and when it comes to developing the most iconic projects, what differentiates one construction company from another is the people. Organisations like ALEC which are at the upper echelons, ensure that their company culture is underpinned by a set of values that is embodied by every one of their personnel. This unifies individuals into cohesive teams that strive to deliver the very best possible outcomes for clients, and it is what sets ALEC apart from its competitors. 

Our values guide the way we conduct ourselves in the market and instil in our clients the confidence that no matter who they engage with within our organisations, they can be assured of the highest levels of integrity, reliability, courage and innovation. 

ALEC recently introduced a strategic division focusing on early-stage construction design advice. How do you see this division enhancing the value proposition for clients and contributing to the company’s overall success? 

After rigorous cause-and-effect analysis of decisions made throughout a project’s life cycle, we found that a disproportionate amount of value can be created if the right decisions are made in the first 10% of the project’s life cycle. This led to us launching our Strategic Projects and Developments Division which focuses on adding value throughout a project’s entire life cycle by ensuring the early-stage involvement of our most experienced engineers and consultants. Not only does our Strategic Projects branch provide our key team members with a complete overview of the project at hand, but it also ensures our expertise and technical adoption can be used to deliver the most comprehensive value to our clients while augmenting the sustainability of the overall project. 

While the fundamental principles of this division’s solutions are transferable across multiple asset classes, at present, our strategy has been to specialise in owner-operator models, build-to-rent assets, mixed-use hospitality and projects that lend themselves to a high degree of modularity including serviced apartments, residential apartments and mid-sized villas. 

Employee engagement and development are vital for organisational success. What strategies do you have in mind to empower ALEC’s workforce, foster a culture of innovation and attract top talent in the industry? 

I’ve previously highlighted the importance that ALEC places on its human capital. Our people are the driving force behind our success. We strive to ensure that they feel valued, motivated and empowered. This commitment is demonstrated in the numerous internal programmes we run, aimed at fast tracking career progression. For example, ‘Thrive’, our mid-level leadership programme equips managers with the skills they need to grow into larger roles and take on greater responsibility. This also enables ALEC to have a culture that favours promoting from within. For group projects, we assign mentors who guide less seasoned staff in their development and growth. 

Also, highly effective has been ‘Tahadiy’, an innovation-focused programme that is open to all. It encourages individuals to work in teams to develop solutions to complex challenges and seek compelling new ways to do things. To ensure that employees at every tier have the opportunity to enhance their skill sets, we run ‘Evolve’ which offers junior staff a rapid and effective path to developing and honing their leadership and management abilities. 

How do you plan to leverage technology advancements to streamline processes, enhance project delivery and improve overall efficiency within the organisation? 

There’s no doubt that tech has played an increasingly significant role in not only how we approach projects, but also how we collaborate with industry stakeholders. In fact, another factor that sets ALEC apart from some of our industry peers is our relentless focus on innovation and technology. There is no doubt in my mind that it is this commitment to continuous improvement and willingness to embrace technology that has allowed us to stay ahead of the curve in an industry that is notoriously slow to change. 

Having successfully leveraged the latest technologies on several projects, including BIM, Augmented/Virtual Reality, robotics, drones and cloud software, we have been directing our Digital Transformation inward. In a move that underscores our commitment to Digital Transformation, we appointed a Head of Digital Construction with a mission to digitise the entire value chain for our projects, with an emphasis on increasing workflow communication and vertical efficiencies. 

We are streamlining our operations through digital technologies, tackling interoperability, standardising the data layer and integrating different technologies where required. In doing so, we will inevitably promote technology adoption among our clients and partners, leading to a digital-first mindset across the industry that advances the sector towards greater efficiency, quality and sustainability. 

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