From bush engineer to managing director
Interview with Jurriaan de Jong
An avid outdoorsman, with adventure in his blood and a passion for everything related to civil engineering. Those characteristics are obvious when you meet Jurriaan de Jong, the new managing director of Royal HaskoningDHV in Turkey.
He worked in countries like Nigeria, Benin, USA, Vietnam, Russia, the UK, Bangladesh, the Gambia. Just to name a few. “Yes, I’m quite adventurous. I always liked to be abroad”, he says in his new office in Beykoz, on the Asian shore of the Bosporus.
He studied civil engineering in the Netherlands at Delft University of Technology, also known as TU Delft. Before he graduated in 2000 he studied in Switzerland as part of the Erasmus exchange program. He was for one year active in the student union of his university and did an internship of three months in India.
He graduated on a project in Bangladesh for DHV (now Royal HaskoningDHV). “I studied an alternative way of river bank protection with the principal objective to prevent the erosion of river banks along the giant River Meghna. I call that bush engineering. It is very difficult to protect the land of the poor farmers and villagers on the banks of the rivers because of the enormous power of the bursting rivers that sweeps everything away during the monsoon season from June to September. Riverbanks, which are composed of very fine sediments, are easily destroyed by flooding and often rivers change their course significantly after a flood. This has a severe impact on the livelihood of the people living along the riverbanks, often leading to a lot of poverty for those who already have very little”.
The coastal flooding, sometimes through cyclones, twinned with the ever-changing river banks is common and severely affects the landscape and society of Bangladesh. 75% of Bangladesh lies less than 10m above sea level and 80% is flood plain.
After graduation and before thinking of his first job interview, he decided to travel for nearly six months in Latin America.
Upon return he landed a job at his current employer as project manager and consultant, with longer term postings in UK, The Gambia, Vietnam, Russia and USA where he worked in the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina (2005), the costliest natural disaster, as well as one of the deadliest – at least 1,833 people died – hurricanes in the history of the United States.
“Every culture has its own challenges”, De Jong says. “Turkey for instance is quite a different cup of tea from Russia, where I was based in St. Petersburg for 2.5 years before I was transferred to Turkey at the end of October 2014”.
He noticed that both Russians and Turks are emotional people. “Where in Russia most of the times these emotions are kept below the surface, the Turks seem to be more open when it comes to expressing their emotions. Furthermore I am genuinely impressed with the capabilities of our staff here in Turkey. It is a privilege to work with such a highly qualified team. In the meantime I am still a novice when it comes to blending Dutch and Turkish culture”.
Turkey wasn’t completely new for him. “I had been travelling in Turkey and surrounding countries in 1997. And in 2010 I hiked with my friends in the Kaçkar mountains (3,000 m), a mountain range that rises above the Black Sea coast in eastern Turkey, and we climbed Mount Ararat on the eastern border with Armenia.”
Royal HaskoningDHV is an international engineering and project management consultancy with over 130 years of experience. The company delivers services in aviation, buildings, energy, industry, infrastructure, maritime, mining, transport, urban and rural planning and water. With a staff of 7,000 they work for public and private clients in more than 130 countries.
Big ambitions in Turkey
“Our ambitions with Turkey are very high”, De Jong says. “We see opportunities for all our business lines here. Like in Indonesia, Saudi Arabia, Thailand, Vietnam and Mozambique. Why Turkey? Because it has a lot of growth potential: a large internal market and it is becoming a hub to the Middle East, Central Asia and Africa.”
De Jong is proud to mention some project examples.
“We are involved in the construction of the Yarimca container terminal close to Körfez in the province of Kocaeli by the Sea of Marmara by DP World. It will become one of the biggest container terminals in Turkey and is scheduled to be officially opened by the President of Turkey in October of this year. This new container terminal will boost economic development in the region. Another project worth mentioning is our Wetstock project in which we are monitoring the fuel stocks of over 600 BP petrol stations in Turkey with an accuracy of 9lt/day, reducing and early detecting leakage, theft or other types of losses. We are also involved in the development of the third Istanbul airport: as strategic advisor to the developers and as designer of the foundations of the main terminal and its piers. For Ashgabat International Airport in Turkmenistan, that is being built by Turkish contractor Polimeks, we did something similar.”
Turkey Director Jurriaan de Jong makes long hours in the office and works hard with his dedicated team to realise the huge ambitions of Royal HaskoningDHV in Turkey. But he makes sure that he spends time with his wife and four kids outdoors at least one day each weekend. “Hiking, walking, and having a picnic together is very important for all of us. It is not only fun and relaxing, but is inspiring for me too”.