Building the Future
Published by Lucy Stewardson,
In May 2018, Jamie M. Gentoso was named CEO of the US cement organisation of LafargeHolcim. An accomplished leader and a professional engineer, Gentoso is responsible for all cement product lines, overseeing an organisation of approximately 3200 employees, 15 cement and grinding plants, and more than 100 cement terminals. Gentoso has sat on the Board of Directors for several industry organisations, including the Ready Mix Concrete Foundation, Precast Concrete Educational Foundation, and the Concrete Industry Management (CIM) programme.
World Cement (WC): Describe your job in a sentence.
Jamie Gentoso (JG): My job is to grow our business by providing value, anticipating the needs of our customers, and delivering quality products and innovative solutions/services to them all, while also setting new standards for health and safety that bring us closer to our goal of zero harm.
WC: How did you start in the cement industry?
JG: Holcim is where I first began my career, as a technical service engineer with a focus on speciality cements, portland cement, slag cement, and flyash. I had the opportunity to dive deep and really learn the business, the community, and the customer. Now, my career has come full circle and I am excited to once again be a part of this organisation and its future success.
WC: What is your proudest career achievement?
JG: It may seem counter-intuitive but I am very proud of the experience that I have gained outside of the industry. After 18 years in the cement/concrete industry, I took the opportunity to work more closely with speciality architectural building products. Why is this experience something that I am especially proud of? Because it took an immense amount of courage to take a step outside of the industry where I built my career, many relationships and, most of all, gained great expertise both technically and commercially. In the end, it allowed me to further develop my leadership agility and adaptability, realising that business is business. These are qualities that I believe make me a stronger leader and enhance the abilities and experience that I bring to LafargeHolcim as CEO of US Cement.
WC: What are you listening to or reading at the moment?
JG: Right now, I’m reading John Maxwell’s Good Leaders Ask Great Questions: Your Foundation for Successful Leadership. I am always looking to further develop my skills as a leader and, as part of that development, I want to learn how to ask better questions.
I find music to be very motivating. Nothing is better than an intense workout with great music. I really enjoy high-energy dance music or pop. If I have to push through the last few minutes of a workout or I have a big meeting and need some motivation, a couple songs that get me going are ‘Rise’ by Katy Perry and ‘More’ by Usher. On the flip side, I am also a big George Winston fan and enjoy listening to his piano solos while I work.
WC: In your view, what is the biggest challenge facing the cement industry?
JG: The biggest challenge facing our industry today is finding our voice in a modernising world and using it to change the perception of our industry. There are many dimensions to this, including our role in developing sustainable materials, but one I am most passionate about is finding a way to attract both skilled trade workers and professionals to our industry. Let’s face it, working in the cement/concrete industry is not a career kids dream about as they grow up (I know I did not!). The labour shortage is real and is not going to get any better as we face a number of both professionals and skilled trade workers (in our plants and in the field) that will retire in the coming years.
As the four year degree becomes increasingly standard, it is difficult to find young people interested in working in trades. Further to that, there is no glamour or spotlight on our industry that gets young people to start thinking about it as a potential career opportunity. There are tremendous opportunities for career development, personal growth, technological innovation, and complex problem-solving in the cement/concrete industry, but the problem is that not enough people are aware of that. We have to better communicate the tremendous opportunity for career building that our industry has to offer.
WC: What strategies can the industry employ to solve this challenge?
JG: In order to successfully change the perception of our industry, we start by making opportunities available through supporting educational tools like the CIM programme (www.concretedegree.com). The CIM programme is a business-intensive programme that provides solid management skills that are applicable in any industry, but developed specifically for the concrete industry. One of the goals of the CIM programme is to provide students with technical and business degrees in the concrete industry, so that students emerge from school better equipped to have an impact on the industry from day one.
Through my work with the CIM programme, I have seen that exposing students to what this industry has to offer through various educational and hands-on opportunities gives us the chance to attract young people early to make cement/concrete their career choice, instead of later, by accident. To build the next generation of leaders in our field, we need to attract the best and brightest and foster the growth of their careers from the beginning. I also hope that I can inspire some young women to see that they also have potential in our industry.
WC: Where is the most interesting place you have visited – and why?
JG: When I graduated from college I had my first opportunity to travel to Europe, where I was able to visit many different countries. I remember being so impressed by the buildings, their beauty, architecture, and the fact that they were hundreds, even thousands of years old, yet still standing and still utilised for their intended purpose. Even then, as a young civil engineer, I recall thinking to myself that we must find a way to get back to a place where we design and build structures to last and not to be torn down and replaced after just decades.
WC: What is your favourite place – and why?
JG: My favourite place is Napa Valley, California, and wine country. It is a place of relaxation, great beauty, food – and, of course, wine. I have gained a great appreciation for winemaking, which is a passion, art, and a science all at the same time. Truly though, if given the choice to be anywhere in the world it would be anywhere with my kids. Quality time with them is better than any day in Napa!
WC: Do you have a final message for the industry?
JG: Cement is the number one material being used in building projects worldwide. Those who work in this industry quickly find that this work is meaningful and important, because it is integral to the growth of our cities and communities.
As this industry is responsible for having such a large impact on our world, LafargeHolcim is always focused on making sure that the products and services that we provide are sustainable for the future. We must transform the way we operate to become more innovative and mindful of the use of resources and our impact on the environment. To achieve this, we need to come up with innovative solutions, from materials manufacturing processes and product development to building design and construction methods.
If we can minimise the impact that we have on our physical world while improving communities, as well as the lives, health, and safety standards of our workforce, we will be that much closer to leading the industry to a brighter future.
Read the article online at: https://www.worldcement.com/special-reports/08012019/building-the-future/
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