5 Questions With An Expert: Hossam Esmail

October 18, 2021

HVJ photo_H EsmailHossam Esmail
Senior Vice President

Hossam Esmail has been with HVJ Associates® since 2000, when the company won the contract for Houston’s I-10 expansion--the largest transportation project in Texas at the time. Since then, he has risen from department manager to managing HVJ’s Operations and Business Development. Esmail began with all the qualifications of a civil engineer, but during his time at HVJ he learned that how you treat people, as outlined in the company’s commitment management policy, is the keystone for success.   

1.  Starting with some background about yourself, can you share how you got started in this field, and what inspires you most in your work?

I grew up in Alexandria, Egypt, in a family of engineers. My dad was an engineer, and my older brother and sister became civil engineers. I wanted to do the same thing! There is a sister who became a lawyer, but everybody else was an engineer. They pushed me toward medicine, but I didn't want to be anything but an engineer.

2.  What is your role at HVJ, and what is your favorite type of project/work? 

Since 2012, I have been a Senior VP, in charge of operations and business development, basically everything except for finance and administration. I enjoy growing the business and working on the brand of the company. I spend, I would say, 20 to 25 percent of my time face-to-face with clients, from one-on-one meetings, to organization meetings, to SOQ preparations.   

If you ask an engineer, “What is important?” they say, “to be on time, on schedule, and on budget," and it may be true. But in my opinion, it’s more important to really know what the client needs and what will make them shine. Our job is to make our clients successful.

3.  What are the common challenges you encounter in your management role?

Finding the right people to hire, the right team players—that is the biggest challenge. A team member who is committed to the overall success of the team, not only to his/her portion of the work. Like, I'll be doing the best job in my area and everyone is doing their best in their specific area, but the overall product will not satisfy the overall project unless we work as a team.

4.  How has the company coped with the COVID pandemic, from a management point of view?  

The impact of COVID wasn’t huge at first, since we only work with the public sector, and we are an essential business. So even when everything was shut down, HVJ didn't shut down for even an hour.  

But the way we interact with each other is different now. With virtual meetings, you don't connect the same way you used to with clients and the project team. People are less willing to engage person-to-person, and some are not willing to travel out of town. Our projects are all over Texas so I see that as a challenge.  

But change is healthy because you learn from it and that's how we grow. We are ready to address whatever comes and adapt to be successful. Myself, I am back to maybe 70 percent of the travel I used to do before COVID. I'm  travelling to different offices. Today I'm in El Paso--next week, I'm in Arizona for a business development meeting.   

5.  What is the most interesting and rewarding aspect of working at HVJ? 

Without bias, HVJ Associates is the #1 go-to firm for Geotechnical,  CoMET and Pavement—pretty much for a major chunk of the transportation projects in the State of Texas. The I-10 project was the start of HVJ's heavy involvement in transportation, as we were ahead of other people getting into this business with the Texas Department of Transportation.

And I have remained with HVJ for such a long period of time because Herb Johnson is a man of his word. When we give our word, that's everything.

At HVJ, we always like to learn and to be one step ahead of our competitors. Quality in projects, quality in construction engineering, and quality in inspection projects which we do in-house. We were one of the first firms to figure out this approach, and I find it rewarding to be a part of it. 

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