A determination to succeed

For Barry Lewis, Contract Director of ALEC, success is just a matter of working hard with conviction

By Deepti Nair (Contributor)

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Published: Wed 26 Dec 2007, 11:13 AM

Last updated: Sat 4 Apr 2015, 11:56 PM

WHAT DOES it take, to run a highly professional company in the midst of heavy competition? To be the director of one of the largest contracting companies in the UAE market today? “Integrity and Determination is my success mantra,” says Barry Lewis, Contracts Director for Al Jaber Engineering and Contracting (ALEC).

Barry Lewis, has been with ALEC in the UAE since its inception. His integrity and determination has aided in the commendable progress ALEC has made in the short span of 6 years.

A native of South Africa, we spoke to Barry about his early years in his homeland and about his parents who have been his greatest inspiration in life.

Early years

I grew up in a small town called Nigel, which is to the east of Johannesburg in South Africa. I grew up in a small farm with my parents, a sister and a brother. I had the most fantastic time growing up.

My inspiration has always been my parents. They are very hard working and sincere to their work. From a very early age they taught me the virtue of respecting people and respecting the job that you do.

Growing up on the farm with my family has taught me the value of working hard. And it is these qualities of hard work, integrity and dedication instilled early in me by my parents that have helped me to get to this position today.

On early work experience

I schooled at Christian Brothers College in Springs where sport was my main priority and passion. Grinaker-LTA, a large contracting company in South Africa, gave me a scholarship for my studies. And after I completed my education I started working for them. I have never been to a job interview from the time I left college to this day.

The first contract I was given, was a small fast track refurbishment of an existing airport at Sun City. It was a two and a half month crunch job where we pretty much worked twenty-four-seven. The job was tendered at minus one per cent, but we had a very committed young team and we pulled it off on time and managed to make some money.

The nice thing about small contracts is that it gives you a crash course in construction and allows you to understand the A-Z of what is required to successfully start and close out a contract. South Africa is a big country and I have worked in seven different locations in the last 12 years on different projects for Grinaker.

On the work front in Dubai:

I came to Dubai in April 2002 as a manager for Grinaker. Since then ALEC has been completely taken over by Al Jaber Group of companies. The sponsors have been very accommodating and have supported us in every way possible.

The construction boom in the UAE, from a contractor’s point of view is beneficial as there is obvious growth and diversification opportunities that come with it, but one should always proceed with caution. You must retain your core values as a business.

When I first arrived in Dubai, there was a surplus of contractors in the UAE. The contracts were being let at competitive rates and were generally being delivered on time. But over time, things have changed. At present the market is overheated, there is a shortage of competent resource and securing work is easy, but delivery on time has now become almost impossible. And that has always been one of the prime objectives of ALEC.

We pride ourselves on providing timely delivery on all our projects. However, due to the unprecedented growth within the construction sector, our ability to deliver on time is becoming increasingly more difficult. Now we have set-up an MEP and Precast business and a Design and Construct team to assist us in ensuring that we deliver on time.

On family:

My family comprises of my lovely wife, Josslyn and my four super kids Paul 8, Mathew 5, Kate 3 and Nathan 18 months. My wife is a qualified Graphic designer but she has given up on her career opportunities to help me follow mine.

I have lived in seven different locations in South Africa during my work with Grinaker and many a times it was not possible for her to travel with me. At these times, she has single handedly managed the household. She has been the single driving force in my life and has always encouraged me to follow my ideals.

That is another reason I am very happy to be in Dubai as the lifestyle here is very good and it gives me the opportunity to be with my family and spend quality time with them. Weekends are very special to us and we make sure that we always spend it together.

On dealing with stress:

My children are my major stress-busters. They are highly active as kids of their age always are. Our house is always in total chaos. At times, they drive me crazy but they are also what keeps me sane after the stressful office hours.

Nothing brings more pleasure than to come home and see my children’s loving faces, eagerly waiting for me to be with them. I am a very outdoors kind of person and every chance I get I indulge in my favorite sports. I enjoy league squash, surf ski, tennis, fly fish and golf. I enjoy anything outdoors and try to spend as much time as possible close to nature. I also indulge in some light reading whenever I can.

My vision:

I believe one must always work with integrity and dedication. Only when we respect others, do they in turn treat you with respect. I believe no goal is unattainable if you set your mind to it and are determined to work with conviction and honesty.

I would like to see ALEC and its employees, through their continued hard work and dedication, achieve the highest accolades and the rewards that they deserve.


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