Q&A: Talking with Senior Strategic Consultant – Renewables, Stephen Zhao

At Jacobs’, we think differently about the future because today’s challenges of urbanization, resource scarcity, climate change, information overload and system security demand innovative approaches to deliver a more connected, sustainable world.

In our ‘future of energy’ series, we’re getting to know the next generation of leaders who are solving the world’s most pressing challenges in sustainability and will shape the energy industry of tomorrow.

For this interview, we connected virtually with Stephen Zhao, Jacobs’ Senior Strategic Consultant – Renewables to tell us about his role in Jacobs’ Power Generation and Storage group, why he chose a career that focuses on renewable energy technologies and how he is working with clients to reduce their carbon footprint. Read more in this Jacobs.com interview.

Tell us a bit about what you do at Jacobs.

I am a power system engineer in Jacobs’ Power Generation and Storage group. My main work includes renewable technology evaluation and implementation, power system analysis, grid planning and strategic consulting.

What sparked your interest in an energy/sustainability career? 

Climate change and the latest natural disasters are the main reasons for me choosing an energy career. We need to change our lifestyle and the impact that we are having on the earth. I believe this is an impactful career choice. A career in energy also allows me to work outside and enjoy nature while gaining a better understanding of the world around us.

What’s your favorite part of your role?

My role allows me to work on a very wide range of challenging projects across the entire Asia Pacific region (and sometimes other continents). It is also a great experience to work with people in our global business. 

Your work as a renewable engineer helps to build a greener world. Can you share how renewable engineering shapes the world around us?

We work very closely with our clients trying to reduce their carbon footprint by installing cleaner energy sources. However, this can be quite challenging in some cases due to both technical and economic reasons. Our job is trying to make our world more sustainable while keeping the cost of energy relatively low.

Stephen Zhao family

What’s something you learned in the last week?

Australia could become home to the world’s largest solar farm in the near future. With more consumers turning to solar energy, the Northern Territory will see a 12,000-hectare solar farm being built. The giant solar project will transform the Northern Territory into a renewable energy powerhouse with the capacity to export significant sums of solar electricity each year.

Most interesting career moment?

The most interesting career moment for me is how I started my career with Jacobs. After I completed my PhD at the University of Auckland, I applied for a position in the Auckland office. I thought my interview went relatively well. After a couple of months of waiting, I finally received an offer. However, what surprised me was that I got a position from the Sydney office!

Proudest career moment?

My proudest accomplishment would have to be when I became the manager of a large design team. I started with no previous design experience in the solar/renewable field. I transformed to a renewable engineer quite quickly and got a promotion to design manager in just two years.

If you aren’t in the office, what would we be most likely to find you doing?

I love travelling around the world. However, at this point in time, you will probably only be able to find me in a children’s playground or park as I have a very energetic two-year-old boy to look after now.

People would be surprised to know that I….

I am a big fan of Real Madrid (Football Club).

Stephen Zhao family

What do you enjoy most about being part of the Jacobs family?

This would have to be the great Jacobs people. They are very knowledgeable, open minded and caring for each other. I have had a great pleasure to work with some senior gurus – Peter Apperley, Richard Fairbairn and Charles Barrett – on many of the most interesting renewable projects across the entire Australia-New Zealnd region. In addition, I also quite like the flexible work arrangement I have with Jacobs. During this pandemic period, I have been allowed to work overseas in order to look after my family. This has significantly reduced the amount of stress we are having to take care of a two-year-old boy and a baby on the way.

About Jacobs

What drives you drives us as we work to build a better world – together. At Jacobs, every day is an opportunity to make the world better, more connected, more sustainable. We’re powered by approximately 55,000 people across the globe who deliver innovative scientific, technical, professional and program-management solutions for public and private clients around the world.

We’re always looking for dynamic and engaged people to join our team. Bring your passion, your ingenuity and your vision. Let’s see the impact we can create, together.

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