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Jacobs Curious & Courageous Explorer: Kevin Spight travels to Mount Everest

"We don’t stop playing because we grow old. We grow old because we stop playing."

- George Bernard Shaw

The average year has more than 250 days on the job. The average American spends 8.8 hours a day on “work and related activities,” so that means the average person works 2,100 hours a year. But what if work could be different? What if your job allowed you to explore for personal discovery and return with a renewed sense of purpose that will help not only you, but the company as well?

This September, Jacobs very own, Kevin Spight, will embark on an ambitious climb of Mount Everest. The Jacobs team threw Kevin a surprise party to celebrate 10 years at Jacobs. Also this year, Jacobs added a new core value to our company, "Curious & Courageous Explorers", in an effort to find new ways to add value, solve problems and put ourselves in uncomfortable positions cause that's where true learning happens. So combining those two events, Jacobs rewarded Kevin's time at the company with an extra two weeks of vacation to go on an exploration adventure. Kevin wanted the company to be a part of this adventure and said if he could get the adventure options down to his top three the team could vote on where he will go. Everest Base Camp trek was the almost unanimous winner.

Kevin had three criteria when choosing his adventure. "First, I wanted the trip to speak to my personal "why" sentence about being a positive agent of change", explains Kevin, "so no matter what I did, I wanted a benevolent cause to be added. Secondly, I wanted to do something that pushed me out of my comfort zone. Lastly, I wanted to go somewhere that Jacobs had never gone before, so unfortunately Fargo and Des Moines were off that list." The other places Kevin considered was Antartica hanging out with the penguins and icebergs, as well as Patagonia, staying in eco-domes. Those options are still on his list, just not this year.

Have you always been an explorer? What’s another global trip that helped you in this mindset?

Kevin: I've always been curious and wanting to try new things, however being an explorer is something on another level that I've really pushed myself on the last three years. Not just from a travel standpoint, but from an experience standpoint. The more you find yourself in new and many times uncomfortable situations, the greater the experience. Even last year when I was in Japan, being in a country where you can't speak the language forces you to find new ways to get around. I remember being at a restaurant in Tokyo for lunch, and having no idea what was on the menu. I just picked something and what came out was this incredible eel and rice dish, and I may not have ordered that had I known what it was.

How do you believe this experience will make you a better leader at Jacobs?

Kevin: Exploring the unknown and being comfortable in ambiguity is something that I believe all leaders need to thrive in. I feel like this trip will continue to provide valuable experience on being comfortable in the unknown and the more experience I can get, the better I can be as a leader. I also believe this mini-sabatical will be good for the mind and soul. I'll have 15 days with no wi-fi, disconnected from my world back home. I'm excited for the random thoughts, ideas, and appreciation from my journey.

What new knowledge do you hope to gain?

Kevin: One of the benefits from being on this trek is the time we will be spending with Buddhist and Hindu monasteries. Their ancient views and special nature of why they exist is something I eagerly want to experience. There is an appreciation and outlook that I hope to learn while being around this amazing culture in Himalayas. Another aspect is the time I'll have with the local sherpas. I know there will be many lessons in customer service that I'll be able to observe and experience first hand. Not that I have this expectation, however I can't help but think this trip will be life changing and there will be many new connections and learnings on the trek.

What advice do you have for someone who has a “bucket list”?

Kevin: Simply go do it! Pick one and lock it in. My trip is a few months away and the build up, the planning, the excitement and anxiousness is an incredible thing to look forward to which helps validate why bucket lists are so important.


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