On the Job With...
Two Weeks in the Life of Langan International’s George Leventis
The often-dangerous leap into international work was a work in progress for Langan Engineering & Environmental Services for more than a decade. And for George Leventis, it was a labor of love.
“I was always interested in doing international work through Langan,” says Leventis, now the president of Langan International, the overseas arm of Langan Engineering. “But our services were always viewed as more local. So the interest was there, but it’s not always easy to cross the pond.”
But in the mid-1990s, Langan had what Leventis calls a “breakthrough” when they landed a job serving as technical advisors to the lenders on the Rion-Antirion Bridge in Greece, a 10-year project. Around the same time, the firm started getting a good deal of work in the Caribbean through its Miami office. Though Leventis, who is Greek, continued pushing for more international work, he left the company in the late-1990s to be come general director of the Athens Olympics.
“It got put on the backburner again,” he says.
And it would stay there until he returned to the firm and, in 2001, Langan International was started – briefly.
“We started it as a paper company at first,” he says. “And soon after, 9/11 happened.”
The company’s downtown office at 90 West St. was destroyed. “Our international efforts just died,” Leventis says. “At that time, it was put on the backburner again.”
Five years later, Langan International started looking at the Middle East. By early 2009, the company had opened two offices in the United Arab Emirates: one in Abu Dhabi and another in Dubai. And that’s when Leventis’ life became a revolving door of airports, hotels, restaurants and jet lag. With the company working several jobs in the UAE for clients all over the region, and with the breakneck schedule Leventis keeps in an attempt to drum up more work in other countries, he now finds himself all over the map for months out of the year.
In March, New York Construction was able to convince Leventis to keep a diary of his travels during a two-week trip that took him from Greece to Dubai to Kuwait and to several other stops in between. What follows is not so much a “Day in the Life,” but, rather, a “Trip in the Life” – Leventis’ own detailed account of that trip:
After a morning meeting in New York, I headed to the airport for my flight to Athens, where Langan has an office. I was raised in Athens so I am professionally and personally involved in the progress being made there with respect to development and infrastructure. In fact, I was fortunate to serve as Director /General of the Athens Organizing Committee for the 2000 Olympic Games and had the honor of running with the Olympic torch on the Rion-Antiron Bridge prior to the opening of the games. Langan served as the Lender’s Technical Advisor to the Rion-Bridge, for which we accepted the prestigious ASCE OPAL AWARD in 2005.
Since that project, Langan has remained active in Athens and we are currently involved in a 2.3 billion Euro concession motorway, which will be the subject of my first meeting on this two-week trip.
4:00PM to 7:00PM. Arrived in Athens in the afternoon and headed directly to the Motorway Concessionaire’s office for a project update meeting. Tasos Papathanasiou, Langan’s project manager based in Athens, joined me. Immediately after this three-hour meeting, Concessionaire officers and I headed to the Ministry of Public Works for further discussions with the Minister about the motorway project, specifically regarding key technical and financial aspects required to move the project forward.
9:30 PM. After a shower and change of clothes, had dinner with the CEO of a large construction company active in Greece and the Middle East. We discussed several ways that Langan and his firm could team on upcoming projects in both locations. By the way, even though I make many trips back and forth between my two homes, it is always a pleasure to eat Greek food in Greece. If you are ever traveling to Greece, I can suggest numerous excellent restaurants in Athens.
The entire day was consumed with meetings about the Motorway.
Tasos and I met with the CEO of the Concessionaire, Director General of the Contractor, and the head of the Independent Supervision Engineer. Although a full-day meeting, it was productive as we were able to agree on a way forward for the project, which entails construction of 400 Km of motorway with over 50 km of tunnels while maintaining the current traffic flows.
Later in the day, I led a re-group conference call with our Langan team members based in Athens and New York to finalize our language in our quarterly report based on the meetings from Monday and Tuesday.
7PM to 10PM. Caught up on a backlog of emails. Reviewed draft proposals for two projects in Abu Dhabi. Spent time Skyping with my wife and three daughters back home.
Our final meeting concerning the Motorway project took place early in the morning. All went well.
Spent mid-morning making various follow up calls for a large project in Doha where Langan is teaming with London and Dubai-based architectural teams.
1:30PM. Had a meeting with the CEO of a Greek foundation construction company. We discussed ways in which our companies could team and talked about a bid project that Langan is assisting them with in Romania. We were able to come to terms in an hour and I next headed to the airport to catch a flight to Dubai
10PM. Arrived in Dubai and went directly to my hotel to have dinner with the local manager of the Greek contractor I had met Tuesday night in Athens. We discussed ways to share business intelligence on Middle East projects. After dinner, I went back to the hotel room to catch up on emails.
Friday (Day Off in UAE)
8:30AM to 11:30AM. Despite it being a day off, I met with Khaldoun Fahoum, Langan’s Regional Middle East Manager. We re-capped the status of our operations, worked on our budget/staffing for the remainder of 2009 and for 2010.
|Langan International serves as the lender’s technical advisor on the Elefsina-Korinthos-Patrea-Tsakona Motorway in Greece.
12:00 to 3PM. Langan’s leadership is committed to sustainability in every way. Toward that end, the shareholders of the firm are taking the LEED AP exam. My test is approaching fast, so I took about three hours today to study.
3PM-4PM. Held a conference call regarding the Doha project with the London-based architect team.
4PM-5PM. Held conference calls with Langan staff back in NYC office.
6PM. Conference call with the CEO of a NYC-based construction management firm regarding the Doha project and various other prospects in the Middle East and elsewhere.
8:30PM. Dinner with the Middle East manager of a New York-based architect to discuss teaming opportunities in Abu Dhabi and the region
Saturday (Day off in UAE)
9am to 11:30 am. Took part in a meeting with a project manager from a large New York-based construction management company. This meeting was set up by the COO of the company after the previous day’s conference call for two reasons: to discuss various opportunities in Abu Dhabi and to inquire about an introduction to a Dubai-based architect for the Doha project. I will have to follow up with the Dubai-based architect on Monday and also on Thursday for another project in Abu Dhabi. Such meetings are critical as they allow Langan’s name to spread further in UAE design/development circles.
11:30AM to 12:00PM. Packed and checked out.
12:30 PM. Met with the principal of a New York-based architectural firm that also has offices in the UAE. Their New York office has been newly formed, so we discussed teaming opportunities and arranged to meet again both in New York and in the UAE.
2:30PM. On my way to Abu Dhabi, I made several calls to finalize our involvement on the team of a large US Project Management firm for the program management RFP for the Abu Dhabi metro.
4:30pm. Checked into the hotel in Abu Dhabi.
6:30PM to 8:00PM. Studied for LEED AP exam.
8:00PM. Received an answer from the managing principal of one of the New York architects that I had emailed earlier in the day. He is coming to Abu Dhabi Sunday night and we agreed to have an early breakfast on Monday morning.
8:30PM to 11:30PM. Had dinner with representatives of a large New York-based architectural firm that has moved recently to Abu Dhabi. We discussed the status of projects for which we have submitted as part of their team and we also speculated about future opportunities. Personally, I reflect that the connection between New York-design talent and potential projects in the UAE is remarkable. Many of the great architects that Langan teams with back home are here like us. Clearly, optimism still abounds in this region, and with good reason. After all, Abu Dhabi has great wealth and the country is being quite smart with respect to planning for future development.
7:30AM to 8:30AM. Breakfast with the principal of an architectural firm to discuss our teaming arrangements for a project in Doha. Rest of morning spent with Langan’s local attorney regarding several business matters.
|Personally, I reflect that the connection between New York-design talent and potential projects in the UAE is remarkable. Many of the great architects that Langan teams with back home are here like us.
1PM to 3PM. I had lunch with Khaldoun Fahoum and with local General Managers of an MEP firm, as well as members from a major architectural firm to discuss future teaming. During the meeting, I learned that a Miami-based architect has a project in Abu Dhabi. Langan has an office in Miami and we have worked with that particular firm in the past.
3:15PM. On my way to my next meeting, reached out to the Florida architect and he agreed that we should meet. Planned to briefly reconnect in an hour.
3:30PM. Met with an old friend who used to be with another major US architect, but has recently moved to a high-level position with an Abu Dhabi developer. The company is a unique joint venture between a US developer and a local development authority. We discussed ongoing projects for which Langan has submitted proposals as part of various architectural teams. He also briefed us about upcoming opportunities.
4:45PM. Stopped by the office of the Florida-based architect, who introduced us to his local team. They gave us a quick briefing on their Abu Dhabi project. Also spent about 15 minutes with him and we agreed to connect later after dinner to continue our conversation.
6:30M. Back to the hotel to catch up on emails and make phone calls.
8:15PM. Dinner with an old friend from New York who now heads the structural group of large A/E firm in Abu Dhabi. He provided some intelligence regarding ongoing and future projects in Abu Dhabi.
11PM. Conference call with the Florida architect I met earlier to obtain more information about the project. I learned who the other players are and we agreed on a strategy.
12AM. Skype with the girls back home.
7:30AM. Breakfast with one of the major New York-based architects I had mentioned from Saturday to discuss how we can get involved in his Abu Dhabi project for a New York institutional client, which happens to be a long-standing Langan client back home. It is critical that such clients and the architects that also work for them to realize that Langan has boots on the ground in the UAE. Once that information has been communicated, it has led to work for Langan and the continued satisfaction of our clients.
9AM. Pack, check out, and get on the road for my trip to Doha, Qatar. But first I have to “run” to Dubai. For an important meeting.
10:15AM. Held a conference call with the construction manager I had met with on Saturday and the Dubai Architect I had tried to connect with. Success! Convinced them to include Langan on their team and arranged for Khaldoun Fahoum to meet with them in the afternoon.
11:30AM. Meeting in Dubai with the CEO of the largest Dubai developer. We discussed our performance on an assignment we completed for them a month ago. It is possible that Langan will be introduced to their International Group and to the key people at their project north of Jeddah, KSA.
12:30PM. Head back to Abu Dhabi airport for flight to Doha.
2pm. Arrived at Abu Dhabi airport for 3:20PM flight. Change of plans – flight pushed to 5:45PM. Reached out to my appointment set for 5PM in Doha with another architect about the Doha airport project and rescheduled our meeting to 6PM Doha time at a location near the airport as the architect had an 8PM flight back to Dubai.
3PM to 5PM. Used the time delay to study for the LEED AP exam.
5:50PM. Plane takes off and lands in Doha minutes later.(There is one hour time difference between UAE and Qatar!) Able to meet with the architect as planned for an hour at a hotel near the airport.
7:30PM. Checked in at my hotel in Doha and discovered a major problem! I realized that I have no data connectivity on my Blackberry. I cannot receive or send messages! This is crippling when running around and I must confirm appointments or make scheduling adjustments on the fly! Quickly called Langan’s IT department and alerted them to take care of the issue.
8:30PM. Had dinner with the Project Manager of the Doha project to get an update and let him know where we stand. While at dinner I “bumped” into Managing Principal of the London office of a large NYC Architectural firm. Again, it is great to make connections with New York design leaders while in the Middle East. We agreed to meet Tuesday afternoon for coffee.
11:30PM. Back to my room. Skype with my daughters. Still no Blackberry connectivity. Called IT again. Hopefully, they can fix it.
12:15AM to 1:15AM. Connected to email exchange through laptop and hotel connection so I could attend to emails that have been piling up.
1:15AM to 1:45AM. More technical problems! On the phone with IT and AT&T because the AT&T connection to Doha is down. ETA for resumption of service unknown! I am done for the night.
6:45AM to 8AM. Back on my laptop and able to attend to emails via the exchange connection.
8:30AM to 4:30PM. Registered for the Middle East Infrastructure Finance Conference as an invited guest. The event featured privatization of infrastructure and most delegates were from Concessionaire companies, financiers, private funds and consultants. My attendance was interrupted frequently as I had to run up and down to my hotel room for several conference calls and to check emails throughout the day.
4:30PM to 6:30PM. Held conference call with Langan’s New York office regarding our Doha project proposals. Caught up on emails after the call.
6:30PM to 7:30PM. Met with the London-based architect for coffee.
8:15PM. Dinner with the head of the Abu Dhabi Metro team and some other people met at the conference.The world is very small! One of them, an attorney specializing in project finance, is the partner-in-charge of Dubai for a London law firm that is working with Langan on the Pafos Polis Motorway Concession in Cyprus.
11:30PM to 12:30AM. Checked emails, “Skyped” with my daughters and went to bed.
7AM to 8:30AM. After checking emails, I had breakfast with a conference delegate that I met yesterday to discuss potential business in Africa.
|When a 20-story office tower with 5 levels basement in Abu Dhabi encountered uncontrolled groundwater during excavation, Langan was called to review all work performed and provide recommendations for remedial action, which included additional testing to assess the stability of the underlying rock to serve as foundation for the structure.
8:30AM to 1PM. Packed, checked out, and began a series of meetings with Khaldoun Fahoum from Langan and current and future clients. One such meeting was with a manager from Qatari Diar, a company that we are working for in Yemen.
1PM to 2:30PM. Had lunch with the project manager of a potential Doha project.
2:30PM to 4:00PM. Met the Area Director of large US construction management firm, then off to the airport.
5:00PM to 6:00PM. While at the airport lounge, I made calls with principals of the architectural firms in London regarding our proposal for Doha project.
8:30PM. Landed back in Abu Dhabi and headed to the hotel. Hurray! Email connectivity is up. Langan IT came through!
9:45PM. Dinner with a local acquaintance, an executive at the Abu Dhabi Investment Authority to get an update on the state of the country, financials, planning, etc.
12:30AM to 2:00AM. Emails were very backed up. Took care of most key message and “Skyped” with the girls before going to bed at 2AM.
7:45AM to 11:00AM. In order to establish my local residency, I had an appointment with my attorney and a medical exam.
11:00AM. Met with the owner of local A/E firm to discuss future cooperation and to introduce Khladoun for follow up.
12PM. Met with the area manager of a Lebanese engineering firm headquartered in Athens. I had met with the owner a couple of months ago in Greece, so it was good to catch up and discuss future cooperation possibilities.
1:30PM. Lunch with representatives of another well-known US architect firm, specifically their heads of international and hospitality sectors. They introduced Khaldoun and me to the architect who is moving to Abu Dhabi to lead their upcoming office.
4PM to 8PM. Back to the hotel room for emails and calls with Langan’s New York office to take care of various corporate matters, and discuss final touches to a couple of proposals due at the end of this week.
8:30PM. Dinner with the owner of large New York-based structural firm and the head of their Abu Dhabi office, as well as the Managing Principal of yet another large, well-known New York architectural firm.
11:30PM. Back to room, more emails, calls back to US, and Skyping with my wife and daughters. till 1AM.
Friday (Day off in UAE)
9AM to 6PM. Spent my last day of the trip primarily on emails , many calls back home, and putting my attention to corporate matters, including staffing and interviews for new personnel. Studied for the LEED AP for two hours. Began setting up appointments for my next trip to the UAE next month.
6PM-11PM. I was invited to local barbecue. While the food was delicious, I could not help but think about barbecues back home. This was a very busy and successful trip for Langan and it reaffirmed our belief that despite the current economic downturn, the UAE and the Middle East in general is still very active with respect to development and there will continue to be exciting, challenging, and large projects in the near future.
Midnight. Arrive at the airport for 2AM flight back home. I will land in New York at 8AM on Saturday morning in time to take my daughters to tennis!