FACILITYCalgary publisher Mark Kolke, in conversation with Tamer Basilious
December 7, 2017
Tamer Basilious comes from a town called Sharquia (population 4.5 million), just 70 km from Cairo (population 15 million) … his parents and ancestry are Egyptian (Greek surname goes back to era of Alexander the Great’s conquering of Egypt), so why leave? “We didn’t feel like Egypt was our home anymore – a largely Muslim country, lots of religious discrimination against Christians, so we chose to leave …”
Fast-forward – I met Tamer earlier this year; he works for the Pivotal Projects unit of WSP where is currently Director of Operations, Project Management, Calgary …
We spent time over a lunch recently – discussing history and geography and business – so let’s begin at the beginning. His mother, a teacher in public school, his dad an electrical engineer. He has a younger sister. School days – Arabic his only language until seventh grade – Tamer was equal parts nerd/good student, soccer player, confident public speaker. School success was expected in his family [“failure was not an option”], and off he went to Ainshams University in Cairo to study architecture – influenced by an uncle who was an architect/developer/role model. Tamer soon found he had more interest in engineering than architecture – “I was an average student, but light on artistic talent”. He graduated with a BSc. Arch (Engineering) and began his working career in Dubai. Along the way he met his wife Mary – a friend of Tamer’s cousin. Jobs and mobility focused on project management – Dubai, Doha, Malta, United Arab Emirates – and post-graduate work at University of Bath in the UK. And, reluctance to move back to Cairo. Tamer’s sister and brother-in-law had come to Canada (they are in Lethbridge) – so Canada seemed like a good place to explore. Following a two-year process, his family were Canada-bound as well. Tamer, Mary and their three children all became Canadian citizens in 2015. His parents are both retired and reside in Cairo.
Tamer joined Pivotal (now WSP) in 2011. Currently he leads a team of 13 project management staff, reporting a national VP. Their work is generated through direct assignments and via other WSP units (500 employees in Calgary).
Why are you successful? “Because I’m happy doing what I’m doing – I’m passionate about it. I love it. It’s an inner feeling – it’s how I’ve grown up. I knew I had to work hard to be good. It’s part of my personality. Failure was never an option – it was unacceptable to be failing.”
What has held you back? “Now, nothing. In the past – language and culture were obstacles but we’ve overcome those. I used to get unsettled easily – I was thin-skinned.”
How do you see your business – project management – going forward over the next quarter?
… it’s been a difficult time in Calgary during the downturn – not a lot of business and lots of competition. We need to demonstrate our ways/innovation/capacity in how we can create opportunity in this economy. We need to deliver things, committed to a new approach.
And over the next five years?
… I see more collaboration by parties in projects – we’ll all be part of a team rather that operating in silos. Project Management software innovation will drive efficiency …
What qualities distinguish your preferred colleagues, collaborators and suppliers?
… value is my driver – whether it is things or people. I look at value, attitude and personality – are they aligned with my values?
What distinguishes you that causes people to choose Tamer Basilious, and why do they do business with you, why have they hired you, over your competitors?
… trust, confidence they are getting high quality work from someone looking out for their best interests.
How would you describe your leadership/management style?
… I think I am a reasonable leader – I try to lead by example. I’m very fair – it’s all about the success of my team – and the team’s success is my success.
… recently NO! … work, family, church (Coptic Egyptian Church), things kids like to do …
What do you lose sleep over, what do you worry about?
… I don’t like to fail at anything. I’m hard on myself – so I’m always looking at ways to be more successful.
Who or what influenced you most – that has made a difference in your life, or that was a major turning point?
… my uncle influenced me to study architecture – he was a role model for me. My wife – she’s my best friend and soulmate …
… squash, working out, hanging out with friends.
What do you read?
… business books mostly, currently “Thinking in New Boxes” by Brabandere and Iny.
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