For helping rebuild a community
The 2020 explosion at the Port of Beirut devastated the city, killing more than 200 people and annihilating thousands of buildings. What took seconds to destroy will take years to rebuild—a challenge both personal and professional for Kevin Gemayel. A second-generation project leader at one of the country’s building facade companies, Gemayel and his team have worked to restore historic and cultural landmarks as well as other structures shattered by the blast.
“The Beirut explosion project not only enabled me to contribute to the recovery and renewal of our city, but also taught me valuable lessons about resilience, collaboration and social responsibility,” he says.
One project was particularly meaningful: A patient with terminal cancer wanted to spend his last days at home, but his family had been displaced and was living in a shelter. Gemayel rallied his team to work around the clock, rebuilding the family’s house in time for the young man to get his wish.
“The experience was humbling and emotional, and it emphasized yet again the importance of our work as project managers,” Gemayel says. “We aren’t just building structures. We’re creating spaces that people call home.”
Gemayel has been able to amplify that impact by implementing new project management and quality-control processes since he joined the family business in 2014. The ROI has been clear: better efficiencies and a galvanized reputation that’s opened doors to larger and more complex projects.
“It was the transformation of a family business into a well-organized, professional company,” he says. “It demonstrates the power of project management in driving business success and growth.”
Gemayel has also been busy using his skills and experience for the greater good—and learning along the way. While volunteering with the Red Cross for six years, he saw the value of the organization’s focus on empathy. “By building strong relationships with the local community, I could better understand their unique needs and tailor my project plans accordingly.”
Q&A: Kevin Gemayel on uncertainty, Atomic Habits and the next frontier in urban development
What’s the biggest challenge facing young project leaders right now?
The increasing complexity and uncertainty of projects, especially in the context of global disruptions such as pandemics, climate change and geopolitical instability. Young project leaders need to be able to adapt to rapidly changing circumstances, manage risks and balance competing priorities, while also maintaining a clear and compelling vision for their projects.
What reads or listens are you interested in right now?
Atomic Habits by James Clear offers practical and evidence-based strategies for building better habits and achieving personal and professional goals. The book's core premise is that small, incremental changes can lead to significant improvements over time. I also enjoy the podcast, which provides a comprehensive guide for building good habits and breaking bad ones.
What famous person would you want to recruit for your team?
I would love to recruit Paul E. Harris, an author, speaker and project management consultant. His expertise in planning, scheduling and risk management would be invaluable in helping us deliver complex and innovative facade projects.
What moonshot project would you most like to work on?
The Line in Saudi Arabia is a futuristic city that aims to be the world’s first carbon-free urban development, with a focus on sustainability, innovation and quality of life. The city will be built along a 170-kilometer (105.6-mile)-long line, with autonomous transportation systems, green spaces and cutting-edge technology integrated into every aspect of urban life. Working on this project would be a dream come true for me, as it represents a new frontier in sustainable urban development.