Sam Hassoun: Engineer Combined Diplomacy and Design to Foster True Partnering
The son of Palestinian refugees who fled to Kuwait when he was a child, Sam Hassoun grew up “living year by year on a work visa,” he recalls. “Nobody would grant you a visa. Nobody wanted to claim you.”
But Hassoun found that being an engineer changed that. “With an engineering degree, you could at least survive wherever you go. There’s always a need for an engineer to build something,” he says. And once he became a U.S. citizen, he finally felt that sense of belonging.
Now Hassoun strives to bring that same sensibility to every project he is asked to participate in. The founder of Global Leadership Alliance, he has become the go-to person for many California agencies looking to mitigate or avoid major disputes.
Hassoun has positively influenced a number of projects by persuading C-suite officials to truly commit to partnering. He leads AGC’s Caltrans Executive Liaison Committee to address the issues and opportunities. He also head up the Statewide Partnering Committee, comprised of industry leaders and California Dept. of Transportation leaders.
On the $1.5-billion Gerald Desmond Bridge replacement project in Long Beach, Calif., “Sam has been instrumental in getting all of the parties to communicate in a partnering forum and make very good progress,” says Steve MacLennan, senior vice president with WSP. “He is dedicated to working with industry to minimize and ultimately eliminate project claims through communication and unifying key project decision makers.”
After earning his engineering degree in Ohio, Hassoun began his career with Bechtel, working on nuclear power plants around the country. After seven years, Hassoun wanted a place to call home. He found it in California, where Caltrans hired him to work on bridges in the late 1980s.
After working on repairs to the Bay Bridge in the wake of the Loma Prieta earthquake, Hassoun was appointed quality program manager for Caltrans. “Partnering was nonexistent,” he recalls. He created the documents and training from scratch.
That, he realized, was his true calling. “I left in 2001 to pursue partnering as a career, trying to influence and inspire agencies and the construction industry to find alternative ways to resolve disputes outside the courts,” Hassoun says. “My passion is all about dispute prevention versus resolution. I try to harness everyone’s energies, expertise and talent on a project to make it a showcase. If the project loses, everyone loses.”
Kyle Larkin, senior vice president with Granite Construction, says that Hassoun recently got Granite and leaders from one of Caltrans’ districts together to discuss past project and lessons learned. “I’m not sure I have ever met anyone more passionate about creating this collaborative culture in our industry.”