Khaled Naja last year embarked on two new gigs after serving as executive vice president at Dallas Fort Worth International Airport (DFW), where he received an ENR Newsmaker award for spearheading a massive modular move never done before in North America. Now CEO of Cruise Terminals International, he also recently became board of directors chair of the Construction Management Association of America (CMAA). Naja previously served as board treasurer and chair of the group's audit and investment advisory committees. He s a member of the CMAA North Texas Chapter, where he first became active in the association.
ENR Transportation Editor Aileen Cho chatted with Naja about his new ventures.
ENR: How and why did you make the transition from DFW airport to Cruise Terminals International? What is the new gig like?
Naja: Transitioning from DFW to Cruise Terminals International was driven by the exciting opportunity to lead a cutting-edge venture at the intersection of infrastructure operations and private equity funding. Cruise Terminals International, a partnership between iCON infrastructure and Royal Caribbean Group, is at the forefront of owning, developing and managing cruise terminal facilities globally. The decision to join was motivated by a desire to contribute my expertise to a dynamic industry undergoing significant growth with the opportunity to build it from the ground up. As CEO, my role involves overseeing the company's strategic direction, optimizing operations and ensuring the success of our cruise terminal development projects. The collaboration between iCON infrastructure and Royal Caribbean Group, with their shared commitment to innovation, sustainability, and passenger experience, makes this a thrilling and impactful new chapter in my career.
ENR: Speaking of new gigs, how did you become CMAA chair? What are your goals for the organization? What is your history with it?
Naja: Through active participation in CMAA events, committees, and initiatives, I earned the trust of my peers, culminating in the election as chairman. My goals for the organization include: Expanding CMAA’s advocacy initiative with objectives for preferences for Certified Construction Managers (CCMs) and a federal position classification for program and construction management professionals; developing a strategy for international engagement that advances its strategic objectives for knowledge, best practices, and engaging other organizations; defining the role of program and construction management professionals in delivery methods other than design-bid-build and positioning the group to champion the profession across the industry effectively; upholding and further fostering its commitment to diversity, equity, inclusion and belonging within the industry; and advocating for and showcasing how the association builds better—whether in people, projects, programs, or education.
I'm invested in the construction management industry. That’s where I belong. It’s my community.
ENR: Looking back at your airport career, name some things you’re most proud of.
Naja: Several accomplishments stand out, including successfully managing national and global large-scale development programs. However, one of the most significant achievements was the modular construction and delivery of gates at DFW. As part of the best-in-class team, we successfully proved a concept that led to a paradigm shift in airport terminal development. This accomplishment reflects my commitment to driving innovation and shaping the future of transportation infrastructure.
I still remember the day it happened. There were goosebumps. I had many sleepless nights.
ENR: Do you miss Dallas? How is the transition to Miami?
Naja: I have fond memories of DFW, my colleagues, and the impactful work we were all part of. I’m lucky that part of my responsibilities require me to travel globally, which means I am in Dallas frequently, making the transition to Miami seamless and energizing. Miami's allure aligns well with Cruise Terminals International's global focus, and the city provides an ideal backdrop for our venture.