Nabeel Sadaka – not your average CEO

  • Who we are

Nabeel Sadaka, recently appointed as Symal’s first Chief Executive Officer (CEO), joins the construction group alongside Chief Financial Officer (CFO) Nicholas Murdoch. As our ‘chiefs’ both Nabeel and Nick play leading roles in building on the success of Symal and its future legacy.

As CEO Nabeel is charged with leading the group – overseeing the executive team, company developments and its overall public image. Nabeel is a proven leader in the construction industry with a vision for the framework and direction of our organisation’s activities and its people. He has a broad range of experience and is skilled at communicating and influencing a diverse range of people.

CFO Nick oversees the financials of the group including everything from financial planning and forecasting, record-keeping, risk management to data analysis and reporting. Nick has been with Symal for 12 months and has demonstrated his high-level financial management acumen and process delivery.

Our chiefs’ collective experience and knowledge across many of the moving parts of the group cannot be underestimated. With the group recently experiencing unprecedented growth – and with multiple expansion opportunities on the horizon – it’s time to share where our chiefs have come from and what makes them not your average chief executives.

Nabeel Sadaka is not your average Chief Executive Officer.

There are many words that come to mind after spending time with Nabeel. Grounded. Astute. Humble. Focussed. Driven. Calm. Adventurous. He’s an eclectic personality for an equally eclectic role. He occupies his role comfortably and in his own words he says, “It’s just what I like!”

Early (Construction) Life

Nabeel’s parents both migrated to Australia with the hope of creating and living a better life. His father from Lebanon and his mother from Sierra Leone met in Australia while his mother was holidaying. She never returned home, instead fell in love and started a family.

They encouraged their two sons to give everything and anything a go. There were opportunities for the boys to try all kinds of sports at all levels, and they supported their sons throughout tryouts, matches and representative selection. His father’s extended family’s focus was more on the academic side of life and gauged success by letters behind a name. But that’s not how Nabeel or his father viewed life.

Nabeel started labouring in the construction industry and working as a waiter and barista while studying his Civil and Structural Engineering degree at Swinburne. He took an undergraduate position with Abigroup and stayed with them for six years where he met industry acquaintances who would remain his friends and mentors throughout his construction journey.

Both spirited and adventurous, Nabeel enjoys the hands-on nature of construction. Nabeel is also a published author co-authoring in 2004 Siting Guidelines for Wind Farms in Australia published by the World Sustainability Council.

Working on Roads, Ports and 4G

Nabeel joined CPB Contractors in 2010 (formerly Leighton Contractors) as Project Manager moving through a variety of roles as Project Director and South Australia Manager, often concurrently. “I really enjoy the opportunity to learn new things and jump into new markets. I get bored otherwise. At Leightons I oversaw a wide variety of projects that included the $135 million M80 road construction, The Whyalla Port Extension and the Iron Duke Magnetite Concentrator Expansion.”

It was during his time at Leighton Contractors that he organised a unique opportunity to job share with Jen Robertson (now Symal Infrastructure Construction Manager – previously published article) who was planning on returning to Leightons following her maternity leave. “We put our heads together for a couple of hours and came up with a job-sharing plan for the M80 project. We pitched it to our manager who signed off on it and we proved all the naysayers wrong – it was a success.”

Nabeel also led the delivery of a diverse range of large infrastructure expansion projects at Leighton Contractors including a role as National Delivery Manager which saw him facilitate the network upgrade of 6,000 sites across the country from 3G to 4G to provide 90% of the Australian population with 4G coverage on the Optus Network.

Meeting Challenges

Nabeel took his diverse experience and success to his next challenge: managing two business units with the Downer Group. As Executive General Manager for VEC Civil Engineering Pty Ltd (a subsidiary of Downer Group) and General Manager of the Downer Rail Infrastructure Business, Nabeel turned Downer’s rail business around focussing on the people and culture of the business and transforming it from the inside out. “In my opinion success is all about culture – having a shared belonging and a shared purpose. When a company’s culture aligns with its values and vision, anything is possible. And that’s how we turned that rail business around.”

Nabeel has spent time on various boards including roles as Director of the Rail Industry Safety Standards Board from 2015-17, and board member of the O-Group, a major fundraiser for the Leukaemia Foundation from 2012-15. His career to date exemplifies a healthy and hearty mix of ambition and advocacy.

Adventure and Balance

It’s no surprise then that Nabeel lives his life to the full. “I like to have a crack! I’m the kind of person that won’t shy away from a professional or personal challenge. My outlook is it can’t fail if we do it with the right people.”

He has a predisposition for stepping out of his comfort zone again and again; trying new things not only in his career but life in general. “I love being adventurous – in sport and travel.” Nabeel and seven mates followed the Australian cricket team throughout a World Cup, he has sailed around the Caribbean on a 46-foot yacht and enjoyed adventure sports such as zip-lining in Central America and diving in South East Asia. The Middle East and Africa are next on his bucket list.

And now Nabeel has started a new chapter in his construction career as CEO with a construction group that’s also a bit different than the rest – one with a real commitment to work-life balance and family-focused culture. “Not only am I fulfilling my career aspirations with the Symal Group, I’m also being able to support the people who matter most in my life: my wife who has her own career, and following in my own parents’ footsteps of being there for my young son.”

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