Posted: January 01, 2012
Executive edge: Alan Krause
World-trekking MWH Global chief lives up to the company nameBy Lynn Bronikowski
Alan Krause walked through Denver International Airport after a recent trip when he spotted signage for MWH Global that depicted a dam his company had built in Ethiopia.
"The Takeze Dam is a very large structure in Ethiopia we completed last year which impacts 80 million people - providing power, heat and water," said Krause, who in November was named CEO of the Broomfield-based engineering giant that employs 7,500 in 180 offices in 35 countries. "It's one of our many international projects that impacts people in a good way and makes you feel good about what you do."
Krause, 57, joined MWH in 1997 when TerrMatrix, the company he created, merged with MWH. He holds a master of geological engineering degree from the University of Nevada Mackay School of Mines and has completed the Harvard Business School Owners/Presidents Management Program.
A native of Alaska, where his father worked for the railroad, Krause traces his interest in engineering to his lifelong passion for building things.
"In college I was a carpenter building houses at the time," Krause said. "I always liked to be involved in building and liked the fact that you could go back and see what you had done."
Krause originally set his sights on geology, but an encounter with three grizzly bears while he sampled springs in a remote area of Alaska's mountains impelled him to rethink his career choice.
"I came very close to getting mauled by three grizzly bears that came out of the brush - a sow with her two grown cubs," Krause said. "I was scrambling up a tree when the bear got to the base and could have easily knocked over the tree. Within seconds I was rescued by a helicopter. But that was pretty much it for me, and I decided to move into engineering, went back to school and got a master's in engineering."
Today he returns to Alaska to oversee MWH's hydropower project, which aims to help the state reach its goal of producing 50 percent of its electrical power from renewable sources by 2025.
"It's exciting to go back to Alaska," said Krause, who returned there last month to speak at a conference. "It's very independent, very natural-resource driven with beautiful scenery, and there's lots of opportunity for young people. Everybody has roots, and in my mind, Alaska will always be home for me because that's where I grew up."
Krause has traveled the globe during his 30-plus year career.
"I feel comfortable in a lot of places and probably have a passport that rivals anyone in the company," he said. "There are cultural differences, but my style is to be open, direct and to communicate. Our goal is to hire people who have integrity and a desire to build a better world, so it is pretty easy to bridge cultures if you share the same goal."
He regularly travels to Panama, where MWH has a technical design contract for the largest portion of the $5.25 billion redesign of the Panama Canal.
"It's amazing for me to see how Panama has grown and how this canal will have such huge impact," said Krause, who finds balance in his life by exercising daily. "And it's a little bit personal for me because my wife went to high school in Panama. Her father ran the Balboa Canal Zone hospital. The hospital was very, very important because so many people died of malaria, and that hospital was largely responsible for finding ways to eradicate malaria."
Lynn Bronikowski is a freelance writer in Denver.