2022 40 Under 40: Jorel Joseph

Aug. 23, 2022
Jorel Joseph, Director of Business Development, Keolis North America

One word to describe yourself: Maximizer

A maximizer is an individual who consistently seeks the optimal outcome for any endeavor. Maximizers tend to be perfectionists, but the terms maximizer and maximizing are particularly associated with decision-making processes rather than describing a generally uncompromising approach to life.

Alma Mater: Wagner College

Fun fact about yourself: I was captain of the football team at Wagner.

Favorite station or stop that you have ever visited or frequent (and why): Union Station in Washington, D.C., is a literal piece of artwork and services several modes of transit: train, bus, subway and microtransit.

Favorite station or stop that you have ever visited or frequent (and why): The Pacific Surfliner Train in southern California provides passenger rail service from L.A. to San Diego. In certain parts of this service, you are right up against the beaches of the Pacific Ocean; it’s one of a kind.

Jorel Joseph arrived in transit after a career in finance and client service left him wanting more. He found a way to impact communities and push boundaries through new technologies and methodologies in his role in business development at Keolis.

Joseph is a first generation American and credits his parents for instilling a work ethic and sense of community in him from a young age. This drive coupled with his natural born leadership abilities has made developing technical skills in his transition and growth in the transit industry a smoother (but not challenge free) road. As a member of the business development team, Joseph’s technical competency has increased with each submitted bid and/or special project, resulting in more responsibility and autonomy.

Joseph secured three successful bids during the pandemic and has served as the bid lead on more than $80 million a year in revenue during the past three years. In his current role, where he is described as a master of time management, he leads preparation and execution of oral presentations to agencies and supporting contract negotiations, while serving as an integral team member and project manager for multiple winning bids, creating in-depth proposal packages consisting of financial analyses, models, pricing and persuasive technical writing. He strategizes and collaborates with C-suite executives to establish winning strategies based on customized service provision and cost composition for each proposal.

Joseph’s need to positively impact communities expands beyond professional boundaries. He partners with former student-athletes – he was captain of his NCAA D1 football team – to help construct the sponsorship of an award for select undergraduate business school students to visit New York City and meet with companies like NBC, Goldman Sachs and others. He has also volunteered for a non-profit, Crossover Academy India, which is a basketball/academic camp for orphans and underprivileged children in India, staffed by current and former college athletes. There, he directly contributed to the creation of a certification program for select coaches and trainers in India, allowing them to run their own camps with support/equipment from Crossover.

In addition to his leadership on volunteer activities, Joseph continues to focus on his professional development outside of work. He recently completed the Eno Center for Transportation’s Transit Mid Manager Accelerate Program and participated in a program through the London School of Economics and Political Science, focusing on data analysis and visualization for management, a critical skill for his career progression.

Is there a specific experience that led you to where you are today?

I can’t point to any one experience, but I can speak to when I made the decision to move into business development within the transit industry. As I finished my seventh year in my career in accounting and finance, I found myself looking for more. I was interested in contributing to building a company. A company that measured success beyond favorable profit margins, but through the quality of a product that impacts communities. As I learned more about transit, the highest quality product is safe, reliable, innovative and equitable.

What do you enjoy most about your job?

I like that business development is fast paced and requires level-headedness to perform under pressure. The stakes are high. As a former athlete, I know there is significant amount of practice and work ethic necessary to compete at a high level. This may sound nerdy but the same rush I got from being successful at football, I get from winning bids for Keolis.

What’s the most challenging part of your job?

The most challenging part of my job is that so many things need to go right to win a bid. My mentor once compared winning a bid to a perfect round of golf. A golf swing is a very technical motion, the slightest tweak in a swing can have a significant impact on the trajectory of a golf ball. Other elements, like impediments, weather and location can all impact a round of golf. And like golf, the business development bid process is a very technical process and many factors need to click in order to win.

Accomplishment you’re most proud of and why?

Mass Transit’s 40 Under 40 list.

Best advice/tip/best practice to share from your area of expertise?

Business development requires a short memory. Generally, a 20 percent win rate is considered a pretty good. Bids require a lot of work and, with a one in five chance of winning, you need to pick yourself up after a competitor bid is selected over yours, dust yourself off and get back out there to win the next bid.