Activate Achievements: Lauren Smith on levelling-up her career

Congratulations to Lauren Smith, an Activate Leaders Programme participant who’s making the next step in her career as the Investment Associate at Mott MacDonald

Having designed the Activate Leaders Programme to equip women in middle-management positions with the tools to lift their career into the next chapter, it comes with a great deal of pride to see our community make these strides.

Lauren’s new role with the global engineering consultancy will see her spearheading the Australasian branch’s venture to find forward-thinking startups with fresh approaches to infrastructure technology to grow and invest in. Focus areas include energy and water, transport and sustainability. 

Currently in 2021’s Activate cohort, we caught up with Lauren to talk about learning and inspiration both in life, her career, and the programme, as well as her approach to career growth and her hopes for the future.


1. What are you most excited about in your new role?

In my new role, I’ll be looking for start-ups to invest in that offer value to Mott MacDonald’s clients. I’m excited about engaging with start-ups that have smart ideas and new approaches to sustainability and improve the world around us. At Mott MacDonald, we can support these start-ups to grow and have an impact in NZ and also globally.


2. What principles have underpinned your approach to work, leadership and your overall career?

Being the person in the team that people can depend on to get things done to a high quality, and can be relied on to be there when people in the team need support or someone to discuss things with. 

I also surround myself with good people and strong leaders that I can learn from, and will be there to support me. For me, building good relationships makes work more enjoyable and helps to get things done because you understand where people are coming from.

Being curious: questioning, thinking differently and being open to trying and learning new things too.


3. What pieces of advice would you share with young women interested in a career in the STEM industry? 

There are so many limits we put on ourselves, even from a young age. Think about those limits and see if they are real. Talk to people in the industry to find out what it’s currently like and know that it’s also changing. There are lots of women, men and businesses that will support you. In the end, if you try it out and you really don’t like it, you can decide to pursue something else as you’ll have skills that are transferable to other industries.


4. What are your hopes for your future in your new role?

The venture team at Mott MacDonald started in Europe and now I’m focusing on growing that in Australia and New Zealand. I hope that in my role, I work with start-ups that have a positive impact, and that through Mott MacDonald we can grow that impact. I hope that in that startup mix, we work with some great startups that are gender and culturally diverse, which we can share with the world.


5. What learnings have you taken from Activate (or ones to come that you’re hoping to gain) that you’re looking forward to harnessing in your new role?

There are learnings around engaging with different personality types and being purposeful with interactions to get the most value that I’ll take with me. 

I think overall, the main benefit of the programme is engaging with people from different organisations and having conversations about challenges and experiences — which I want to continue doing to influence how I succeed in my new role.   


6. When it comes to deciding to take a new step or turning a new page in your career, what are the important things you consider?

At the start of my career, I was lucky to have great managers. So a key consideration I’ve always had with any new role is seeking out good managers and teams, and an organisation that has values aligned with my own. 

With this recent role change, I wasn’t actively looking, so it was nice to be in a position where I was interviewing the company just as much as they were interviewing me. So regularly exploring other opportunities when there is no urgency to move.

I recently had a conversation with a graduate in our team and she said that she nearly didn’t apply for the role she was in as she didn’t tick all the boxes. This made me think about my current role and as I was introduced through an old colleague: it made me think about whether I would have applied for this role if I saw the job advert come up. It’s a scary thought to think that I may have dismissed it. Especially as I know that it can be common that women don’t apply for roles when they don’t tick all the boxes, compared to men that decide to still go for it.