The Outlook Committee are excited to welcome you to The Career Café where we sit down with influencers in our industry & serve up the hot questions and share with you their answers.

This month we sat down with Nicole Lockwood, who is Director of Lockwood Advisory.

About the UDIA Outlook Interviewer:
Full Name: Joshua Leigh
Job Title: Development Professional
Company: Stockland

About the Interviewee:

Full Name: Nicole Lockwood
Job Title: Director
Company: Lockwood Advisory

Interviewee Introduction:

As founder and Director of Lockwood Advisory, Nicole Lockwood works in a number of roles across the public and private sector engaging with key decision makers and working to simplify complex problems in order to prioritise the actions required to achieve outcomes.

Since commencing her career as a lawyer almost two decades ago Nicole has gained experience across a diverse range of industries including law, logistics, utilities, technology and tourism as well as roles in Local, State and Federal Government.

Some of Nicole’s current positions include Independent Chair of the Westport Taskforce, Non-Executive Chairperson of McMullen Nolan Group, Deputy Chair of Infrastructure WA, Chair of the Freight and Logistics Council of WA and Board Member at Water Corporation.

Nicole’s results-driven approach and high calibre leadership ability has enabled her to empower the organisations she is involved with to operate with greater efficiency, work through complex organisational issues and most importantly look ahead to what the future may have in store.

Serving up the Hot Questions

1. Can you please share a brief overview of your career to date?

Sure, so it’s really been a meandering journey of opening doors. I started out as a lawyer. But I think in understanding what you’re good at, you then realize there’s lots of other roles you can do that are not just what you’ve been trained to do.

I’ve ended up in very complex problem solving, it’s usually about systems and it’s usually about infrastructure. So really forward planning, it’s been quite the journey and I’ve ended up a long way from where I started.

2. What are three of the most significant experiences that led you to where your career is today?

Firstly I’d say that my career came to a crossroad when I decided to leave the law. So I had a baby and I was working part time in the community legal centre in Karratha and kind of realised at that point that I’d done criminal, corporate and family law, all of them. I could see the same systemic issue for me in terms of my interest in the law so I made the decision to leave the law and try something new. So that was local government then working with another company doing events, planning. I just tried different things. So that was a big one

Then secondly, taking the role as the shire president (in Karratha), that was significant. So running for council and then being elected to that position, that was a big step out of my comfort zone. I was really excited about the position, but the process, I didn’t really want to go on that journey but I did it.

Thirdly, Westport is probably the other one because it’s allowed me to bring all of the pieces of the puzzle that I’ve done and experience I’ve got together into the one project and really leverage that.

3. How have you recognised and made the most of opportunities that have come your way?

To begin with I think it was a combination of timing and location. So being in the Pilbara, being a lawyer, being female and being young, they were quite unique characteristics. Also being there at a time where there was a lot of growth. That was Pilbara Cities days and there was a lot of focus on the regions. There was a need for representation from someone local. So I sort of fit the bill for a lot of different roles.

Then I suppose that becomes a bit self-fulfilling, once you do one opportunities tend to arise for others. I haven’t actively crafted it. It’s been opportunities that I’ve been offered with one thing going onto another.

4. How do you decide which career opportunities to take and which to let go?

I definitely think there’s a bit of a criteria, it’s got to be about values alignment. You know, does it resonate with the things that I enjoy and that I’m passionate about personally? Is it going to fit with my lifestyle and my other important priorities, so my children and my husband and the other things I do in my life?

I also want to get along with my colleagues. So if I don’t feel a connection with the people that I’m potentially working with, that’s an issue. And it’s a gut question always. You know, is this something that really excites me? Can I see a part of this that builds on what I’ve done to date or takes me in a new direction I’d like to explore?

5. What do you wish you’d known at the start of your career that know now?

Probably patience.

I was quite impatient when I was younger and tried to force things to happen and got quite uncomfortable with uncertainty. I think I’ve learnt that uncertainty and indecision is actually a part of the process.

It’s actually about making room for what’s supposed to happen. And the more you force things to happen before they’re ready, the more they won’t stick.

My husband told me at the start of his career one of his bosses talked to him about career positioning rather than career planning and I think it’s a better phrase. It’s more about positioning. I generally want to be around this area. So what am I going to do on the way to make sure I’m sort of on that path? Whereas when you plan, you start to limit, I suppose, some of the different options and you start to say no to things that maybe might not be obviously on that path, but might actually take you on a more interesting direction.

But I think, too, it’s about confidence in yourself. I think one of the reasons we plan and we force things is out of fear that it’s not going to happen or that we’re not going to get what we wanted or we’re not going to be able to achieve that goal. I think just trying to take a step back and a breath and go, you know what? Just have faith that you will achieve. It might not be the way you thought. But it’ll be just as good, if not better.

6. What do you look for in young professionals when working with them or leading them in teams?

For me it’s all about values and it’s all about how you do things, not what you do. I think you can teach most people anything. So, you know, I’m really critical of our current education system and what we’re training our kids and our young adults in Uni about what’s going to be put into practice in the workplace. My sense is that a lot of the professions that we have now, in times gone by were basically started through traineeships or apprenticeships. I think most of what we do at work, we could learn on the job with the right sort of training and mentor. So for me, it’s always about attitude.

Really it’s about commitment and it’s about lateral thinking. Backing yourself, being willing to put your view forward. I think one of the great things about young people is that you’re not limited by all the experiences and all the scars that people who are a bit older have. Having a little bit of naiveté and a bit of confidence to just go out and say it. That’s a great thing, because what we certainly need now in this day and age is a totally different way of thinking.

What we’re doing at the moment, we’ve seen it especially through COVID, we need to totally rethink a lot of our practices, our systems. I think this generation coming through has got a lot of the skills and knowledge to do that without technical experience.

7. How do you personally define success?

It’s about being able to set and achieve goals, whatever those goals are.

I’ve had the opportunity to do certain roles that have a title and the pay packet and status associated with them and some people would say that’s success; getting to a certain level or achieving a certain role.

I think I worked out probably five years ago that wasn’t actually what drives me, valuable and important work drives me. So success for me at the moment, is being able to finish something I’ve started and achieve an outcome. Create change or deliver some form of progress or transformation whether it be quite small or it could be, you know, a big project.

But it also comes back to a level of personal satisfaction. It’s one thing to deliver something and get to the end and you’ve killed yourself doing it. To me, that’s not success. The project might have a tick, but you personally sacrificed too much. It has to be a combination of being able to personally grow through it.

For me, Westport has been an exercise in resilience, I’ve had to personally change and shift to accommodate the project. But I’ve come out better for it, not worse off. So I think that’s it. And it’s not to me defined by one measure.

I think too, it’s the old difficulty for mothers, you know, the mother’s guilt. You can look at your life in one lens and say, well, I’m very successful at work and I’ve achieved all this, but my kids can’t stand me and I’ve got no marriage and, you know, my whole life’s a mess. Well, to me, that’s not success then. So it’s hard to have all things. But I think having some of everything is important.

8. Where do you see opportunity for improvement in policy or delivery in the Development Industry?

For starters all the red tape cutting with a lot of the COVID related policies is great. It needs to happen in this situation.

I think for me the biggest opportunity for Perth as well as the rest of Western Australia is: What is the new city? In the past we’ve looked at all these other major hubs around the world and kind of followed in line trying to emulate them with big high rise and medium density.

With this crisis we’ve got some benefits here that we’ve seen play out. We’ve seen our lock down lifted ahead of others, our emissions significantly drop and how our way of living with more distance from each other has had a positive impact.

So what we need to look at is resilience in terms of infrastructure, we’ve got climatic issues, technological disruption, tourisms and these pandemics maybe that may become more of a thing. So how do we as a property industry adapt with that knowledge of what lies ahead?

Our city is actually at a tipping point where we can look at the likes of Sydney and London and Singapore and decide maybe that’s not the model we want to pursue. Of course we want density and services in hubs, but what does a more resilient planning framework look like and how can we as the property industry innovate to deliver more resilient communities?

To me parts of Europe are options to look at, its ultimately about matching the regional and sub regional centres that we already have within our framework with genuine employment. This would also benefit us in terms of things like reduced commutes and better knowing your neighbours and local community.

9. What do you see is currently the biggest obstacle to delivering in the development industry?

I think there’s currently too many layers of bureaucracy, too many rules and approvals. But also there’s a bit of a lack of willingness to innovate as well. We suffer from a culture of risk aversion and being a little bit too “NIMBY” in WA.

The best way to try and resolve this is to infuse leadership with different points of view. At the moment it’s still a bit too vanilla when in reality our community is not. Just a broader range of backgrounds, ages and cultures to be more reflective of the community rather than just those that have progressed far enough through their careers.

I think what the difference in age and difference in generations can bring to thinking is probably the starkest change that you’ll see. Particularly in infrastructure planning for the next 50 years, we should be asking the people who are actually going to be using it.

The Final Sip….

10. In the next 5 years, where is the industry headed?

Pre-COVID it would have probably been a different answer. I think there’s been some really good stimulus which is helping move things along, I think there’s some changes to regulation and planning which will maybe stimulate some investment in the next 5 years that we perhaps otherwise wouldn’t have seen. I think the question is how long is that going to last and will it be sustainable or is it just a hit.

For me it’s got to be about population growth, if Perth wants to sustain this level of development it’s got to have more people. Perhaps this is the opportunity, trying to get people from Sydney and Melbourne who through the lockdown experience may be looking to live elsewhere.

This is also where some of that small mindedness and willingness to innovate also comes in. So if we’re only prepared to do what we’ve always done then that’s not going to help. But if we’re willing to recreate what we have, even just for those that are here now and try new things, I think that needs to happen.