Lauren Hassall is a Program Manager for Intelligence, Surveillance & Reconnaissance (ISR), and Electronic Warfare (EW) technologies in the Joint Domain at KBR.
What does that mean in layperson's terms? "Basically we manage the delivery of projects that will ensure the Australian Defence Force is prepared for the future battlespace - that we have service assurance, and that we can beat whatever adversary we will come up against. This role is a combination of technical comprehension, leadership, relationship management, project management and business skills. I got to this point from a combination of my previous positions and roles."
Lauren's current role is underpinned by experience in a wide breadth of roles including; Technical Analyst, Business Owner (hospitality), Business Consultant, Client Liaison, Client Services, Project Manager, Policy Officer, Enterprise Architect and Change Manager. "I've worked in China and the UK and loved every minute travelling overseas, but ultimately came home again to have a family and be near my friends. I have worked across a variety of roles, and sectors including local government, Commonwealth Government, not-for-profit, small-business, big-business and for myself. I have had a range of experiences and have always been vocal about the skills I'm looking to gather. This is probably the first time all my skills and experiences have neatly rolled together - my advice is to try everything, champion yourself, and champion others. Networking gets you everywhere!"
With a young baby, Lauren notes that working full time and studying, is hard. Being organised, including organising her own downtime is key. "I've struggled with learning to let go. I didn't realise how true the saying was - but it really does take a village to raise a family. I've been lucky to have my parents and in-laws around to help and allow me some "me-time" when I'm desperate - if you know anyone without support, offering to keep the kids occupied for an afternoon can be the most amazing gift!"
Growing up in Canberra, and only seventeen when she started studying, Lauren decided to study at ANU. She thought, "why not go to one of the leading universities right on my doorstep?" Then she worked diligently to get in. "I did a Bachelor of Engineering and Bachelor of Science double degree - the Engineering degree had us on campus every day, with a high work load. While I hated all the contact hours, early mornings and late nights, I actually really enjoyed being on campus so that I could meet new people and get involved in university life. University days are some of my favourite memories."
When Lauren was at ANU, the place to hang out was in the Chifley and Hancock libraries. Lauren recounts spending over ten hours in the library each week, at a minimum. To this day, Lauren remarks that she is not sure if she ever borrowed a book, yet the library was the foundation of connection amongst her and her peers. "The library was where we forged friendships - stressed together, complained together, lamented over upcoming exams and assignments, and, of course - buckled down to get the work done."
When Lauren started as a graduate, she wasn't sure of the route she had chosen, and she didn't feel the jobs she was working completely suited her. She networked, followed her interests, tried new jobs, and found mentors who could lend advice. "I wish I got into the space industry earlier, but I found it in the end, and gathered a bunch of skills along the way that have positioned me well at the right time. Trust the process!"
"I loved working for Robogals not-for-profit, teaching young girls about robotics and programming! It still is an organisation filled with passionate people who are out to change the world and every day working with them - here and overseas - I was surrounded by enthusiasm. I also loved starting my own business - it was hard and trying but I learnt things I would never have done working for someone else - real problem-solving, gumption and sheer determination. It definitely helps me to appreciate where I am now and identify how I can be an asset to others."
Lauren notes that all the roles she has worked have taught her the importance of relationships in business and the workplace. She learnt the benefit of building strong teams, being a fearless leader, and how to network effectively. Lauren recommends, "these skills will get you anywhere ...but must be learnt on the job!"
Lauren would be delighted to stay with her current company and keep edging into space projects with Defence, as they arise. "I hope I can contribute to Australia's own sovereign space capability, and help to build the space industry within Australia." In the next few years, Lauren is most excited to finish her Masters (sponsored by her workplace) as a way to consolidate her experience and skills in the space sector - she is on track to finish her Masters of Space Engineering in 2022. Lauren has aspirations to be on the executive of an organisation like KBR, and eventually live overseas again, noting that somewhere warm would be preferable.
Lauren's advice to those starting out is, "Don't be scared to take a chance and follow what you enjoy. It may be a longer road, but if you enjoy it you'll be better at your job, and reap success. Find the right role and the right team!"
Lauren is inspired by fellow ANU-alum, Sam Launt, who noted recently that transgender people often get left out of groups (like women in STEM) or get told to "make their own groups" which is hard when there are so few possible members. Lauren suggests finding allies and feeling safe and welcome can be hard, and she encourages people to reach out where they can.
Lauren considers the role men play in getting closer to equality. "Men need to start attending conferences on women-in-STEM - or women in any other field - so that they can understand, be included in the conversation, and provide support to create real change."
On being an ally, Lauren reflects, "People are people and it's crazy to me that there is any prejudice at all. I always try to think, "How could I be a better ally?" And if you don't know the answer - find someone you can ask! My experience with friends and family has been - buy them a drink and ask the hard-hitting questions to get woke. Most people are happy to lend their advice and experience."
An inspiring advocate for hard work, Lauren's advice is, "Don't give up. When I started at ANU, I was not the smartest person in my engineering classes - my friends all had higher UAIs than I did, and I had to work twice as hard to make it through exams. But determination and work ethic are what pull you through university, and through work too."