Kristi McLachlan is the Director Infrastructure Eastern at Hatch Australasia, landing the role at the global engineering and project consultancy in 2020 and making a new mark in her career trajectory. Having now been at Hatch for over a year, Kristi has found the most committed systemic approach to seeking gender equality that she has seen in her professional career to date.
Finding her way to infrastructure
Career transitions can make for inspiring stories, proving that our skills can transfer to innovate in different fields or industries. Kristi’s story is exactly that – a unique career path in which Kristi has built on her skillset, empowered success and inspired positive change.
Graduating with a Master’s Degree in Biology, Kristi started her professional career as a Research and Development scientist. Kristi researched the ability of soil bacteria to break down contamination in soil. Having a desire to move to her next professional challenge, Kristi was torn between starting a Law degree or travelling to Australia.
“Spoiler alert, I chose Australia!”
Once in Australia, Kristi volunteered for WWF Australia and the Australian Museum before moving into Contaminated Land consulting for a few years and then progressed into Operations Management with the same consultancy, a then unknown field for Kristi.
“On a whim one day I saw an advertisement and I applied for a job as an Environmental Operations Manager at a construction company. The hiring manager liked that I could bring a different skillset to the team. I really thrived in the construction environment and was amazed at the skills around me, and the management of complexities that we encountered on some pretty major, iconic projects.”
Building on 13 years in construction, and having managed delivery of the Sydney Airport construction program, Kristi joined Hatch and is now leading the development of the NSW Infrastructure business. Kristi thrives on complexity, challenge, and problem solving, and takes pride in her ability to connect the important dots that aren’t always obvious.
Throughout her career, Kristi has been inspired by strong, determined, and passionate people. She’s most proud of her work developing and leading teams, and her active support and mentoring of people in their own professional development – proving that anyone is capable of achieving anything they set their minds to, in either a professional or personal capacity.
“Looking back, if I can say, ‘Yes, I embraced challenge,’ rather than turning away from it, I’ve succeeded.”
How Hatch is working to beat gender stereotypes
Working in the construction industry can be challenging at times, especially for women. Kristi shares some of her experiences and remarks on some of the experiences that changed the way she overcame stereotypes and forged Gender-equality at Hatch.
“There’s no doubt that being a woman in a male dominated industry offers setbacks and challenges.
“It is always disappointing and confronting when I come up against blatant sexism and discriminatory practices, and I am committed to calling it out when I see it. This has yielded some tough conversations, some moments where I felt very isolated, as well as some late-night boxing sessions in the garage!
“I’ve been physically threatened once in my career and I’ve been told multiple times that, ‘a mother might not be able to do this job’, or that national coverage/international travel might get in the way of my responsibilities as a mom.”
“I have grown through it, been able to see it for what it is and face the challenges head on. I’ve learned a lot about myself and others through the process.” But at Hatch, things are different. They are a standout in closing the gender gap and creating equal opportunities for all.
“Hatch has by far the most aggressive approach to eliminating gender bias in recruitment processes I’ve seen yet. I have done a lot of work in the promotion of gender diversity in other businesses, and none have been so open to implementing more gender balanced recruitment policies as Hatch have.”
Kristi also remarks on her male colleagues’ willingness to learn about their own unconscious bias and change their language and behaviour accordingly.
“I am proud of Hatch for the effort and commitment that we are putting into D&I initiatives and focus. It’s a tough industry to raise the bar in and there is still a long way to go, but I’ve been impressed so far at how committed Hatch leadership are at making a real change.”
Did you know Hatch also supports inclusion and belonging at work through a number of employee resource groups?
Learn more about their inclusion and diversity efforts
How to maintain balance in life
Kristi loves her work, but she also shares: “I love the richness of my life outside of work. I have two kids; we live near the beach and enjoy spending time there and in our community. I also love to garden and to bake, and I keep fit by practicing Brazilian Jiu Jitsu regularly.”
Getting that balance takes a lot of purposeful management.
“No day is the same – one day my family will take priority, the next my fitness and the day after that a client might need something and they take priority. It’s been a whole career of trying, failing, succeeding, and trying something new.”
“What I’ve learned over my career is that there is no one way to balance and it’s a constant juggle of shared diaries, managed portfolios, and established understanding with your support crew, whatever that might look like.”
Leaving a legacy
Kristi is passionate about helping other women and other minority represented groups succeed in their professional careers and without having to change who they are for an industry or stereotype. Utilising her excellent communication skills and built engagement with her teams and clients, Kristi drives positive change by mentoring and developing high performing, diverse teams that support each other to deliver great work.
Kristi is currently focused on expanding on her experience and challenging her professional capacity, she also looks forward to tackling personal challenges like achieving her black belt in Brazilian Jiu Jitsu.
Kristi’s advice to other empowered women in any industry is to create a meaningful career where they can be their authentic selves.
“Do the work on self-awareness and acceptance so that you can make the best choices for yourself along the way.”