Arden Hermans, Women’s Infrastructure Network Northland Chair

What organisation are you with and what is your role?
Fulton Hogan Northland – Ancillary Projects Department Manager

What are some moments in your career that you feel most proud of?
Being promoted from Site Engineer to Department Manager was a real highlight of the past couple of years. It has come with its challenges but has been an incredible career progression opportunity.

Achieving my childhood goal of gaining my pilot licence was a dream come true in my early career and I am still using learnings from my pilot training today, which is very fulfilling. I have thoroughly enjoyed moments when I’ve had the opportunity to coach a staff member or future young leader into a ‘light bulb moment’. It is encouraging when they ‘just get it’ and are able to achieve the task they are working towards completing. I thrive on watching people grow and develop, and I’m incredibly proud of them.

It has also been a highlight for me to watch the Girls in Infrastructure event that I started in 2019, grow. I am now putting together a national template.

At first, I struggled to get the event off the ground. Now, I am receiving encouraging feedback from teachers, parents and students themselves which has made every moment of hard work worth it. Inspiring just one young woman or man into a wonderful career is such a rewarding feeling.

A huge moment for me in the past year was being the keynote speaker at the Local Government New Zealand awards dinner in Blenheim. Fulton Hogan CEO, Graeme Johnson, asked me to speak at the event, a spot he had himself filled for the past few years. I have always had a fear of public speaking, so at first almost passed out at the though. However, I can’t turn down a challenge and have always made a personal commitment to myself to face my biggest fears. So, I took on the challenge and it was an experience that I will never forget. It was a fantastic learning and self-development opportunity and I was also incredibly grateful to Fulton Hogan for having such faith in me.

Can you offer any reflections on the role your age/experience/diversity has played in your career so far?
The infrastructure industry is one of, if not the best and most accepting industry I have worked in to-date. It’s the most open and accommodating industry diversity-wise. Whilst there is always room for improvement, and not everyone is as open to change, our industry as a whole has shown that it is willing to adapt. It not only talks the talk, but I see it walk the walk every day. I have experienced great teamwork in our industry regardless of the gender, ethnicity or age that people are. Working with the older generation to change their mentality around Quality and Health and Safety has been challenging, but growing up overseas, speaking multiple languages, having worked on large and small projects from the ground up and in a variety of different jobs as well as never hesitating to get into a trench or on the shovel, I can relate to many different individuals. I’m a big believer in leading by example and never asking anything from anyone that you wouldn’t be prepared to do yourself.


Laressa Mills, The Infrastructure Collective Auckland Chair

What organisation are you with and what is your role?
I am a Senior Associate in the national Major Projects and Construction team at Dentons Kensington Swan. I joined the firm as a Solicitor after returning from my OE in London in November 2018. While overseas, I gained a lot of experience managing teams of experts and lawyers on large construction projects around the world. Over the years, I have developed a speciality in construction disputes, advising a diverse range of clients across the construction industry including principals, contractors, sub-contractors and consultants on issues relating to delays, payment disputes, variations, cancellation of contract and building defects. I like to take a pragmatic approach to disputes and provide honest, strategic advice to help clients minimise and mitigate disputes before they arise.

What are some moments in your career that you feel most proud of?
While working in London, I was appointed team lead for a Finnish construction and engineering dispute that the construction practice was working on. It related to the construction of the world’s most modern bioproduct mill and required me to quickly get up to speed with more technical aspects of construction. It was a challenging project to be a part of due to its technical nature and having to engage with clients and lawyers whose first language was not English. I enjoy understanding and resolving complex challenges and making sense of chaotic situations, and this is one of the projects that cemented my passion for working in the infrastructure space.

I am also proud to be the new chair of the Auckland chapter for The Infrastructure Collective!

Can you offer any reflections on the role your age/experience/diversity has played in your career so far?
While there are many challenges as a young female professional in the infrastructure sector, I see equal opportunities to create change. One of the things I love about working at Dentons Kensington Swan is the firm’s commitment to diversity and inclusion. There are various initiatives that the firm runs to encourage a culture of openness and acceptance in all aspects of our working life. We’re encouraged to think differently and bring that diversity of thought together with our experiences to the table. Working in this environment has helped me to be more confident about sharing my ideas and experiences and it feels great to see my contribution go towards the development of new solutions. I have also been able to leverage this confidence personally by being able to share these experiences with The Infrastructure Collective committee members and members. I would encourage all young professionals to continue pushing the boundaries of what the ‘status quo’ looks like because thinking differently can lead to good change.