I knew coming out of university that the job market was competitive. I was particularity realistic about the lack of employment opportunities that came from an arts degree alone. At the time I was set on getting into publishing, I knew I had the capability; I just had to go beyond a BA to demonstrate it.
It was always an ambition of mine to run a magazine. I moved to Sweden and started Mr. Wolf Magazine, a journal of Nordic architecture and design when I was 21. There’s a lot to be said for blind ambition. I learnt so much from trial and error. I moved to Hong Kong to manage the magazine’s printing before it was distributed through London. It was incredible to walk into the Palais de Tokyo in Paris or past a newsagency in Copenhagen and see it on the shelf, but ultimately it wasn’t working as a business. I am so incredibly glad that I learnt to fail, fail quickly and bounce back when I was so young.
I am now the Marketing Manager of Neometro, Australia’s first B Corp certified property developer. My role is a lot of things, it’s marketing strategy, community consultation, placemaking and advocacy. I also edit Neometro’s content platform, Open Journal, which brings it all together.
Open journal is a print and online publication. Open Journal explores what property development should be about, with the idea of High Density Happiness; where apartment living can support sustainable cities and resilient communities. We explore different issues around everything from apartment design standards, curbing the urban sprawl, placemaking, planning policy and supporting positive mental health.
Advocacy for good apartment design is so important. The transition that Australian cities need to make between building disconnected and under-resourced suburbs on the fringe, to increasing the density of the inner suburbs, is critical to our social and environmental sustainability. Amidst increasing property prices and congested linkages to the outer suburbs, long-term apartment living is a reality for my generation and there needs to be higher standards for quality and accessible housing that is being delivered.
I present the High Density Happiness speaker series, which brings these issues out to the public domain for discussion. I launched the series at the MPavilion last season and will continue to look at different elements of high density living with Open House Melbourne and at the MPavilion again over summer.
Being young and female in this industry leaves little room for inhibitions. I was fortunate enough to have two of the best managers at my first ‘real job’ who were fantastic mentors. One of them pulled me aside when I first started and told me that my greatest strength and weakness was my age. I was presenting to boardrooms full of fifty-year-old men at 23. That first year of adjusting to corporate politics, learning how to present and defend my ideas and still be myself was an enormous learning curve.
I was in Havana at the start of the year to meet with the Cuban Ministry of Culture. RMIT is developing a project called Intercambio: A Conversation Between Two Trains, between the Upfield Train Line in Melbourne and the Hersey Train Line in Havana. The project is based on the idea that sections of rail corridor, transformed into public art spaces, regenerates often-disused urban areas with life and activity, enhancing social connectivity and the economic strength of the community. It’s such a fantastic project that will be presented at the next Havana Biennale. I’m aiming to support it as a part of Neometro’s New Urban Village, where the Jewell Station precinct in Brunswick is redeveloped to be a hub of apartment living, sustainable transport and the arts.
I’m currently studying a Juris Doctor law degree at night, around work and volunteering for the Robin Boyd Foundation. I relish the intellectual challenge of law and it’s so helpful to have a thorough understanding of contracts and litigation risk, particularly in construction! There’s also a lot to be said for ‘busy people get more done.’
I’m passionate about women’s leadership and female representation in management. Female role models have had such an enormous influence on me and the direction my career is taking. But those women have always been in the minority. There’s still such a lack of diversity when it comes to women in management, narrowing whom you can relate to and aspire to be like. I find there’s the two clichés of successful women; The Super Woman who just got awarded an AO, is on five boards and has four children, or the Childless Woman who is a trailblazer, but is shadowed by criticism for being cold and non-maternal. We need more women in leadership to broaden the definition of what a successful woman in business looks like, going beyond children, age, ethnicity, sexual preference and what school you went to.
My mother always told me to be independent. So much more can be done to ensure all women are in a position of financial independence. There is certainly not enough emphasis on teaching girls to manage money, to aspire to leadership roles and providing practical guidance on how to get there. I fell into property by complete mistake, as have most women I know in the industry and it’s really my dream job. At school I felt there were really two options available to me, medicine or law. Since I wasn’t a fan of maths and going to Clayton for an LLB didn’t thrill me, I had to think of something else. Promoting the breadth of opportunities in the built environment, with demonstrated role models of successful women leading it, would have been a huge benefit. The lack of visibility of the property industry to girls making their tertiary preferences is something I’d like to change.
Frank about failure, passionate about diversity and totally honest about what it takes to be heard as a young women in a male dominated industry, Laura Phillips is far from your average woman. Her fresh eyes are ambitious to see change. So young it seems, to have achieved so much, but with still so much to come. It’s that spark that had us mesmerized during our interview at her office, late one Friday night over a bottle of red. Laura’s story shows how dreaming big can create endless possibilities. You choose to find your path. It’s empowering. Don’t let your age become a barrier. Believe in yourself and big things will follow. Just a few reasons to watch this space. We have our eyes on this rising star!