Q & A with Jenny McLaughlin, project manager at Heathrow Airport
Jenny has worked within the airport industry for over 18 years, starting at East Midlands airport as an Environment and Safeguarding officer achieving ISO14001. She has spent the last 12 years at Heathrow in a number of departments including Environment, Airside and currently as a project manager in Infrastructure. She has delivered a variety of business changes, from new aircraft de-icing process, introducing new IT applications, to building a remote coaching gate in the middle of a live terminal. She is also the Lead for Heathrow’s Disability Network which she brings to her work as a project manager.
Jenny will be presenting a live session called ‘Systematic inclusion - design no barriers’ as part of APM’s Think Differently: redefining diversity in projects virtual five-day event on Wednesday 23 September (1.15 - 2pm). Further information on how to register and full programme/speaker details are available here.
What inspires you about your job?
I have worked in aviation for most of my career and it is in an environment like no other. Being able to improve the experience for passengers, colleagues and our supply chain particularly to ensure that we consciously remove as many barriers as possible to become systematically inclusive, I find a buzz that inspires me to keep going even if it looks impossible.
How does your role as lead for Heathrow’s Disability Network help you in your role as a project manager?
I have learnt a great deal and have come to appreciate how different and awesome we all are, and not to assume how another person interacts or processes the world around them. Applying this to project management has opened my eyes to how many barriers can exist just because we don’t question why we already do something a certain way, it has made me curious to see things from other people’s perspective.
What projects are you currently working on at Heathrow?
Asset replacement and improvement projects which we are using an equality, diversity and inclusion (EDI) lens to our legal requirements under Construction Design Management. Ensuring that when we design for safety this includes human diversity and we don’t create an environment that can only be accessed by a small range of individuals.
Why do you think it is important that diversity and accessibility are considered across all stages of a project’s lifecycle?
To create an efficient and effective project we need to understand beyond our own experience. Several complications can occur in project management due to assumptions that we are all on the same page. If we start with the assumption ‘we don’t know what we don’t know’ we can get curious and ask the open question. Ensuring that we deliver and embed the change without creating barriers.
Do you think the project profession is doing enough to encourage young women into the profession?
I think we need to attract a diverse group of project professionals to ensure that the changes we are delivering reflects and represents the communities we live in. This can be done by amplifying diverse role models, by reflecting on how training and membership is gained to ensure there are no barriers. And shout about how amazing it is to make a difference and achieve great things by managing a project expertly.
How do you think airports can apply diversity of thought and creative thinking to address the challenges posed by coronavirus?
It is proven that diversity of thought in teams create the most effective solutions. In a time of such uncertainty and requirements to change in agile way, having different perspectives and ability to build on each other’s ideas, means we can come through these difficult times and build back better.
For further information about Jenny’s live session at Think Differently: redefining diversity in projects on Wednesday 23 September click here