Associate at Ignite Architects, Shara Paulo, has been with the company since February 2015.
As an architect in their Tauranga studio, her work involves projects across the commercial, retail, residential, and aged care sectors, and seeing them from inception through to completion onsite.
She’ll be taking us for a behind the scenes tour with Business Women’s Networking, as part of the group’s Business Behind the Scene series, but we went behind the scenes to get to know Shara a bit better – including the challenges of work-life balance as a new mum and what it is like working in a male-dominated industry.
What are some of the things about your job or the company that keep you coming back for more i.e. what gets you excited to go to work?
Ignite offers the perfect combination of giving me autonomy to do my job well and supporting me with a wealth of design experts I lean on to test ideas and be challenged by. The continued learning and growth is intensely satisfying for me personally, and valuable for the projects I am involved with.
What are some of your highlights of working at Ignite and what have been some of your best challenges?
Being part of a local satellite studio requires me to be a ‘generalist’. This means covering a range of sectors rather than specialising in any one sector. I thoroughly enjoy the diversity and the challenge that comes with being across such a wide range of knowledge and approach.
What are some of the challenges you have faced as a woman in your industry?
Historically our industry has had a diversity challenge and the more I learn about the value diversity brings the more motivated I am to be a better architect, leader, and supporter.
I look at the leadership chain constantly, and if I can’t see “my face in that place” I think about why that might be and what I can do to help drive positive change.
While my actions alone won’t change the entire system, I do believe big change comes from small moments. I have experienced first-hand how one person’s actions can have a ripple effect in powerful and surprising ways.
Through it all, it’s important to remain endlessly curious, which in turn helps me do my job better by listening hard, practicing humility, and working collaboratively; a team is greater than the sum of its parts – especially a diverse one.
Having recently become a Mum, has this changed the way you work / your work routines?
My level of respect and empathy for colleagues as parents has grown exponentially. My work/life split was always fluid, so my work routine hasn’t changed much, only that there are now specific windows I definitely don’t work to spend time with my daughter.
Ignite are incredibly flexible as an employer, and prioritise family as a principle. This has enabled a seamless transition back from leave to full time work.
What is some advice you have for women in business who are at a stage where they want to progress in their career?
Everyone’s pathways are different, so this won’t suit everyone, but so far what is working for me involves:
Getting support. This means finding several mentors, because one won’t be able to do everything you need, and finding a sponsor – someone senior in your organisation who can advocate for you.
Continual learning. Be curious, about everything. The more amongst it you are, the more opportunities there are for you to add value and to learn. I love this quote: “The best antidote to criticism is to be competent” – Kirsten Thompson.
Being your biggest fan. This can mean speaking at meetings, saying thank you instead of sorry, correcting misinformation that affects you, or saying “yes” when “no” would be more comfortable. It also means taking care of yourself; if you are healthy, fit, well rested, and optimistic, you will be more able to grow resilience, embrace uncertainty and face challenge.
Behaving. This means being your best self. Always. Your approach has worth. Your experience is valid. The more authentic you can be, the better you can support your organisation, team, client, or user. “Leadership is not a position or a title, it is action and example” – Cory Booker.
When you are not at work, what do you enjoy doing in your spare time?
Playing with my one-year-old and doing the bare minimum around the house. I also run and cycle for fitness.