Act 2: You're On!

Citizen, Solider & the Courage to Reinvent with Laura Lakin

July 04, 2022 Kate & Rhonda Season 2 Episode 7
Act 2: You're On!
Citizen, Solider & the Courage to Reinvent with Laura Lakin
Show Notes Transcript

Arianna Huffington once said, "Fearlessness is the mother of reinvention." Well, she might have been talking about Laura Lakin’s life and career. Laura stands as a model of how reinvention can be embraced and celebrated. This episode features a person who equally embodies bravery in her civilian life and her service as a citizen-soldier. Laura Lakin has served in the Massachusetts Army National Guard for 15 years, and is currently a Captain. Laura has been a Guardsman for most of these years, which means she has also worked a civilian job while upholding her military responsibilities.

Laura has worked for Massachusetts Army National Guard, helping run the state's Resilience Risk Reduction & Suicide Prevention program. She served as commander to the signal company, worked as a veteran's Outreach Coordinator for the Home Base organization out of Boston and shifted into clinical administration over the years, ultimately becoming the Director of Business Administration, and business analytics for the organization. Laura oversaw two significant projects during her time at Home Base, and we're going to talk about those in a little bit. Eight months ago, Laura left Home Base and began her work as a project manager managing at Suffolk Construction. Laura Lakin is a shining example of service, co-leading her veterans group at Suffolk as a member of the First Corps of Cadets Association in Boston, serving on the Red, White and Blue Alliance board for Home Base not to mention a deployment to Afghanistan. Laura holds her Bachelor's in political science and a master's degree in social work. If you are looking for a reinvention and invention and invention story, this is the episode you have been waiting for.

Highlights:
If you are considering changing your career, changing your hobbies, changing where you live, whatever it may be, even if you don't think that everything is perfectly lined up, that you're not perfectly qualified - it's never too late to make that change. It's never too early to make that change. You know, there's never going to be “the” perfect time. So if you find yourself revisiting something over and over again, it's probably a sign that you should make that jump and take that risk. And if you're willing to be open to asking questions, being humble about what you know, and what you don't know, then you'll be successful in whatever you do.

On women in leadership in the military and in business: There's all kinds of gender, you know, stereotypes, and we all know all about them. But for me, some of those are true, I can be a little bit more, wear my heart on my sleeve  - a little bit more emotional. When I was leading soldiers in the signal company, I would sometimes be close to tears talking to them, if I was addressing them at the end of the day, or at the end of the drill weekend, because I felt so passionately about them. And I wanted them to see - that to not being afraid to be who you are, whatever that may look like if it's stereotypical or not. And just having a little confidence that, yeah, you might be the only woman at that table. And people will say that you might have only gotten there because you're a woman and you're filling a quota or something. But regardless of what anyone says or thinks, you deserve to be there, and more women deserve to be there. And if that's a role that you want to play, you know, just be yourself and bring confidence every time.

For more information about our guest:
Suffolk: Our veterans, our family: Meet Laura Lakin
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Rhonda: Welcome to Act 2:

You're On. Join Us Weekly at our studio roundtabl as Rhonda and Kate

Kate:

invite spectacular guests to weigh in on staying vibrant and healthy.

Rhonda:

Launch your next great app with authenticity and purpose.

Kate:

Summon your courage superstar and step into the limelight. So grab a coffee...

Rhonda:

or a martini,

Kate:

and let's set the stage for a grand entrance. It's Act Two.

Act 2 Share Our Stage:

You're on.

Rhonda:

Greetings, friends. I am Rhonda Garvin Conaway, and I'm joined by my co host,

Kate:

Kate Leavey. And we are also joined by our talented producer Cathy Carswell

Rhonda:

Friends, today I'd like to begin with a quote from Arianna Huffington who said, "Fearlessness is the mother of reinvention." We're going to talk about fear with our next guest because I'm confident she's faced it. Our guest stands as a model of how reinvention can be embraced and celebrated. Today's our episode features a person who equally embodies bravery in her civilian life and her service as a citizen-soldier. Laura's professional path is a brilliant example of what great things can happen when we're willing to take risks and do the unexpected. Laura Lakin has served in the Massachusetts Army National Guard for 15 years, and is currently a captain. Laura has been a Guardsman for most of these years, which means she has also worked a civilian job while upholding her military responsibilities. Laura has worked for Massachusetts Army National Guard, helping run the state's Resilience Risk Reduction & Suicide Prevention program. She served as commander to the signal company, worked as a veteran's Outreach Coordinator for the Home Base organization out of Boston and shifted into clinical administration over the years, ultimately becoming the Director of Business Administration, and business analytics for the organization. Laura oversaw two significant projects during her time at Home Base, and we're going to talk about those in a little bit. Eight months ago, Laura left Home Base and began her work as a project manager managing at Suffolk Construction. Laura Lakin is a shining example of service co leading her veterans group at Suffolk as a member of the First Corps of Cadets Association in Boston, serving on the red, white and blue Alliance board for homebase not to mention a deployment to Afghanistan. Laura holds her Bachelor's in political science and a master's degree in social work. Laura, thank you for your service, and for being on the show today. Welcome to Act 2: You're On!

Laura Lakin:

Thank you both so much. Thanks for having me on today.

Kate:

It's our honor, I have quite a bit of family in the armed forces. And so I have a little bit of an idea of what that commitment and that level of service is like. So it's such an honor for us to have you here. This is going to be such an interesting conversation because in your young life...I sound very old...but you've already done so many remarkable things, so many layers of service. So I know the folks who are listening in are just going to be so thrilled and delighted to learn about your journey and get really inspired. x

Rhonda:

I totally agree. I could not wait to have Laura on the show, because I know Laura in my personal life. And I thought that she truly, as I said earlier embodies all the things that we can learn from and tap into as we take our own journey forward. So let's dive in. Laura, tell us about how somebody with a master's in social work and accomplished military career finds themselves succeeding with construction organization, which by the way, Suffolk is not only a Boston-based company, but is across the country. It's quite a quite an organization. Tell us about this journey?

Laura Lakin:

Sure, I'd love to. So I guess how I came to construction has been a little interesting. As you mentioned earlier, I worked for Home Base, which is a nonprofit mental health clinic for veterans and service members here in Boston, which is part of Mass General for about eight years. During that journey, I had two lovely opportunities to work on pe projects, one of which was building our National Center of Excellence, which is a mental health clinic that now treats 1000s of veterans and service members and their families every year in Charlestown and throughout that process. I was really the lead on the e. So there's always you know, a real estate rep from the hospital that helps with the contract negotiations and really getting in the weeds on what's in scope - what's out of scope for Home Base. I was really one of the leads - the someone from Home Base that really understood what the clinic was - what we do - understands how our clinicians like to interact with our patients - how our patients like to interact with the space and others that worked at Home Base, one of your other guests. General Jack Hammond is the CEO of Home Base, as I'm sure he's mentioned in his podcast. He's quite the visionary. And he had a wonderful idea of pre COVID to go to an open, open concept setting. And for mental health care and clinical care that's quite unique. Many mental health clinicians are used to having their own office with things in the space that make them comfortable, as well as their patients. So this was really quite different. We did it partly, to be innovative, but also partly out of necessity. Square footage is very hard and very expensive to come by in Boston. And we had a mandate to treat more patients because the need is so great. So we really were posed with a challenge to not only double our clinical capacity, but do it in about just over half of the recommended square footage from our architect. So shifting to this open concept, kind of getting the make this happen. And so then working with the architect, and then later on working with the general contractor, to make all of this come together, was such a rewarding experience. And so I'll pause there just to see if you have any questions.

Kate:

So was that pre pandemic?

Laura Lakin:

Yes. So I will say that we opened in September of 2018. And what a truly, you know, great foresight on the part of the program, because when COVID hit and you know that following summer, when we were allowed to bring patients back into the clinic, everybody needed space, you needed think 114 square feet per patient in a group setting, obviously masked and everything else. But with individual therapy, in particular, Trauma focused therapy, that clinician/patient connection is so important. And that face to face is so important. So you can imagine sitting in a consult room, both of you masked, telling an emotional...having an emotional session, how kind of uncomfortable that could be for both parties. So we, when we did open back the clinic, we did a unique kind of in person slash virtual hybrid, each patient would be in their own console room, and a clinician would be in a separate room and they would be speaking much like we are now through zoom. And that was a more comfortable way to deliver the care because then and then also a safe way. Because then if the patient did need assistance in any way, everybody was just a couple feet away.

Kate:

So how did that work translate into Project Hope? So, during the pandemic, you were asked to create a field hospital.... Let's talk about that.

Laura Lakin:

Yes, obviously, the early days of COVID were full of uncertainty. And no one really knew what to expect out of COVID-19, or how contagious it was exactly - how it was spread. So early in the pandemic, general Hammond and Mass General Hospital, were asked to take kind of the hospital lead for a COVID Positive field hospital here in Boston. So general Hammond was asked to be the incident commander. And then the n of other folks that worked for Home Base and worked closely with General Hammond kind of came to be and many of us from Home Base ended up working and operating Boston Hope, which ultimately was a 1000 bed COVID Positive field hospital that was built at the BCEC, the Boston Convention and Exposition Center in South Boston. But the real, remarkable thing about this hospital was it was built in less than a week. Yeah, so if anyone's been to a convention at the BCEC, you know, it's massive, massive, massive space, that can be partitioned in all different ways. And in six days, a 1000 bed hospital was created with all of the necessities of running a clinical care setting. So the computers, phones, nursing stations, piped oxygen, which was remarkable to happen in such a short timeframe. And Suffolk construction was the general contractor for that project. I think the governor at the time, you know, turned to the partners in the city that they knew would say yes, it did and could deliver. Exactly. And so that is how I met Suffolk. And I became kind of the site manager site commander. So it was really running all non-clinical aspects of the hospital. And these patients were sleeping there. So that was laundry, you know, shower facilities, food, and then all of the kind of, you know, cleaning and all those aspects, data it, onboarding, things like that. And I was basically the main point of contact for Suffolk.

Kate:

Really can't imagine that could have happened, f you didn't have...they would have to engage people with military training to be able to create that so quickly.

Laura Lakin:

Yeah, I think having General Hammond at the helm of that project, and so many Home Base employees, which also happen to be veterans, I think, was really part of the success of that operation. I think it was the hardest that I've worked in my entire life, including my deployment; it was extremely long days, being pulled in a million different directions. And there was such urgency to be able to open to help serve the the COVID poppet, positive population of Boston.

Kate:

But I suppose you found some of your energy, just from the energy of purpose. But it must have been pretty terrifying. Because if we rewind back to that time, we had no idea what that animal was - what the virus was going to do. So there you are on the front line making it happen. It's incredibly brave, but it must have been terrifying.

Laura Lakin:

That was, you know, I think when you're put in situations like that, or at least any time I've been, you kind of tuck those fears aside, because you need to drive on. And obviously, fear can be debilitating. And I think in those cases, if you're able to shelf it for a little while, obviously acknowledging the fear and understanding that this is a potentially dangerous and lethal situation - but also, you know, putting it aside so that you can continue to work. And granted, I was in the in the hospital setting most days, but - really the true brave people were those nurses and clinicians that were on the floor every day treating those patients, and I totally give them so much respect, not only at Boston home, but all the hospitals and health care settings since COVID. Started,

Rhonda:

Well, you can tell why I have such deep admiration for Laura, because you are just filled with grace. And you're extremely humble. I appreciate those accolades to the health care workers, because what they did was remarkable, but they couldn't have done their piece without your piece as well. So kudos to all of those heroes, as far as I'm concerned. It's amazing. And I think you talked about the National Center for Excellence. And you talk about Boston Hope. And I watched from the sidelines, and I've been to the center. And it's an impressive building. And it offers an opportunity for folks to do the healing that they need to do, and for the practitioners to be empowered to do the good work. So it was brilliant on from the leadership down, and then you land in a relationship with Suffolk unexpectedly. And now here, you're working for them. So I'd love you to tap into that story a little bit more and share how it came to be.

Laura Lakin:

Absolutely. I think a big piece of a common thread for me anyways, throughout my careers has been the relationships that I've built with people, I'm obviously still incredibly close to everybody at Home Base and became very close to the folks from Suffolk construction that were working at Boston Hope probably because I was calling them at like six in the morning or 11 at night and kind of begging for things to get done. But once the dust settled a little bit when we were seeing fewer patients that really needed that level of care that we're in that transient position, and we had the kind of opportunity to breathe a little bit, I would go, you know, hanging out in there kind of field office area, which was really just a conference room at the BCEC. I became friends with a few of them and started opening up some conversations like, Hey, I'm kind of interested in this and explained the experience that I had with the National Center of Excellence, and basically kind of asked, you know, do you think given what you've seen here and what I've described, do you think that I could be a good fit in the construction industry? And their response was overwhelmingly - Yes. Which was really encouraging. And, you know, they said, you know, sure, you might not have an engineering degree or a construction background, but those are things that you can learn as long as you're open to being a little vulnerable and asking questions and you not being afraid to ask a dumb question. They said, but you already have all the other things that we struggle to teach people, you know, the leadership skills, the kind of work ethic, the drive, we are happy to take a risk on you, if you're willing to do a couple of other things to essentially take a step back, so to speak, in my career, played the long game with them a little bit after that. And October of last year is when I started,

Kate:

Oh, there's so much. There's so much that you just said, and it's such good role modeling, and especially for folks who are listening who are thinking about reinventing themselves, and being daring to kind of imagine how your skills can translate and how they did. But also, you know, that sense that maybe had to take a step back to take more steps forward. But that's such a cool story. So here's a question that's really dear to my heart for a variety of reasons. What's it like to be working as a soldier and a civilian, and in particular, to be a female leader in organizations that are predominantly male?

Laura Lakin:

Well, the first answer to the first part of your question is, it's really busy. It's busy to have a full time civilian career and also be serving in the National Guard. Today's Monday, I just had drill weekend, holiday weekend before that, and a drill weekend, the weekend before that, so and the commercials all say one week in a month, two weeks in the year, and Rhonda shaking her head, it is absolutely more than but that's okay. That's why people serve because they they want to be there and they want to serve their country and serve the soldiers around them. But then the answer to your second question, women make up about 15% of the military, I think our numbers are growing in the construction industry, obviously varying in the different types of roles. But I think it's about at 30%, you might have to fact check me on that. So yeah, they're, they're traditionally male-dominated industries. And for me, I think what has brought me most success, being a female in these industries is not being afraid to be myself. There's all kinds of gender, you know, stereotypes for and we all know all about them. But for me, some of those are true, I can be a little bit more, wear my heart on my sleeve a little bit more emotional. When I was leading soldiers in the signal company, I sometimes be close to tears talking to them, if I was addressing them at the end of the day, or at the end of the drill weekend, because I felt so passionately about them. And I wanted them to see that to not being afraid to be who you are, whatever that may look like if it's stereotypical or not. And just having a little confidence that, yeah, you might be the only woman at that table. And people will say that you might have only gotten there because you're a woman and you're filling a quota or something. But regardless of what anyone says, or thinks you deserve to be there, and more women deserve to be there. And if that's a role that you want to play, you know, just be yourself and bring confidence every time.

Kate:

I love that such important messages, and I haven't I have to say, just reading your bio and getting to know you, I can't imagine that anyone, any table that you sit down at - that somebody's thinking you are there to fill a quota. And it's good to to role model that. And I also love that you've told a story that shows a vulnerability, you know, having emotion and passionate and, and occasionally being to the point of tears, it's not exclusively female. And it's not necessarily a bad thing. I think it it can really lift people up and it can show you there, how dedicated you are to them. So thank you for sharing that. That's really helpful.

Rhonda:

I love that. I'd love you to help us a little bit more and share some of the key ingredients. You think you've touched upon some of them, but that you rely on to do two jobs that are significant, as we said National Guard presents as being somewhat e but as a military family member, I can attest to the fact that that's often not the case. So how do you manage doing all these things and doing them well? And taking care of you?

Laura Lakin:

Well, definitely, you know, the "taking care of you" piece cannot be underscored enough. Doing things that you find restorative for me that's working out or I get my energy from being around other people. Where sometimes it might seem like I'm making myself even more busy, you know, getting dinner with a friend or getting a group together to me, gives me more energy. So I do things like that, try to work out, eat as healthy as possible, but also not be afraid to have kind of an indulgent meal once in a while and getting good sleep. I'm not sure if I said that one already. But I can't really stress that that one enough how important sleep is and you know, finding the right amount for you. And then I think the other things, you know, just being passionate about what you're doing, not everybody is necessarily always in a position where they, it's their the thing that they're most passionate about. But I think if you can find something in what you're doing, that you are passionate about, and really pulling on that to bring you inspiration can be important. There's pieces of my job right now that I'm not super jazzed to go do every day, because I'm kind of on the bottom of the totem pole right now. But keeping my eye on the things that do inspire me every day and my eye on where I'd like to get to at Suffolk and in the construction industry helps. Those are kind of the big things, you know, being passionate and doing whatever is going to help you charge your battery.

Rhonda:

That is a helpful to do list. Thank you for sharing that.

Kate:

I'm curious. And I want to know, have you always found yourself to be the kind of person who takes risks? And if so, how did you learn to be so brave?

Laura Lakin:

I think now that you asked that I think I have. I don't really have anybody in my family in the military to speak of other than my brother-in-law, who's married to my sister. So I didn't meet him obviously until later in life. But I kind of always had had this little something inside me that said, I should join the military. And a lot of people said I shouldn't. And so at 18, I joined kind of, despite everybody saying, Don't do that. And I think that's been a theme for me throughout my life, you know, either jumping into different branches in the army, or into different career fields that may or may not line up with my schooling. But I think probably a little bit of my upbringing, I'm the youngest, I have an older brother and an older sister. So you have to make your own space in a situation like that. And probably just a little bit of, of my personality. I don't know if anyone believes in astrology, but I'm a Leo and also a dragon and the Chinese zodiac. Those are two really fierce zodiac signs. So I don't know, I know that a lot of that you can, you know, take from it what you will. But I think there's a grain of truth and a half ahead.

Rhonda:

I love your fierceness. So cool. Laura, we'd love to give you an opportunity to consider this, let's shift into the Golden Nugget segment of our interview where we invite you to weigh in on what listeners need to know to be successful in their next great act. And you've already offered so much. I'll give you a moment to reflect on that.

Laura Lakin:

Absolutely, I would say that the golden nugget for me is if you are considering changing your career, changing your hobbies, changing where you live, whatever it may be, even if you don't think that everything is perfectly lined up, that you're not perfectly qualified, it's never too late to make that change. It's never too early to make that change you you know, there's never going to be the perfect time. So if you find yourself revisiting something over and over again, it's probably a sign that you should make that jump and take that risk. And if you're willing to be open to asking questions, being humble about what you know, and what you don't know, then then you'll be successful in whatever you do.

Kate:

Oh, that's really good, too. Good nuggets in there. So regrettably, we're coming to the end of our time together. But before we go, let me ask what comes next for you, Laura?

Laura Lakin:

Sure. So at Suffolk I'm going to kind of keep grinding away. I'm on a wonderful project right now building a life sciences and classroom building for Northeastern University that is slated to wrap up in the summer of 2023. I'm going to keep working on suffix veterans group building a partnership they're actually with home base, which is is has been lovely so far. And then in the army I am yet again, switching branches. So in the army, your branch within the Army, it's the type of officer you are so I'm a signal officer right now. And I'm going to re-branch to engineer so though again, taking a risk and jumping into something that I don't have many years of formal training in or any at all. And I have my 15 years in going to get a stay the 20 - at a minimum, and see what we're where the army takes me and where we're Suffolk takes me.

Rhonda:

I'm so excited to watch that story unfold because it's been an absolute pleasure thus far, Laura. Incredible. And I hope everything you're wishing for comes to fruition. And the unexpected things, I'm sure are just around the corner for you.

Laura Lakin:

Thank you both so much for having me on. It was such a pleasure and I hope to see you both soon.

Rhonda:

Thank you, Laura. You are a fierce person for sure. And your heart and vulnerability just makes you exceptional. We appreciate you being on our show today.

Kate:

Absolutely. And I know that our listeners are going to be as inspired and captivated by you as we are and they're gonna want to hear more about you and maybe get in touch with you so they can find you on Instagram Laura Lakin L A K I N, Instagram and LinkedIn. Perfect. We should say a special things to our talented and skilled producer behind the scenes Cathy Carswell.

Rhonda:

And so it is left for me to say go forth. Be brave like Laura, live well and do good like Laura. Because it's act two you're on.

Kate:

Act Two you're on was brought to buy act 2 Share our stage. You can find us at a2yo.com and also on Facebook, Instagram and LinkedIn.

Rhonda:

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Kate:

I do like coffee.

Rhonda:

No no, you don't need any more caffeine gate. Buy Us a coffee is a platform that folks can use to support entrepreneurs and artists like us

Kate:

so we can keep providing resources for the doers and dreamers to find connection, purpose and the skills needed to create a sustainable, fulfilling life to better serve the world. And also so we can buy more coffee.

Rhonda:

Oh Kate, thanks for listening everyone.