Andrea Rickard - determined to make a difference

Andrea Rickard’s passion for making a difference is palpable. Ready to embrace challenges and with a strong desire to influence a longer-term, shared vision of New Zealand’s potential to be an amazing place to live and work, the new managing director of Beca’s New Zealand operation is very excited about the opportunities ahead.

We sat down with Andrea to find out what drives her, how to be a successful leader in construction and infrastructure in 2024, and her aspirations for the sector under the new Government.  

What attracted you to this industry?

The industry found me because of who I am, what I enjoy and what motivates me – the ability to make a difference.

Throughout my career, I’ve grabbed opportunities that have resonated with me, rather than having a firm idea of where I wanted to go. I haven’t felt the need to diligently plan my next move. Rather, I’ve found my way into a space involving infrastructure and all it encompasses through my enjoyment of working with people and communities.

As an idealistic 20-year-old, I would never have said I wanted to be involved in construction, landfills, roads, water and waste, and manufacturing. This wasn’t a possibility in my mind, simply because I didn’t really know about it. Having a growth mindset is incredibly valuable as it allows you to be open to many different possibilities.   

What keeps you awake at night? 

The team keeps me awake at night, in the sense that many people depend on me for their family and career success. We must make sure we’re providing a place where people can be their absolute best selves.

Sometimes things go wrong and, as a leader, you must allow yourself to clear your head and your space so you can work through those challenges. Having a collaborative culture, and empathy, allows you to do this.   

How do you maintain a work-life balance? 

As an industry, I think that we’re not great at focusing on ourselves, including prioritising our personal growth and development. People have called me out for not spending enough time looking after myself and this has stayed with me. We get very busy being busy, so you must consistently check yourself.

I prioritise sleep, eating well, and friends and whānau. I love summer sailing holidays. I like how they make me feel. It’s that complete sense of calm, and being away from the world. You can take your watch off and be free of technology – it doesn’t matter what time of day it is. There’s something very calming for me about being in nature. And it brings you really close to how fragile the environment is.

I also have a passion for arts and culture and support emerging New Zealand, Māori and Pacific artists. I have an art collection that gives me a lot of pleasure and add to it regularly. I also love all sorts of music and go to a lot of live gigs.

It’s great to see succession supported within a company. Does Beca prioritise this?   

Succession is very important to us; we are committed to growing our own people. We’re especially thoughtful about providing coaching, mentoring, training and development for our people to help them identify their own strengths and opportunities to grow their career, and I want to continue encouraging this. Our authentic feedback culture helps everyone better understand and develop their strengths.  

As consultants, an important part of this growth is involvement in projects – having the ability to develop skills and work across a range of projects. During my career, I’ve really benefitted from these opportunities for development. They’ve given me a breadth of understanding that I think will be very important for this role.   

I’ve also worked with some fantastic leaders in our industry. This has helped me develop my leadership style and focus on my passion for making a difference.  

How does Beca’s employee ownership affect the business?  

I think it drives a strong culture – we’re extremely collaborative with our clients, partners and communities, and we think about things long term. We also have a real steadfast strength, boldness, and drive to understand challenges and solve problems.  

Employee ownership means we’re all invested in the success of our business. And it’s generational – we have people stay at Beca for a long time, alongside welcoming new talent at all levels. The continued replenishment of the ownership structure encourages the drive for knowledge sharing and collaboration.  

The sector’s increasingly aware of the value of diversity. How will you approach diversity?  

I’m very open to diversity of thought and background, and passionate about what diversity means on the ground with everyday experiences, as it’s hugely important to our industry. It would be great if our experiences and diversity of backgrounds better represented the communities we serve.   

We have a huge opportunity to do this and we’re making great strides, but we need industry collaboration on improving diversity. This encompasses many things, including those small, everyday experiences that make everyone feel that they belong, and valuing different types of leadership styles and skills rather than being wedded to what we have always done. We must continue to be thoughtful about established norms and challenge them because they don’t cater for everyone.   

Beca is highly regarded for embracing te ao Māori. What is your vision in this space?  

For me, the privilege of calling Aotearoa home creates a responsibility to be thoughtful and understand New Zealand’s heritage, including our identity and values. This is a very important part of Beca as a firm grounded in the whenua of this country.  

I would call myself tangata Tiriti (Pākehā and tauiwi). I feel a responsibility for building relationships with Māori, understanding and acknowledging our shared history, confronting the inequities that have happened, and creating space to have those conversations. I am on a journey of learning about New Zealand’s history, and I want to continue bringing what I can to the spaces I work in to create a richer environment.   

You’re vice president of the ACE Board. How does this support your role at Beca and the business?  

ACE is the voice for consultants. I became involved to play an active role in ACE’s ability to advocate for the sector, as a healthy sector is very important to Beca and the industry – and ultimately the success of Aotearoa.   

What surprised you about being on the ACE Board?  

One surprise was the breadth of ACE’s work. Some may think ACE is concerned only with commercial contracts. These form a very important aspect of its work because they provide the ability to advocate for a healthy industry through procurement and commercial terms. But there’s greater opportunity through an organisation like ACE to engage with the Government and industry on the key issues of the day, and to make sure we advocate for a healthy sector going forward.  

What does it take to be a successful leader in construction and infrastructure in 2024?  

Resilience. It can be a tough and very complex environment to work in. You need to be able to see the big picture and what is contributing to the complexity. And that also enables you to see other points of view, which can drive what appear to be entrenched positions.   

You must think very purposefully about how your actions shape the environment. We’re building connections and healthy, sustainable, well communities. It’s vital to understand the diversity of the issues and impact on the whenua, how long the investment will have an impact, and the future intergenerational impact. 

Since I started working, the industry has changed its thinking fundamentally about what makes a good leader, which has opened the door to different types of leadership. We’re also asking our leaders to do much more than in the past. This includes being culturally aware and looking after their people’s wellbeing, as well as understanding the technical elements. A leader must also inspire future generations and create an attractive place to work. You need resilience, flexibility and empathy to do this.  

What are your aspirations for the wider sector under our new Government? As managing director of Beca’s New Zealand operation, what are the key challenges and opportunities surrounding your hopes for the sector?    

I’m a New Zealander. I’ve grown up here and I love this country. This is one of the best places in the world to live.   

I would love for us to share a longer-term vision of New Zealand's potential that we can all support. In our sector, we get very hung up on our three-yearly election cycles and the priorities that emanate. These political cycles are often anathema to fostering this real vision for what we could be as a country and our ability to consistently strive towards it. I’d love our sector to be highly influential in growing this thinking – to encourage this vision of New Zealand as an amazing place to live and work in our corner of the South Pacific.  

The new Government’s focus of choosing and delivering projects as quickly as possible creates opportunities to work towards this longer-term, integrated vision. Once it determines the projects to deliver, this delivery focus will be a key priority – even though it feels slow to gather pace at the moment. The ability for advocacy in this area is incredibly important and something I’m passionate about.  

Part of achieving this longer-term vision depends on storytelling – by sharing our vision we can show communities that some disruption is necessary to create a wonderful outcome. This will enable us to start dealing with the issue regarding many people’s preference for the familiar and sticking with the status quo, rather than confronting change. 

This vision involves some real challenges, but also great opportunities, and that’s what gets me excited. It’s an aspirational goal for me. And I'm not afraid of a challenge!  

Connect with Andrea Rickard on LinkedIn