As the state director of the Nature Conservancy in Texas, Laura Huffman has experience building a successful culture, where she ably heads a statewide team of scientists, conservation experts and support staff undergirding the Conservancy’s 38 preserves statewide. She shares her thoughts on public service and leadership below.
Q: Please share how your professional career began and how you ended up where you are today?
A: I’ve spent more than 20 years in public service—the first 16 were in city management for the cities of Austin and San Marcos, where I worked to secure open green space and protect regional freshwater supplies. I saw the importance of protecting our environment and making sure Texas remains a special place for future generations. I ultimately shifted my professional focus to conservation—where I’ve been for the last five years—because it’s one of the most direct paths to serving the public.
Q: Can you name a leader for whom you have great respect and tell us why?
A: This is always a tough question for me, simply because there are so many great leaders—men and women—out there. In an organization, I feel that a great leader is also a great mentor, and I have had more than my share of wonderful mentors, from my college years up through today.
Q: As a leader in your company, what is the best piece of advice you would offer to a new employee to help them succeed?
A: When an employee starts a new job, they always want to add value to the organization, and I think managers should encourage that excitement. But I think it’s important that new employees take the time to really learn the organization before they devise a plan to ‘fix’ it. They should recognize and respect the history of the organization they have just joined, and understand how important it is.
Q: What would you say has been your driving force in your staying power in a male-dominated industry?
A: Women have a lot to offer in the workplace—we have to be here in order to offer a different perspective. I am trying to show my three daughters one version of success when it comes to working and raising a family.
Q: As a seasoned professional, how do you share your experience with your team on a daily basis?
A: In any way I can! I think it’s incredibly important to foster a certain culture in the workplace—anyone who has worked with me knows that. No one wants to go to work upset or tense. Once you get the culture right, so many other things fall into place, and it becomes very easy to collaborate, communicate and ultimately find success.
Q: What is the one thing you make time for in your daily life that helps keeps you refreshed and positive?
A: Exercise, without a doubt—if you see me down by Lady Bird Lake, say hello!