Tess Lumsdaine, Senior Consultant, Employment Pensions & Incentives, Herbert Smith Freehills, shares with WiFA her mentorship experience, advice to her younger self, her passions, and much more.

Tell us a little bit about yourself

I lead our Hong Kong employment team, helping businesses around APAC on workforce strategy, investigations and disputes. I love exploring and seeing things from a new perspective which has led me to live in the UK and Chile, and to work in Sydney, Singapore, and Hong Kong.

Given the unpredictable and varied nature of workforce challenges, I often find myself in the trenches with clients working on rapidly evolving issues. The last 18 months has seen significant regulatory change impacting how workplaces operate and huge upheaval impacting the relationship between employers and their workers. The need to move quickly and deal with risk in a pragmatic and empathetic way drives me.

I also sit on our firm’s Gender Equity Matters committee and serve as a Mental Health Champion to aid greater diversity, inclusion, belonging, and safety at work. 

Mentors play an important role in the developments of many careers. Did you have a mentor? If so, what did you look for in that person?

I have been lucky to have many mentors. Advice is easy to give but harder to live so I have sought out those who model the behaviours they advocate.

Drew Pearson, a Partner in our Sydney office has been a teacher, ally, grounding force, and role model as my career has grown and my life has migrated north. Drew walks the walk: investing a huge amount of time in people, beyond just the work they do with him, and managing a demanding role with grace and good humour. Drew knows when to offer a sympathetic ear, a harsh truth, or when to tell me all I need is more sleep.

My mum has also been a huge influence. She’s a history teacher who has the fearlessness and tenacity of a Jack Russell terrier, a wicked sense of humour and unbounding kindness to her colleagues and students. She receives so many Christmas presents from students every year, so I’m not alone in thinking she’s doing something right.

Think back to when you were starting out your career. What advice would you give your younger self?

I am lucky enough to work with lots of junior lawyers and the main thing I encourage them to do is to be themselves (and to laugh at my jokes).

This year has brought tremendous upheaval and disruption to all aspects of our lives. How are you and your company continuing to promote diversity and gender equality despite these massive changes?   

The past year has been all about peeking into each other’s messy lives and acknowledging shared experiences. Being open with my team and clients about the challenges each of us are facing, whether from anxiety about vulnerable or far away family members, home schooling or feelings of isolation, has helped forge deeper connections and led to more supportive, less transactional ways of working together.

Aside from work, what are your other passions?

Hobbies include tormenting my partner Jeremy, and our dog Rupert, killing houseplants and losing rounds of mah-jong. I’m hanging out to visit family back in Australia and to escape to the bush. Last trip we did the Three Capes Walk in Tasmania – paradise!