#WEDAsks – Ioni Laidler-McBean

Ioni studied Chemistry at the University of Sheffield, and upon graduating decided she wanted a career path focussed on working with others. Her first role was a 2-year project management graduate scheme with a large defence contractor, and this ignited her passion for project management and leadership. From here, she joined Mott MacDonald during the pandemic as an Assistant Project Manager and was quickly seconded to a large infrastructure programme in the East of England where she quickly realised her passion for ‘hands on’ project management in the world of construction. Throughout this project she achieved her membership of the APM, and also achieved NEC4 Project Manager accreditation, finishing the 18-month project with a promotion to Project Manager. Since, she has taken on an internal role, focussed on managing a key defence contract for the business, managing larger teams, and finessing her financial / commercial knowledge.

Tell us a bit about yourself, background, and your current role.

My name is Ioni Laidler-McBean, I’m a Senior Project Manager and I fell into a Defence role after university and have been in the industry ever since. I’ve had the most interesting career so far and I feel I’ve come a long way in a short time. Within defence, I’ve worked on such cool projects and have had the chance to visit some unique destinations. Projects I’ve managed include equipment, assurance, infrastructure, and compliance projects to name a few, but I find the most enjoyment in managing construction projects using NEC contracts. I love project management, and I love working with people from diverse backgrounds and functions as you can learn so much from one another and makes the typical working day generally more interesting.

Did you ever sit down and plan your career?

Definitely not! Not purposefully anyway, I’m just not that way inclined. 5 and 10-year plans never appealed to me, but I’ve always incorporated shorter term goals into my performance management through work, which helps to stay focussed and to develop in the right ways. I also like to set myself goals in January then reflect in December on the year as a whole – I find this really motivating as it’s otherwise easy to forget how far you’ve come.

What advice would you offer to someone who is wanting to raise their presence in the organisation and beyond?

Put your hand up! Whether that is for a new opportunity alongside your usual role or whether it’s asking a question in a webinar. I think the key to being noticed is to stay curious and don’t be afraid to speak, no matter what the setting. Another thing is to go to the Mott MacDonald offices whenever you can to meet people and build relationships across the business – you never know where your next role might be!

Have you ever felt out of place at work and secretly felt that you don’t deserve your job and accomplishments?

Oh yes! Since I was a child, I have always been super hard on myself. There’s always a teeny, tiny voice in the back of my head, each time I get praise saying, ‘I really don’t deserve that, I was just doing my job,’ or ‘they might think because of my age that I am not experienced enough to do X.’ I constantly battle between knowing I work hard and deserve my success, and ‘am I a fraud?’ Luckily as time goes by, the latter voice is getting quieter and quieter, and I realise the evidence (qualifications, plaudits, promotions etc.) is outweighing my inner voice of doubt.

How have you found ways to build and sustain your confidence to be an effective and convincing leader?

Mott MacDonald offers fantastic externally led leadership courses and joining one of these programmes in 2022 helped me personally to identify some of my limiting beliefs and to leverage my strengths. It provided a platform to hear from others, how they approach certain situations, to offer advice, provide new perspectives and the programme gave an open, safe space to do this in. Outside of work, I listen to a lot of podcasts about mindset and hear from successful people on what they have done in their industry to succeed, whatever that looks like to them. I also view empathy as a key skill which many overlook in the workplace. We’re all humans, trying to do work we enjoy to survive (a bit dramatic but true haha!) so I like to treat people as I would wish to be treated. This builds respect and with respect comes trust, and as a result, people are more likely to do a good job.

How do you inspire others?

Hopefully by bringing some personality to the job. I hope it inspires people to see someone working hard but also who has fun with it, and genuinely wants to do better, improve, and work collaboratively.

What positive impact have you had at Mott Macdonald during 2023?

I think the highlight must be winning Line Manager of the Year 2023 in the APD (Advisory & Programme Delivery) awards. 2023 was the year I became a line manager, so being recognised by multiple of my direct reports for performing well in this role, especially in my first year really meant a lot to me. I have had fantastic managers throughout my career, so it feels incredible to be able to give that support to others now.

What potential personal or professional barriers do you feel might be impacting women from reaching the highest levels of leadership?

I think one of them will be not seeing role models who reflect themselves. If you look at leadership in your own company and don’t see someone at each level of seniority who looks like you / has a similar background to you / acts like you, then it’s harder to believe you can do it yourself. It’s got to start somewhere, I get that, but it can be disheartening to constantly be the one in the room being the trailblazer.

Would you recommend people new to leadership have a mentor? Have you benefited from being mentored at any time during your career?

I would, but my advice is to really know what you want from the mentoring relationship first, or to at least meet your mentor with a set of questions you’d like to explore during your relationship. Think about what skill you want to develop – is it to get better at writing procurement strategies, is it to find better ways of managing conflict in the workplace, is it how to build a good network in your industry? I think I’ve often jumbled up coaching / mentoring / counselling and this often leads to shorter-term relationships, whereas mentoring is generally supposed to be longer-term.


Ioni Laidler-McBean’s journey from a Chemistry graduate to a Senior Project Manager in the defence sector is a testament to her adaptability, passion, and commitment. Her candid reflections on her career, personal growth, and the challenges she has faced offer invaluable insights for aspiring leaders. Ioni’s story highlights the importance of seizing opportunities, staying curious, and continuously setting and reflecting on personal goals.

Throughout her career, Ioni has navigated various roles, each contributing to her development and shaping her leadership style. Her experience underscores the significance of hands-on project management, especially within the construction sector, and the value of obtaining relevant certifications like the APM membership and NEC4 accreditation.

Ioni’s advice for raising one’s presence in an organisation—putting your hand up, staying curious, and building relationships—resonates with her proactive approach to career development. Despite facing moments of self-doubt, her perseverance and dedication have earned her recognition and success, exemplified by her award as Line Manager of the Year 2023.

Her commitment to empathy, continuous learning through leadership courses, and engaging with diverse perspectives through podcasts and mentorship further demonstrates her holistic approach to personal and professional growth. Ioni’s journey and insights are a powerful reminder that leadership is not just about titles but about making a positive impact, inspiring others, and constantly striving for improvement.

Ioni’s contributions to Mott MacDonald and her passion for project management and leadership are truly commendable, setting a strong example for future leaders in the industry. Her story inspires others to embrace their paths, overcome doubts, and lead with confidence and compassion.

Share this interview



Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *