In conversation with Tess Dolan, Global Insights Leader

About Tess Dolan

Tess is Woods Bagot’s Global Insights Leader. Passionate about clarity, relevance and the creation of genuinely interesting content, Tess works with our innovators to create insights on the future of design, as applied to its impact on how we live, work, travel, play, learn, stay healthy and anything in-between.

Can you tell us about your experience working in the architecture and design industry, especially on a global scale?

Working globally is very cool. You’re able to connect with people you would never have otherwise met, in parts of the world you’ve never been, and collaborate on something that’s going to be relevant to you both.

For me, I’ve learnt a lot about balance. A big concern of mine is making sure that what I create is going to be relevant in other markets, but also not so broad that it feels too general. So, there’s a balance to be found between specificity and generality, regional examples and global applications, and data and storytelling. I’m still learning, but having a global role means I have more people to learn from – and more opportunities to be surprised!

If you could give advice to anyone, especially young women, looking into a similar field or career path, what would you give?

To anyone I’d say: “be consistently honest with yourself about what you’re good at and what you enjoy – and strive to make best use of both.”

If a young woman asked me specifically for advice, I’d say that it’s more important to decide what kind of person you want to be, rather than what kind of “woman”. Young women are presented, almost minute-by-minute, with a plethora of stereotypes of “Women in Business” – there’s the ‘strong woman’, the ‘career woman’, the ‘soft woman’, the ‘office mum’, the ‘go to girl’ and more. Whatever their intention, these caricatures build on the fallacy that you have to choose to be a character over who you actually are, which is pretty ridiculous when we consider the rapid rate that humans change and evolve.

What would you say to your younger self?

I would probably assure her that being embarrassed is occasionally a part of personal growth and that you don’t really get to be the graceful and confident person you (still) aspire to be without feeling uncomfortable sometimes. At the end of the day, it all builds empathy – which is a powerful thing.  

Also, that you never really know what’s going on in other peoples’ lives, so – while you absolutely shouldn’t be shoved under the burdens of others – it’s often less about you than you think.

Tess Dolan MPavilion

Tess Dolan at MPavilion, Melbourne, 2023.

To anyone I’d say: “be consistently honest with yourself about what you’re good at and what you enjoy – and strive to make best use of both.”

Have a question or want to reach out to Global Insights Leader Tess Dolan? Send her a note here. You can see the latest Insights in our journal.

Stay tuned for more stories celebrating women leading the way in the architecture & design industry, groundbreaking projects and celebrating #EmbraceEquity for International Women’s Day.


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