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Asia & Pacific Featured Innovator

Career Story – Laura Collins Scott

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I run a boutique consulting firm called Sparkbox. I help lawyers modernise their work and use more technology.

My story

I’ve always had an entrepreneurial spirit.

My first business was selling customised name bracelets at school. I bought myself one at a market stall, took it apart and figured out how to make them. Funnily enough, they’re back in fashion now.

I was never clear on what I wanted to be when I grew up. I kept changing my mind.

At that time there wasn’t much emphasis on creativity. I chose to study business and law because I wanted options.

Getting into tech

Leaving university I still had no idea what I wanted to do, but finance seemed exciting.

I joined an Irish consulting firm, First Derivatives, that specialises in technology and finance.

Working at First Derivatives was my first real encounter with tech. It was an exciting time. I spent the first few months of the grad program learning to code and swotting up on financial concepts.

My first role was on a huge divestment program at Royal Bank of Scotland’s investment bank in London. I was responsible for the Programme Management Office. It was my job to make sure things finished on time and on budget.

Becoming a lawyer, on paper

During that time, First Derivatives sponsored me to do the New York Bar.

I don’t know how I said yes. I had barely studied enough law to be eligible and I already had a gruelling day job. Looking back, I guess it was a mix of curiosity and ambition.

I spent five months doing nothing but working and studying for 14 hours a day. It was not fun.

But in hindsight, it was a valuable experience. It showed me what I am capable of when the going gets tough. Plus, being a qualified lawyer has opened doors for me since.

Learning to innovate at Deutsche Bank’s lab

A few years later I joined Deutsche Bank’s innovation lab.

It was everything you’re picturing – agile methods, post-its, live demos, nerf guns, pizzas. And a lot of smart people.

It won’t surprise you to hear that innovation at a giant bank is not straightforward. We built a lot of cool stuff, but it was difficult to create an impact beyond the four walls of the lab.

Burning out

Later, I joined a regulatory team at Deutsche Bank. I led client outreach and contract repapering for complex derivatives regulations.

In the office, I was succeeding through sheer will and commitment. But it came at a huge personal cost.

I was miserable.

My husband told me if I cried three more times that I had to quit.

I cried three times in less than a week.

A voyage of discovery

The good thing about banking was it paid well. I had saved a pot of money which gave me the freedom to spend a few months experimenting.

I went on a voyage of discovery and said yes to everything.

I realised that I love solving problems. Yes, that’s something people put on their CV. But it’s who I am. I can’t stop myself from trying to improve things in all aspects of my life. This can be annoying for friends and family.

I remained curious about the law and technology. But I wanted to work on my own terms.

Building my business

I took a leap of faith and started a boutique consulting business.

My USP? Speaking the language of three usually distinct worlds – law, technology and business.

I won my first legal tech client, Neota Logic, through a lucky encounter at Google.

Soon after that, I landed my first law firm client, Clifford Chance.

Since then I’ve worked with lots of great companies.

In 2018, I moved my business from London to Singapore.

What advice do I have for people who want to pursue this path?

1. Follow your curiosity.

Life is more enjoyable when you’re working on things that interest you. If you want to try something new, following your interests can help you find a new path.

2. Don’t stay in a job you hate.

Despite how things might appear at first, there are many paths. If you love the law but don’t love being a lawyer, try approaching the industry from a new angle.

3. The best time to make a change is when you don’t have to.

If other parts of your life are stable, it’s a great time to take some risks with your career.

4. Experiment as much as possible.

If you’re not sure what you want to do, focus on crossing things off the list. Don’t get hung up on trying to find the ideal job or the perfect new career path.

Experiment, try new things, and figure out what you liked and what you don’t want to repeat. Then try again!

Laura Collins Scott

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