From Tesla to Water: A Conversation on Innovation and Agility with South East Water’s Lara Olsen

Show Summary

Many would have struggled to begin a new job at the start of the Covid 19 Lockdowns in 2020, so imagine what it would have been like to start as the new Managing Director of a water utility at that time. That’s exactly what Lara Olsen, Managing Director of South East Water did.

Lara has worked in startups, in the energy space, in corporates and in government roles throughout her career and one of her career highlights was working at Tesla where she learned that even very large organisations can be agile.

Lara shares how she is applying what she has learned from outside the water industry in her role and about how having a design philosophy, agility, a strong sense of purpose and commitment to customers can open the door to innovative thinking. 

So many questions came up in this discussion but overall Lara paints a picture of her vision for South East Water’s innovation future.

Today’s episode is hosted by GHD’s Water Market Leader for Victoria, Lindsey Brown.


Meet this week’s expert

Lara Olsen

Managing Director

South East Water

An Australian and international utility leader, Lara Olsen was appointed to Managing Director of South East Water at the beginning of 2020. Her background blends customer experience, digital and technological expertise in both the corporate and start-up environment.

Prior to joining South East Water, Lara was the Global Head of Business Development and Industrial Product at Tesla Energy based in the USA where she was responsible for scoping and launching Tesla’s next generation of commercial business models and industrial products. Before her time in the US, she led the Business Development and Industrial Product team for Tesla Australia, including the big battery projects in South Australia and Victoria.

Connect with Lara Olsen on LinkedIn


Show Highlights

  • Lara: I’ve never wanted to work in a particular sector or for a government or startup or corporate. I’ve always been open to any of them as long as there were three characteristics; that either the industry or the organization was at the point of change because I think great things happen when you’re in an environment of change, that the organization made a contribution to society and that I was going to be in a role where I felt like I could contribute but also learn.
  • Lara: It’s about challenging yourself to think about “how could we?”. I think often when we think about a problem, we can see all the reasons that it wouldn’t work or the things that we’d have to overcome. I think if we keep asking ourselves why not or how could we, then I’ve certainly seen that lead to different outcomes and faster outcomes as well.
  • Lara: I think the water sector is quite a humble sector. And for those of people that are in it, all of the things that are happening and the great projects that are going on, but certainly from someone outside the sector, I had no idea of the innovation that was going on.
  • Lara: Most of our people are really connected and driven by the impact that they have on the community. And I think letting more people know about the great works will be really helpful for both us as a sector, but also with the community in terms of attracting people to the water sector.

About Future Water

Hear from water innovation and digital transformation leaders from across the globe and discover the technology and innovations that are shaping the digital future of water. Proudly hosted by AquaLAB, powered by GHD Digital.


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