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Forty Under 40 Award winner Q&A: Connor Langford

This year’s cohort of recipients will be celebrated at an event Feb. 7, 2024

BIV is recognizing Connor Langford, Canada Tunnels Team lead and key account lead at Mott MacDonald, and 39 other exceptional business leaders as part of the 2023 Forty Under 40 Awards cohort.

Longer Q&As with each recipient are included in BIV's annual Forty Under 40 Magazine (out in print Dec. 11). Award winners will be celebrated at an awards gala Feb. 7, 2024.

This profile may have been edited for length and clarity.

What career highlight are you most proud of?

I’ve been fortunate enough to have had a few highlights thus far in my career. I’m extremely proud of the way our team brought the Stanley Park Water Supply Tunnel from concept to construction procurement. Getting this far has required an incredible amount of focus from everyone involved, and I feel honoured to have had the opportunity to lead this incredible team. I’m also proud of helping to create a global network for early career professionals at Mott MacDonald. This initiative helps younger staff advance their career by connecting with other people across the business and building their skills.

What was your toughest business or professional decision?

One of the toughest things I’ve had to do professionally is ask for help, which seems like a silly thing when I look back on it. While I’ve always enjoyed stretch opportunities, a few years ago I stacked so many that I became overwhelmed and eventually burned out. When you’re surrounded by high performing people, it’s easy to forget that everyone, including yourself, has limits. There’s a great quote by Hannah Cockcroft (seven-time Paralympic champion) that encompasses this for me: “I can do anything, but I can’t do everything.”

How do you lead?

I tend to focus more on “servant leadership” – putting the needs, growth and wellbeing of my colleagues and community first. As a result, much of my day to day involves igniting a sense of excitement in the people I work with and trying to remove roadblocks that prevent my team from accomplishing their goals. In terms of what leadership means to me – good leaders create an environment where champions are inevitable. It’s not about standing out, it’s about helping develop and foster growth in your team so they have the opportunity to step up and do great things.

What is the biggest lesson you've learned in business?

It’s not just about what you achieve in the end, it’s the journey that matters. Most problems have an infinite number of solutions, and while it’s easy enough to stumble upon a good one, the best outcomes always come when you work collaboratively with a team that is aligned in their values. While building that team takes time, it’s one of the most important things you can do and something that truly sets companies apart from one another. Not only does it lead to a better product, but it helps with retention and makes the work you do more enjoyable.

Best piece of advice ever received?

Don’t be afraid to put your hand up. New opportunities can be intimidating and it’s easy to feel like you’re not good enough, but the reality is, the people around you want you to succeed. By putting your hand up and seizing that opportunity, you’re able to “stretch” a little and learn something new – whether it’s a new client, a project or a way of working. Even if you don’t enjoy it, you’ll be learning something important more about what you want to do in the future and what kind of person you want to be.

What advice would you give your 20-year-old self?

Don’t be afraid of failure – no one is good at everything the first time they do it. Mistakes provide opportunities for learning and growth. Rather than avoiding failure, embrace it and reflect on what you could’ve done differently. That way, when you come into truly difficult times, you aren’t afraid of the potential for failure, but instead face it head on and ask yourself, “What is the opportunity at this time of challenge?”

What's left to accomplish?

I’m 37 and I still don’t know what I want to be when I grow up. So, with that in mind, there’s a lot left to accomplish. For me, the frontier is everywhere, and I can’t wait to find out what my next adventure is.

Is there anyone you would like to thank or acknowledge?

As with any accomplishment, I would be remiss without recognizing the many people that made me who I am today. A big thank you to my family, my colleagues and my clients (many of which I am fortunate to call friends) as well as those who supported my nomination – in particular, Mott MacDonald, Metro Vancouver and the Tunnelling Association of Canada. Last, but certainly not least, I want to thank my wife Jennifer Langford. She has been my rock and none of this would have been possible without her constant love and support.

Read Q&As with all 40 award recipients here. Tickets to the 2023 Forty Under 40 Awards gala on Feb. 7 are now available.