Don’t be afraid of losing your job! Stick to topics/sectors that interest you and only work with people and environments that you like and make you happy.
As a part of our series about women who are shaking things up in their industry, I had the pleasure of interviewing Dr. Luisa Moreno.
Dr. Luisa Moreno is the President of Defense Metals. She is a Physics Engineer, with a Ph.D. in Materials Science and Mechanics from Imperial College London, in the United Kingdom. She held positions as Senior Analyst, at Toronto-based investment banks and as an Investment Research Analyst at a global investment research firm. She is known as a leading analyst in rare earths and has published several reports and articles for the investment community. Dr. Moreno has co-authored a book on mineral processing and project financing and authored a number of advanced industry and technical reports on several technology minerals.
Thank you so much for doing this with us! Before we dig in, our readers would like to get to know you a bit more. Can you tell us a bit about your “backstory”? What led you to this particular career path?
I have always had a natural inclination towards science and engineering, but I was also interested in business and finance. So, after I studied physics engineering and completed my graduate studies in materials science, I transitioned to finance shortly after my postdoctoral fellowship. Being active in the business and science sectors has been a perfect combination for me and has helped lead me to this particular career path.
Can you tell our readers what it is about the work you’re doing that’s disruptive?
To begin, world governments are collaborating to decrease global greenhouse emissions. As part of this plan, they are phasing out sales of combustion engine vehicles and have targets for 100% sales of electric vehicles by 2035–2040; they are also supporting the development of renewable energy sources. This 4th Industrial Revolution is driving demand for less common metals like rare earths and lithium. As a research analyst at investment banks, I covered these metals, also known as critical metals, as many areas face supply constraints. Today, I am delighted to be part of the management and board of directors of companies developing these critical materials that are key for producing renewable energy technologies, like wind turbines, and batteries and motors for electric vehicles.
Can you share a story about the funniest mistake you made when you were first starting? Can you tell us what lesson you learned from that?
That is a tough question…the only office incident that I recall being kind of funny to me, but probably not for the person involved, was when I was accused of shouting at the editor. Early in my career as a financial analyst, I was interacting with the main editor via email to finalize a note to investors. At one point, I wrote certain words and sentences in capital letters to emphasize my point. She was probably already annoyed by my resistance to accept her edits, but the capital letters just took her over the top, and she literally stormed out of her office straight to the manager’s office and accused me of shouting at her “via email,” [laughter].
So, I was called for a meeting with the editor that was visibly distressed. She was highly offended and completely oblivious of my ignorance. I promptly apologized and explained that I did not know much about email etiquette, and from that day on, I avoided capital letters in emails and paid more attention to how I write work emails. I have not shouted at anyone (via email) since.
We all need a little help along the journey. Who have been some of your mentors? Can you share a story about how they made an impact?
Early in my career, I joined WCM (Women in Capital Markets — Toronto), and via their mentorship program, I was connected to professionals that were kind enough to take time out of their busy schedules to meet me, share their market experiences, and offer me career advice. However, I must admit that I have had many mentors, some of whom are not even aware of being my mentors. For instance, my colleagues on the board of directors are all mentors to me. Their diverse backgrounds in geology, deal-making, financing, accounting, etc., is of tremendous value to me, and I am learning and growing every day in my interactions with them.
In today’s parlance, being disruptive is usually a positive adjective. But is disrupting always good? When do we say the converse, that a system or structure has ‘withstood the test of time’? Can you articulate to our readers when disrupting an industry is positive, and when disrupting an industry is ‘not so positive’? Can you share some examples of what you mean?
Frankly, I never thought about it. I think that the oil-driven economy and the careless emissions of greenhouse gases have had a negative impact on our planet, and it is a good idea to search for solutions.
However, there are no easy solutions, and some have questions regarding how “green” the mining of these critical minerals is. We have obviously passed the Stone Age, and our way of living is very much dependent on advanced materials. The key is to work together to find ways to produce these materials in a sustainable and ethical fashion.
Scientists worldwide are developing disruptive technologies, using critical materials to create a greener, more sustainable and equitable world. Of course, not all ideas and technologies will make it, and the path for a greener world is not straightforward but surely one worth pursuing.
Can you share 3 of the best words of advice you’ve gotten along your journey?
I am not sure from where I heard these words or in what stage of my life I’ve learned these things, but if I was to give 3 best words of advice to my younger self, they would be:
1. Believe in yourself, and always take time to recognize and appreciate your achievements.
2. Don’t be afraid of losing your job! Stick to topics/sectors that interest you and only work with people and environments that you like and make you happy.
3. See the low moments as an opportunity to start something great and focus on the positives and opportunities instead of worst-case scenarios.
We are sure you aren’t done. How are you going to shake things up next?
Joining Defense Metals is just the start really! Developing rare earth projects comes with all the challenges of developing a mining project plus the added complexities specific to the cracking, separation, and refining of these elements.
Fortunately, today there is more rare earth processing expertise in the West, and the company has been able to build a strong technical team. So the way I will shake things up next is by bringing the first Canadian rare earths mine to production and making Defense Metals a significant supplier of these materials that are so critical to a greener world.
In your opinion, what are the biggest challenges faced by ‘women disruptors’ that aren’t typically faced by their male counterparts?
Times are changing, and it is exciting that more women are being hired to join the board of directors or being offered CEO and other top executive positions. I think time will tell the impact that diverse boards will have on the operations and performance of public and private companies, but I believe it will be positive.
Do you have a book/podcast/talk that’s had a deep impact on your thinking? Can you share a story with us?
I have read several books over the years, but I cannot say that one, in particular, has had the deepest impact on me. I often read books for professional development, very rarely for pure leisure, like Harry Potter, for instance (which I never read, but I may have watched one of the movies). I am also interested in history and human behaviour, which is probably the closest thing to non-professional books I may read. I like TED talks, and sometimes I scan their website looking for new and unusual topics just to learn something new.
You are a person of great influence. If you could inspire a movement that would bring the most amount of good to the most amount of people, what would that be? You never know what your idea can trigger. 🙂
I am not the activist type, but I am totally for a cleaner and more sustainable global economy. And as we all work towards achieving that, I think there is room to improve mineral development so that all nations can have access to the minerals they need for their economic sustainability or development, and at the same time bring real benefits to the producing countries and their peoples.
Canada is a significant mining jurisdiction and has most of the critical materials that are essential to the transition to the green economy. Canada also has companies like Defense Metals that are striving to become reliable sources of critical materials for the global supply chain of cleaner energy technologies by taking a sustainable approach and staying focused on maximizing the benefits for the local communities and shareholders.
Can you please give us your favourite “Life Lesson Quote”? Can you share how that was relevant to you in your life?
I feel that I am always learning, and that will never stop. I am always open to learning new things, and I am usually not afraid of being wrong. I think learning is part of our natural human evolution.
How can our readers follow you online?
I am on LinkedIn!
Thank you for these fantastic insights. We greatly appreciate the time you spent on this.