Young engineer wins national award

Like many school leavers Lisa Roberts didn’t have her career path mapped out when she left school 15 years ago. Medicine appealed but when she matched her best subjects (maths and sciences), with self confessed rebellious streak, desire to graduate quickly and the attraction of the unknown, engineering seemed the logical answer.
Armed with an Honours degree in Civil Engineering from the University of Auckland, Roberts did the obligatory OE and hard yards; 10 years on the work she does towards improving infrastructure management has won the prestigious IPENZ Young Engineer of the Year Award.
This is awarded annually to young engineer (35 years or under) who has made an outstanding contribution to the profession, as an engineer, leader or through community involvement.
“Getting the award reinforced my belief that engineering is not just about designing and building bridges, roads and drains, but also at the strategic end of things,” says Roberts, who works at Worley Consultants as senior asset management consultant.
Roberts’ engineering experience was not gained the easy way Ñ as the first woman to work on site for London’s Thames Water Authority she found herself catapulted into tough macho environment. The experience toughened her style and also revealed flair for negotiating with disparate groups. “Getting number of cynical councillors to buy in to the need for better asset management methods (and increased funding to maintain infrastructure) was challenge which I really enjoyed,” she says.
The big problem for young engineers Ñ male or female, and probably in most sectors Ñ is getting respect. “You’re often up against people whose approach is ?we’ve done it this way for years and it works’. It’s hard, as relatively new engineer, to have the confidence to stand up and say ?well, no, how about we try it this way?'”
Roberts says company support was major factor in her award entry and she places great emphasis on finding the right working environment. “If I could get one major point across, it would be to encourage young people to get themselves into supportive working environment where management are dedicated to helping personal and professional development.”

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