Jenny Chu

Growing up inspired by her father's engineering projects led Jenny Chu to her award-winning contribution to one of Auckland's most prolific transportation projects.

Left to right: Dave Gosper from MAS (award sponsor), Jenny Chu and Dean Kimpton (President, Engineering New Zealand)

Civil and Environmental Engineering graduate Jenny Chu has recently been presented with an Engineering New Zealand Young Engineer of the Year award.

Jenny states, “To be recognised for the Young Engineer of the Year award is a great honour and a privilege. I was so stoked, and grateful. The award is a great reminder to me of the projects and the people that I have worked with along my engineering journey to date and why I choose engineering in the very first place – which is to create opportunities to people, as well as to continuously learning and challenging myself.”

At just 29, Jenny is currently a Senior Civil Project Engineer at Civil Rail Link Ltd, making her a part of one of Auckland’s most prolific transportation projects today. She describes the project as – at 100 years in the making – “special, not only because it’s technically challenging to build a twin tunnels and stations in an intensely developed city centre. It’s the biggest infrastructure project that our country has undertaken to date and it has profound impact on Auckland city, its people and what it will enable in the future. I’m grateful for the opportunity to be part of the team that is contributing to this legacy.”

Being the daughter of an engineer means that history may have played a role in Jenny’s career. She credits observing her father’s projects as a child for sparking her interest in engineering at an early age. This led to her pursuit of a conjoint degree in Engineering and Law at the University of Auckland, which she enjoyed immensely.

“I got to learn from academics who are major contributors in their field internationally, who are passionate about sharing their work and knowledge. I also loved the diverse community that make up the student body on campus, and their myriad of interests, classes and work experience. I felt that I was surrounded by people who strive to be the very best at whatever they apply themselves to, and this pushes me to challenge what I know and defend what I believe in, which in turn, make me a better person.”

While many of us believe that engineering can have a positive impact in the world, Jenny is committed to taking action to prove it. Her professional experience extends to non-profit work; she is a member of the Asia New Zealand Foundation Leadership Network and has facilitated a number of professional exchanges between New Zealand and Asia, as well as a co-founder of Engineers Without Borders New Zealand. The latter was established ten years ago by Jenny and her peers here at the University, and still possesses an active student community today.

“The motivation was to build a network of socially-minded engineers to provide equal access to knowledge in New Zealand and the South Pacific. We wanted to enable communities to have access to the opportunities we do, and to provide student and young professionals a gateway to gain experience in humanitarian engineering. I’m proud to see the pathways towards development enabled through our school outreach programme, design challenges, university research and community projects. I like that you can make a difference, no matter what stage of the career you are in – EWBNZ volunteers make a real impact to communities, and someone’s life will become better because of their contribution.”

This is just the beginning of Jenny’s contributions to the field. In the future, she hopes to continue building her engineering, commercial and legal experience to facilitate and deliver knowledge to places both in and beyond New Zealand. “Engineering is a personal, creative and innovative endeavour that creates opportunities for people, especially through the very infrastructure work that enables the communities, and that will last many generations. I am very proud to be part of this international community of professional who engineers a global village.”

This story was originally published in May 2018.