Graduate Environmental Engineer

Emily Badley didn’t come into Engineering with a set plan, but the flexibility and ability to try different things helped her find a niche she enjoys.

Key facts

Career: Graduate Environmental Engineer at WSP Opus
Programme: Bachelor of Engineering (Honours)
Specialisation: Chemical and Materials

“In 2016, the Faculty of Engineering started the Dean's Leadership Programme. I was in the very first group of 30 students to go through the programme. As part of that, every student got an internship opportunity over the summer, so mine was here at WSP Opus. I really liked the company and the work I was doing, so I just asked whether I could come back and that kind of morphed into this graduate role.

“I now work in the Water and Wastewater Team in the Water and Environmental Engineering side of our business. Our team deals mainly with conveyance, transporting water from one place to another. It's mainly office based but we do sometimes have to get out on site and have a look at where we're going to be working. I mainly do lots of drawings, research and reports and that's what I like about consulting, every day can be different.

“When I started here I got assigned a mentor who works in Asset Management. They assigned me to him because his area of expertise is in materials science, which fits a bit more with what I studied. He's taken me out a couple of times on to the Auckland Harbour Bridge, which is quite nice, so we do some walkovers and inspect some of the coatings on the bridge. We went once in summer and once in winter, so it's quite different each time. It was a really important strategic structure in Auckland, and from the personal side it was just really cool to be up on the bridge and have a look, because it's not something that you can just go out and do as a member of the public. It was an interesting project and really cool to see how it gets maintained.

“I didn't really go into uni with a set plan. I decided on Engineering at the last minute. The advantage with Engineering is that it is really diverse. You don't have to narrow yourself to one option early on; you can try a few different things. It's not something where you do this degree and you're set on this one path. You do have flexibility to go into different areas and try different things, so I suppose that's why I really wanted to do it.

“When it came time in second year to make that decision of what to specialise in, I just enjoyed the Chemical and Materials papers so I went down that line. I didn't really have a specific path that I wanted to follow, I just thought I'd choose what I'm good at and what I enjoy and that worked out.

“My career path ended up being a bit different compared to what most people would probably do, just because I specialised in Chemical and Materials but then I went off and worked in water and environment which is a Civil Engineering discipline. Most people would have done Chemical and Materials and then gone into something that involved that degree a bit more, such as process engineering. A lot of the kind of technical engineering skills don't always cross over, just because I'm working in a different field to what I studied, but a lot of the basics that you learn are quite useful.

“They really push us to work in teams, especially with someone you might not know. You’re just put into a group and it’s up to you to enhance your interpersonal skills throughout the four years. Even though it's not a technical engineering skill, this kind of thing is so important because when you come into industry, you're always going to be in a team or talking to clients or talking to other engineers.

“At WSP Opus, we have not just engineers but also we've got ecologists, archaeologists, scientists, psychologists, business people, architects and so many other different disciplines. It’s really cool, because they do sometimes approach a problem differently to how us engineers do. You are going to have to interact with people from different skill sets, so it's really useful to have that understanding of how to cooperate in a team. The most important thing I got out of uni is systems thinking, where you find out how to work with people across different disciplines and cultures.

“I had a family friend who is around five years older than me; she was doing Science and would help me out with my maths and my physics and when I was in high school – that gave me the confidence that I could actually do maths. I think it was something I found quite hard, but I realised I could do something with it and having those subjects as a base pushed me towards Engineering.

“I was lucky with the Woman in Engineering Network too. Their mentoring was a really useful thing to have. There, someone who is just a year or two above you in your discipline would meet up with you every few weeks to give tips and advice on papers and how to get internships. That was a big help for me, especially in second year which is quite a big step up from first year, and where you transition to your specialisation, so it was really useful to have someone just one year older than me giving me advice.”