Women in Engineering 2022

Women in Engineering 2022

Rose Turnwald - Environmental Engineer

June 23rd is International Women in Engineering Day a special day dedicated to raising the profile of women in engineering, focusing attention on the career opportunities available to women in the profession.

Everyone has unique stories about how they have grown up and what has shaped their career. To recognise #INWED22 we have asked two of our engineers from T+T group to share their stories on how they became an engineer touching on obstacles and exciting milestones that paved the way .

I’m Rose, I live in Auckland and am part of the Environmental Engineering team at Tonkin + Taylor, working in air quality and hazardous substances risk management. I studied a Bachelor of Engineering at Auckland University and specialised in Chemical Materials and Processing. I found it interesting learning about the chemical structure of different plastics, biomaterials, and steel and how those microscopic (or nanoscopic) structures imparted all the useful properties to the material. While I found the content more tangible and, in some ways, more intuitive than for the other specialities, I wasn’t exactly sure what kind of work it would lead to when I graduated.

In early 2016, I started my career in manufacturing at an acrylic emulsion coatings plant in Otāhuhu. The process involved mixing highly flammable monomers in a “kettle” (the name for the 12,000 L reactor), adding surfactants and controlling the reaction heat to produce polymer droplets at a specified size. The final product was sold as a paint base to the local paint companies (such as Resene, Dulux, and Valspar), who would then add their pigments. The site had been there for over 50 years and was the last local manufacturing operation for this product in New Zealand.

I joined the company as an environmental technician and, after a year, had the opportunity to take on a production engineer role. This was a challenging step for me, mainly because I was on-call to deal with abnormal process conditions at all hours of the night. I developed a kind of Pavlovian stress-adrenaline rush response to the default Samsung ringtone on my work cell (I should have customised it, because I would hear it a lot out of context!).

When manufacturing at the site wound down in 2018, I was ready to try a more varied role. I joined other chemical-engineering alumni in the Environmental Engineering team at T+T. I was given the opportunity to use my experience at the plant (a Lower Tier Major Hazard Facility) to help advise clients on hazardous substances risk management and regulatory compliance under the Health and Safety at Work Act. I was able to pick up a few industrial stormwater projects. Now, almost four years later, my main field is air quality, and I’m looking forward to presenting a paper on the atmospheric conversion of nitrogen oxides at the 2022 Clean Air Society of Australia and New Zealand Conference in Adelaide.

One of the aspects that I’ve really appreciated about my role at T+T has been working with many other young women in their technical areas and an abundance of role models for women in technical leadership. I think the baseline expectation from studying engineering and working in manufacturing was that there would always be relatively few of us. Still, now I take it for granted that I’m surrounded by women in all roles.