WSP Opus' Women in Leadership Network

In 2014, a women in leadership group was established to facilitate engagement, networking, mentoring and information sharing.  The group, WSP Opus’ Women in Leadership ‘Practice Interest Network’, is now established as a vehicle to focus on constant improvement and is a representative voice for the company in matters of gender diversity.

The Practice Interest Network encompasses an online discussion forum, information sharing and local networking events – all with the objective of advancing the career development and progression of women within the company. A diverse and broad group of people in the organisation are members of the Women in Leadership Professional Interest Network – men and women at all levels of the organisation from senior managers through to graduates.  

The Women in Leadership scheme has already influenced the way WSP Opus works, including: enhancing HR policies; developing training programmes; increasing support for part-time workers, and improving return-to-work conditions after parental leave.  It has also built initiatives for education schemes that target schools to encourage more women to enter the engineering profession. 

Celebrating WSP Opus’ Women

8th March marks International Women's Day.

On this day, WSP Opus celebrates the successes and achievements of our female colleagues as well as profiling the work of past and present women who have made significant contributions to society.

Across the globe, we will hold events and our offices will make a pledge to further bridge the gap in gender diversity.  

Staff Profiles 

Our gender diversity programme seeks to ensure a greater proportion of females in all categories, but with particular focus on leadership roles. This benefits not only women throughout the company, but all employees. We have a diverse depth and breadth of women in roles throughout the company, at all levels of the business, some of whom are profiled below:

  • Amy Newman

    1. What is your role at Opus?
    I am a Senior Environmental Scientist working with the contaminated land team for the Midlands office in the United Kingdom. My day-to-day role includes undertaking contaminated land Investigations, desk based studies, supervising soil, gas and groundwater investigations, monitoring remediation works, preparing factual and interpretative reports, liaison with key stakeholders like clients, landowners and regulators, and day to day project management.

    I am one of a few employees trained and experienced in conducting detailed human health risk assessments and I have recently been appointed as the secretary for the in-house contaminated land interest network - a committee dedicated to promoting and safeguarding our discipline.

    2. What do you enjoy the most in your current role?
    Every site is different, including its location, historical context, proposals for development and degree of contamination. This makes my role interesting, varied and sometimes very challenging. As a result, I am always broadening my knowledge and learning new skills to successfully fulfill my role and to meet our clients’ requirements and expectations. I am also lucky enough to be involved with contamination projects on an international scale and, after six months of secondment to the Christchurch office in New Zealand, I still find myself getting involved with New Zealand projects whilst back in the UK.

    3. What has been your biggest career achievement?
    Completing my master’s degree in 2013 enabled me to take a big step in my career progression. Not only did I get the opportunity to work in New Zealand for 6 months, I also achieved a senior position within the company. Whilst in New Zealand, I worked on contamination projects related to the earthquake re-build which I found to be very rewarding and I thoroughly enjoyed the challenge of learning new legislation and guidance and putting this into practice. Over the past couple of years I have also taken on more responsibilities as a result of my progression, including project management and mentoring and training of graduate and junior engineers. I am also currently working towards chartered status within the Chartered Institution of Water and Environmental Management (CIWEM).

    4. Outside of Opus, what do you like to do in your spare time?
    In my spare time I enjoy walks in the countryside with my Husband and my very bouncy dog Pip, and horse riding at my local trekking centre, as it’s a great way to let off some steam. I also enjoy holidays, eating out and regular family gatherings.

    5. What advice would you give to people beginning their career?
    It was daunting entering a large consulting engineering business fresh from University but if you are willing to take on the challenges that you are presented with, you will find that the hard work you put in at the start of your career will help you achieve your professional goals much easier. Stick with it through the tough times, because the hard work usually pays off. Seek out the opportunities for training and development inside and outside the company. I have regularly attended lunchtime and evening seminars to keep up with my continued professional development as well as taking the opportunity to complete my master’s degree on a part time basis whilst still gaining experience and mentoring from my workplace.

  • Angie Berger

    1. What is your role at Opus?
    I am an Executive Assistant and the Front Office Supervisor for Opus DaytonKnight in Canada. I am responsible for the daily operations of the front office, typing, editing and filing for the engineers, and I supervise two employees.

    2. What do you enjoy the most in your current role?
    Mostly, the people that I work with and for. The part of my job I probably enjoy the most is reading and editing proposals and reports before they leave. The challenge of getting a proposal out the door on time is always a treat.

    3. What has been your biggest career achievement?
    I was originally hired as a word processor and within the first two years I had taken over the role of Supervising Secretary; and then Executive Assistant to management. I have been with the company for 25 years and I am always up for a new challenge in my career.

    4. Outside of Opus, what do you like to do in your spare time?
    I would say that I am a foodie, I love to cook and bake. Many of the staff here in the North Vancouver office are my taste testers. I have been told my pound cake is legendary - although I can’t take credit for the recipe. My husband and I love to cruise and travel and well as riding our Harleys. I also have 3 fur babies (cats).

    5. What advice would you give to people beginning their career?
    Love what you do, put your heart into it and you will succeed. I can honestly say that after 25 years I still enjoy coming to work every day and doing what I do.

  • Carol Campbell

    1. What is your role at Opus?
    I am the Branch Manager of the Opus DaytonKnight Whitehorse Office in Yukon, Canada. I am also a senior Project Manager.

    2. What do you enjoy the most in your current role?
    Working with teams on a challenging projects.

    3. What has been your biggest career achievement?
    Establishing the Whitehorse office and making it a success.

    4. Outside of Opus, what do you like to do in your spare time?
    Pretty mundane stuff – cooking, reading, walking, seeing movies….

    5. What advice would you give to people beginning their career?
    Be enthusiastic but patient, be persistent, go with the curves that life throws at you – you never know where they will take you!

  • Carinnya Feaunati

    My name is Carinnya Feaunati and I'm an architectural graduate.

    I've always had a huge interest in being creative. I’m quite a hands-on person and I love to draw as well and make things. Although it’s not in my family I thought architecture was a good opportunity to pursue a career in design and it really opened my eyes to the ways we could change and mould the environments we live in.

    I think a lot of time when I talk to people who are interested in doing architecture we agree that the technical side is something they can teach you but your individual creativity and putting who you are on paper is where the magic happens. When I tutored first years during my final year at Vic that’s something I really looked out for in the students. We would say ‘Yes you can draw but what makes you different?’

    So what makes me different? I’m very proud of my Pacific identity and as there are not many Pacific Islanders in the industry I’m somewhat a self-appointed ambassador. During University I saw huge value in what indigenous cultures could offer to the teaching of Architecture. I started looking for the connections between a country’s history and culture how it relates to the transformation of their built environment. That’s what I did my final research on. I started talking to my family back in Samoa about their idea of architecture and found all these amazing connections that come from the social constructs of how Samoans live their days.

    My parents have been a huge support to me and my studies and they understood that I needed to be, in a sense, a little bit selfish. They were very traditional growing up and this would often mean following them everywhere they went. My four siblings and I were allowed to choose our own direction but we had to go to university, it was not an option not to go. It made sense for us because my parents came over from Samoa as young adults, finished their last years of high school and then went straight into work. With that came a lot of sacrifices on their behalf. People often say parents like living through their kids but I absolutely think that’s justified. Why wouldn’t you instill those values if you knew what the alternative was?

    I graduated in 2014 and before joining Opus I was with Workspace architects for about 15 months. I had known about Opus for a while and I liked the idea of a multi-disciplinary company. Instead of communicating and chasing things up with other consultants, or being chased up for that matter, it’s pretty cool that I can walk over to their desk. At the time I also really needed something to nurture me as a graduate and I knew Opus had an emerging professionals group and endless networking events to help me meet new people my age and have conversations around being a young professional.

    It’s inspiring to be able to do something that’s important for everyone. I think for me I really need to keep hold of that thought because some days you can feel so insignificant. I’m definitely a bigger picture person and I try to remember that I’m doing some good for society. I’m also involved in a few other outside projects and I’m still part of a project using my thesis methodology. My thesis proposed a research and design framework when approaching the redesign of communities after natural disasters and it was taken on by an architecture firm in Wellington. The research picked up really positive attention and my team were given the opportunity to show some of the work at the National Museum in Samoa for the UN SIDS conference in 2014 and was then exhibited at Pataka Gallery in Porirua.

    Last year I was invited to UNESCO in Paris for the COP21 Sustainable Innovation Forum to present the work I had done. A lot of the discussion around climate change has been about pragmatic solutions on how we can prevent it but it was important for me to express that as Architects and Designers we need to look at solutions for what’s happening now and rebuilding with a look for the future.

    I knew coming into the workforce would be a whole different challenge. University work involved a lot of pressure but workforce pressure, I’m learning, is very different - you have a client who is a real person with real money and real feelings and for me I think that’s been quite a challenging thing to adjust to. Not only are you accountable for your design decisions but every line you draw means something.

    If I was to give some advice, it would be to remember there are so many opportunities that come out of doing an architecture or engineering degree other than being an Architect or an Engineer. Thinking back on the short pathway I’ve come so far into this career I think it’s important not to settle. Always find ways to improve on yourself whether it be your work ethic, skill base or in my case joining a gym and getting out running again. I have quite a strong personality and I have found as a young woman that it’s important to speak up. This doesn’t always mean having the loudest voice, it’s about contributing your ideas and thoughts. 

  • Elke Beca

    I have a couple of roles at Opus. First and foremost, I'm based in Tauranga and am part of the Westlink Maintenance Contract team acting as Strategic Asset Management Engineer. I'm lucky enough to have involvement in varied Asset Management projects within New Zealand and internationally and lead the Asset Condition Modelling PIN within Opus. 

    For the past five years I've also held the role of Technical Manager of an industry based charitable organisation called Infrastructure Decision Support (IDS) that develops and looks after the New Zealand intellectual property for Asset Condition Modelling.

    I love the diversity of the work I do and my ability to work across time boundaries as well as organisational boundaries. With my WestLink role I am based locally and have worked with the same great team for my 12 years within Opus, it keeps me grounded and hands on with operational aspects of my work. Having a wider role in my specialist area gets me out, regularly working with other national and international clients and keeping more of a strategic view of what is happening in the industry. I have access to a highly skilled small 'virtual' team spread literally all around the world to assist with projects which is truly fantastic. My industry role offers an opportunity where great minds can pull together best for industry solutions without organisational boundaries.

    Being invited to lead IDS was a big achievement for me as well as a career milestone. I still get most reward from the little successes, projects that really make a difference, training and presenting where attendees leave more knowledgeable than when they arrived and really just doing a good job.

    I'm fortunate enough to have a wonderful family with two young kids who love the outdoors. Between us, my husband and I have tried our hand at most adventure sports out there and now our kids are getting addicted too! Evenings and weekends are mostly spent hiking, camping and mountain biking with the occasional race thrown in for good measure. We do live in paradise here in New Zealand so we try our best to make the most of it!

    It's hard deciding on a career path, particularly when you are coming straight out of school. I think it's important to be flexible and keep an open mind, often you will find challenge and enjoyment in areas you never imagined, especially if you give it time. The more you put in the more you will get out, there is no substitution to commitment and perseverance. Networking is invaluable. Learn from your mentor, colleagues, peers, and from your mistakes. Ask questions but also trust in your own ability. Make the most of opportunities as they arise and don't be afraid to step outside of your comfort zone, even if just by a toe! Work hard and play hard, success in your personal life will only ever enhance your career - it's all about balance. 

  • Emily Stevens

    1. What is your role at Opus?
    I am a Geotechnical Engineer based in the Queenstown office in New Zealand. My main area of work is in slip and rockfall remediation on the Central Otago State Highway Network, which is around 540km of highway in a mountainous environment. My work often involves abseil inspections. I am also the Chair of the Geotechnical Professional Interest Network, which is a companywide network of over 100 employees and involves overseeing the technical health of the Geotechnical Discipline at Opus.

    2. What do you enjoy the most in your current role?
    I enjoy working with clients onsite, in a team environment, and successfully mitigating geotechnical hazards to make the road a little bit safer for the public – even though the public may not always realise the work that goes into keeping infrastructure operational. I have also really enjoyed the leadership and strategy development required as part of my role as Geotechnical Chair and hope to further develop my skills in this area.

    3. What has been your biggest career achievement?
    Winning the Association of Consulting Engineers NZ Future Leader Award in 2014 was a huge honour and is a tremendous opportunity involving sponsored travel to the International Federation of Consulting Engineers conference in Dubai in September 2015.

    4.Outside of Opus, what do you like to do in your spare time?
    I like to be busy and occupied. My husband owns a café including a small gift shop and I manage the retail for the shop. I also have to do something creative in my life, from art to interior design to sewing to music, so I always have a project on the go. My husband and I have just bought a house that needs a complete renovation so I am currently dreaming about bathrooms.

    5. What advice would you give to people beginning their career?
    Keep going through the tough times and don’t give up, there will be many rewards in this career. Do what you have to do as well as you possibly can, then take feedback and learn as much as you can from more experienced engineers and contractors. For women starting out – I have never found it to be a problem being a female in this industry. As long as you know your stuff (or admit when you don’t), are honest and fair people will listen to you, and I think that applies to males and females. Keep your sense of humour and smile.

  • Kirsty Douglas

    I am a Senior Environmental Consultant and a Health and Safety Representative for the Brisbane Office. The main aspect of my role is to work closely with clients to gain an understanding of what outcomes they are trying to achieve and assisting them to find practical and cost effective environmental solutions.

    Having the opportunity to get out in the field is always a highlight of my role but overall I like the variety of projects we get to be a part of. One day I'll be in the office completing environmental assessments for linear infrastructure, the next I'm conducting site environmental audits or assisting in archaeological excavations with Traditional Owners. I really enjoy working with people, whether they're internal team members, clients or key stakeholders to ensure the best possible outcomes can be achieved.

    My biggest career achievement was being asked to join a team working on an international project. I enjoy adapting to new challenges, particularly in areas where I have previously had limited experience.

    In my spare time I enjoy travelling and exploring new places. Anything outdoors like hiking, fishing, camping or hanging out at the beach or maybe visiting a cheeky winery or two.

    My advice for people beginning their career would be to not be afraid to step out of your comfort zone and have a go at new and challenging opportunities that come your way. You never know where they'll take you, who you will meet and the amazing life experiences you will have. 

  • Rachael Bryson

    My current role at Opus is as Work Group Manager of the Structures team at Doncaster, managing a team of 12 covering surveying/assessment and design. Along with this I am also Project Manager of the OPSAP project (Operational Property Structure Assessment Programme). This is a £3 million rail project carrying out inspection and assessment on station canopies on the LNW route for Network Rail.

    I enjoy the variety of my job and with this no day is the same. I enjoy being able to accomplish goals as a team and deliver to a client what they want and need.

    My biggest achievement has been becoming a recognised Project Manager within Opus which was my first goal when I started four years ago in an admin role.

    Family and friends are very important to me so I spend a lot of time socialising and spending time with them.

    My advice for people beginning their careers is as long as you are determined, work hard and believe in yourself there are no limitations on where your career can go. 

  • Rose Ford

    I am the General Manager Global People base in Wellington, New Zealand. I am responsible for the design and implementation of the global people strategy and programmes that align with the Opus Strategic Plan. This spans all facets of human resource, learning and development, remuneration, organization development, employee relations, performance management, EVP and brand, strategic resourcing and talent management. I lead the HR team to deliver Strategic HR business partnering, HR operations, resourcing, and organisation development and the implementation of the People Strategy across Group, New Zealand and Australia. In addition, I am responsible for ensuring the appropriate HR systems, company policy, metrics suite and frameworks are in place to support the wider HR team and business. 

    I enjoy building a high performing team and an environment where people can thrive, and in addition, creating a people strategy that is going to help create great people experiences and deliver on the business strategy.

    In other organisations I have led transformation projects across culture change, vision and values, leadership and development, HR systems, health and wellness and core people frameworks such as remuneration and reward that had a tangible impact on engagement, employer brand, productivity and retention. We are in the process of digitalising the people function at Opus, so a very exciting time and I'm sure will be a career highlight for me.

    Outside of Opus I like to spend time with my children, hanging out at the beach and in nature, reading a good book, travelling and experiencing different cultures, and live music.

    Maya Angelou, an American Poet and write, has some good advice that I found through reading her material and which was also shared with me from a mentor. The advice I would give to people beginning their career is that people will forget what you said, people will forget what you did but people will never forget how you made them feel. Also, if you don't like something change it. If you can't change it, change your attitude. 

  • Susan Chamberlain

    1. What is your role at Opus?
    I currently have a split role. I am the Service Excellence Leader for Queensland and also the Transportation Team Leader in Brisbane. As a Service Excellence Leader I am focusing on improving project management this year. This means bedding down our Project Management Accreditation Framework and providing training and support to all our project managers to help them better manage their projects. In addition to this we are introducing the responsibilities of the Project Director and increasing awareness of Safety in Design through training and auditing. As the Transportation Team Leader I am very much in business development mode - much of my time is spent writing bids and building relationships with potential clients. In addition to my formal roles I am also a Global Asset Management team resource and have been working on projects with our Opus colleagues in Malaysia.

    2. What do you enjoy the most in your current role?
    I enjoy the wide variety my role offers and the flexibility to pursue opportunities as they arise. I have been lucky to do some travelling in the last few years and love the interactions with different offices.

    3. What has been your biggest career achievement?
    Transitioning from a client background to join Opus eight years ago was fairly significant. Even projects that have not gone quite so well offer the greatest feelings of achievement – though this only comes in hindsight.

    4. Outside of Opus, what do you like to do in your spare time?
    I have two teenage sons so most of any spare time is spent with them. I do like to travel when I can but on the whole at the moment I just aspire to having spare time.

    5. What advice would you give to people beginning their career?
    To pursue what you want to. Don’t let perceived barriers get in your way. Respect is earned through listening to others, pulling your weight, and putting aside any differences. Ultimately the most satisfaction comes from achieving something by just getting on and doing it without leaning on assumed ‘rights’ whether they be gender, race, age or physical ability.

  • Victoria Saunders

    I am the team leader for the local roads maintenance team that runs the large-scale resurfacing and surface treatment programmes across the whole of Hertfordshire. I currently manage a team of 15 staff which includes engineers, permitting officers and communication officers. Together with our client, I manage a £15 million budget across the year.

    My role is very rewarding as I get to oversee the counties resurfacing programmes and make some important decisions to ensure every penny spent counts. I enjoy looking after a great team who work hard and it is those good relationships that make coming into work a pleasure.

    Being offered the role of team leader was a huge achievement for me. I started my career as an admin assistant within highways and have been lucky to learn on the job to become an engineer and now progress to a team leader. I was also very proud that one of my team was a finalist in the women in construction awards this year.

    I have just recently brought a new house with my husband and we are in the process of decorating and making it a home. If I get a spare moment from decorating I like to spend time with our house rabbit and cat.

    My advice for people beginning their career is don't let anyone tell you that you can't be what you want to be. Take as much advice from your peers, listen, learn, work hard and you'll get there.

  • Vivienne Ivory

    I lead the Urban Research team at Opus Research, based in Petone. Our research focuses on place, mobility and infrastructure.

    We are involved in a big range of projects that cross over sectors, disciplines and methods. I enjoy developing research that weaves these ideas and approaches together in ways that help address real world problems. It means I get to learn about all manner of things - the technical aspects of how our environments are designed and managed, the political and social aspects to decision making, and the challenges, and opportunities presented by emerging technology.

    My biggest career achievement has been getting our research outside of the ivory tower (pun intended). By sharing study findings through different media, incorporating our research into projects with other colleagues across the company, and working in collaboration with other university researchers; it all contributes to our research being useful.

    In my spare time outside of Opus I enjoy being in different places, trying different things, especially anything to do with food, tramping, and more recently, snorkeling (with turtles!).

    My advice for those beginning their career is to look for things that give you energy and that capture your attention. Then find ways to get paid for doing them. A wonderful piece of advice I received last year - expect the unexpected with courage, humour and grace.