Opus' Women in Leadership Network

In 2014, a women in leadership group was established to facilitate engagement, networking, mentoring and information sharing.  The group, 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 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 Opus’ Women

8th March marks International Women's Day and the theme this year is ‘Pledge for Parity’. 

On this day, Opus will be celebrating 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:

  • Alison Swan

    1. What is your role at Opus?
    I am the Company Secretary, and a member of the Executive Leadership Team. I am a lawyer by profession and am also the General Counsel for the company. My role involves corporate governance, regulatory, and general commercial work. I manage the provision of legal advice on a range of matters, covering the different jurisdictions in which we operate, and our acquisition programme. I manage a small in-house legal team based in New Zealand, and engage external counsel as required, particularly in the other jurisdictions. As an in-house counsel I have a knowledge of the business, and rely on specialist legal advice as required.

    2. What do you enjoy the most in your current role?
    I enjoy the people within Opus, and also the wide range of work and projects that we get involved in. There is a satisfaction with working largely in the infrastructure arena, seeing the projects on which we work, and being part of this development.

    3. What has been your biggest career achievement?
    There have been many as the company has developed over the years, but the preparation and successful listing of the company on the NZ Stock Exchange stands out. This was a challenging time, as we had come a long way at that stage (2007), from a government agency through privatization, and this was the next step in our commercial development.

    4. Outside of Opus, what do you like to do in your spare time?
    I like to spend time with family and friends and enjoy the time off from work.

    5. What advice would you give to people beginning their career?
    I think at the beginning of one’s career it is important to be open to opportunities, and to take advantage of what is offered. There is great opportunity within Opus, to work on interesting projects, to collaborate and learn from a wide variety of very talented people, and to develop and grow to one’s full potential. The mentoring programme within Opus is invaluable, and it is important to take advantage of the support that this can provide.

  • 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.

  • Anna Robak

    1. What is your role at Opus?
    I have three roles: Technical Principal in the Global Asset Management team, Chair of our Asset Management Practice Interest Network, and Manager of our thought leadership Technical Investment Fund
    Externally, I advise asset owners on the impacts of infrastructure investments, and how they can communicate these impacts to senior leadership, legislators and members of the public. Often this means helping them set clear investment priorities. This can mean revisiting the assets they have (do they really need them?), revisiting the quality of service they're delivering (can they afford this level of service in the future?), and considering cleverer ways of delivering the same quality of service.
    Internally, I help strengthen and develop our asset managers, and get more coordination across the world and across disciplines. Many of the greatest innovations come from people that are working in areas that are different but analogous. That includes embedding best practice and innovations into business as usual
    I'm also responsible for how we profile our best people and find innovative outlets for their ideas.

    2. What do you enjoy the most in your current role?
    I love connecting people to new ideas. We need to do more sharing, across disciplines, and with our clients, contractors, other consultants, industry bodies, and other research institutions. We have some amazing people that have done great work. As we tap more strongly in to the rest of the world, those great ideas will take hold, we'll have made a real difference, and we can move on to tackling even bigger problems.

    3. What has been your biggest career achievement?
    Recently I presented my first keynote in Vancouver at the conference for the Canadian Network of Asset Managers. That was a great opportunity for me. I've also enjoyed teaching asset management masterclasses, working with Parks Canada staff on a high-profile project that culminated in them receiving an additional $2.8 billion in funding (that was more due to their own amazing people than me, but it was a wonderful team to be part of), and working with KPMG and the North Carolina Department of Transportation.

    Anything that involves problem-solving and bouncing ideas off people, where challenge and debate are welcome. Completing my PhD was a pretty big deal too. It allowed me to explore economic arguments for changing the way we deliver services to communities, to make them more affordable and beneficial overall.

    4. Outside of Opus, what do you like to do in your spare time?
    I love food, so much of my time is spent thinking about our meals for the week, or what new café we'll try next, or whose house we'll invade for the next get-together with friends.  To keep myself sane after work and on weekends, I run, surf, and bike. I discovered during my studies that my back would tighten up from the hours spent sitting, and yoga and lunchtime walks has helped immensely with that.  On a nerdy note, I haven't yet published journal papers after my PhD, so many weekends are spent converting thesis chapters into journal papers.

    5. What advice would you give to people beginning their career?
    Do what you think you should do, and keep an open mind. I wanted to get broad experience across a range of engineering disciplines, and I was lucky Opus offered that - and that I had a mentor who helped make it happen. Many people won't understand an unconventional mix of disciplines, but don't let that worry you - that's where the real innovation is to be found, and where you'll find your special niche.
    Also, be generous with your ideas, be positive, and be forgiving. It may take people time to see the method behind your madness. Chances are, they will eventually understand it and appreciate what you have done. In the meantime, seek out people who will support you - look outside your team, throughout your organisation, and outside as well. More people, more ideas, more inspiration, more 'luck'.

  • 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!

  • Danielle Shadbolt

    1. What is your role at Opus?
    I am currently an Associate Director within the London Office and lead the Highway and Transportation Team.

    2. What do you enjoy the most in your current role?
    I enjoy the variety. With transport planning no two jobs are the same. Larger projects require good project management and technical ability, whilst the smaller jobs can be equally difficult and good negotiation skills are necessary.

    3. What has been your biggest career achievement?
    There are several things. Completing my MSc alongside my full time job, being the lead on one of the biggest projects in London, and being accepted onto the London Chamber of Commerce and Industry’s Property and Construction Committee. But my biggest achievement is being part of re-establishing the London office which is a great place to work

    4. Outside of Opus, what do you like to do in your spare time?
    I love theatre and dancing. I volunteered as a choreographer for North Avon Youth Dance and was lucky enough to dance in the London 2012 Olympics opening ceremony.

    5. What advice would you give to people beginning their career?
    There is no such as a bad experience, it’s all just experience. Sometimes they may seem bad but they just help focus you and show you the positives in the future.

  • 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.

  • Malinda Facey

    1. What is your role at Opus?
    I’m the National Environmental Manager for Opus Australia and the State Manager for NSW/ACT. I’m responsible for around 70 employees covering 6 offices in Australia.

    2. What do you enjoy the most in your current role?
    I really enjoy the diversity of work and sorting out the challenges that both roles bring whilst building a strong robust business. The best part and I believe I’m very privileged to participate in, is assisting young professionals to grow and develop and watching them exceed in their careers.

    3. What has been your biggest career achievement?
    I’m hoping its still to come…

    4. Outside of Opus, what do you like to do in your spare time?
    I love spending time with family and friends. I have four children in my life, two 2 young adults in New Zealand and two smaller children in Sydney. Keeping up with them is a full time job. I make furniture and am renovating my house (slowly but surely). I also have two cats and a dog that require much attention.

    5.What advice would you give to people beginning their career?
    Be responsible for your own career. Learn from people who have been around for a while, listen and go for opportunities as they present themselves. Be positive and solution focused – in your personal and professional life.

  • Paula Lock

    Professional Services and Design Manager

    1.    What is your role at Opus?
    I am a Principal Engineer/Project Manager with the Christchurch Office.  For the past four years, I have been seconded to the Stronger Christchurch Infrastructure Rebuild Team (SCIRT).  SCIRT is responsible for the rebuild of the earthquake damaged horizontal infrastructure, and I have worked my way up to the Professional Services and Design Manager role (which is a role in the Management Team reporting to the Executive General Manager).  I have been responsible for leading and managing up to 180 designers from 18 different design consultancies. 

    2.    What do you enjoy the most in your current role?
    The people, the culture, and what we have achieved.  

    3.    What has been your biggest career achievement?
    Each year I feel I am achieving more and more. In the last few years, I started at SCIRT as a Designer/Project Manager in one of the four design teams.  I was then elevated to be the leader of that team (44 designers).  When the role of Design Manager became available, I applied and succeeded, and became responsible for 180 designers.  In December 2014, I then became part of the Management Team in my current role as Professional Services and Design Manger.  This experience has been incredible.  SCIRT was awarded the ICE Brunel Medal in 2013 (only once previously awarded to a group from the Southern Hemisphere), won the 2014 Supreme Award at Champion Canterbury, and I am proud to have been awarded as Highly Commended in the category of Professional Woman of the Year at the 2015 Hays National Women in Construction Excellence Awards 2015. 

    4.    Outside of Opus, what do you like to do in your spare time?
    I am the Chair of the Canterbury Rugby Supporters Club and have a season ticket soI spend a lot of time watching/supporting rugby, attending all home games and travelling to some of the away games.  I even went to Chicago last year to watch the All Blacks play the USA.  I have also started running this year.  I am incredibly slow, but very proud of having stuck with the training, and have achieved a couple of 10km runs so far.

    5.    What advice would you give to people beginning their career?
    I encourage people to do as I have always done - aim to be and do the best that you can. 

  • Sulo Shanmuganathan

    1. What is your role at Opus?
    I am a Structural Engineer based in Auckland, New Zealand.

    2. What do you enjoy the most in your current role?
    The positive influence I can contribute to our built environment through the projects that I have been involved in gives me great satisfaction. I like working in teams consisting of different disciplines, organisations, culture and gender where we all work for common goals towards improving the facilities and infrastructure for our communities.  Each and every project, big or small, brings a unique challenge and I do enjoy the problem solving aspect of the project. I must admit, it still gives me a kick to finish a design and see the completed project – even small contributions like a droplet can contribute to the ocean-like benefits to humanity.

    3. What has been your biggest career achievement?
    Considering my career as a part of life, one of my biggest achievements in life is developing self-belief. “If I have the belief that I can do it, I shall surely acquire the capacity to do it even if I may not have it at the beginning” – Mahatma Gandhi. Developing self-belief and suitable motivation has given me the strength and courage to face obstacles and breakthrough barriers.

    4. Outside of Opus, what do you like to do in your spare time?
    I like to do many things from baking to walking. I like to sit still and think of nothing – some may call it meditation. I do spend time on self-care such as regular exercises. “To keep a lamp burning we have to keep putting oil in it” - Mother Teresa.

    5. What advice would you give to people beginning their career?
    Like there are no boundaries to the sky, there is no limit to our potential and power of mind. Do not limit your dreams and ambitions because of fear of failure. Do not take “No” for an answer.
    When you start your career, keep a broad view of where you want to get to. If you know the purpose of life and your passion, then options open as you go. Keep your eyes open for opportunities, amidst challenges. Mentors are good if you can use them well. Do not think that you need a role-model for what you want to achieve in your life – you could be the first!

  • 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.