Leadership Network member
Young Engineer of the Year

In a field where young women are typically underrepresented, Leadership Network Member Jenny Chu is more than holding her own.
Engineer sitting in office

Jenny: “... people appreciate the value and different perspectives I bring to the table.”

She's a senior engineer on one of the country’s biggest and boldest engineering feats to date – Auckland’s City Rail Link, a 3.5-kilometre double-track rail tunnel underneath the city centre.

And she’s been crowned Young Engineer of the Year.

The hotly-contested award celebrates a young engineer who has demonstrated outstanding leadership qualities, excellence in their career, and has made a contribution to their community.

A bit like the underground tunnel, the accomplishment is no mean feat.

“The process involves nomination by an engineering professional of standing, and once shortlisted a presentation in front of a judging panel, Engineering New Zealand CE, board members and peer professionals with open Q&A from the audience,” Jenny says.

“The award is a great reminder to me about the projects and the people that I have worked with along my engineering journey to date ... and why I chose engineering in the very first place – which was to create opportunities for people, as well as to continuously learn and challenge myself.”

Engineering captured her imagination from a young age - she grew up in Hong Kong constantly in awe of how infrastructure facilitated the movement of masses of people and goods around and in and out of the metropolis, she says.

Plus, her dad was an engineer, so she saw his projects and their benefits first-hand: “His work really inspired me to be an engineer, just like him.”

She’s spent four years working on the City Rail Link in roles including technical design management, construction and contract negotiation, sometimes at an office desk, other times donning hi-viz and hard hat and in the trenches.

On first appearance, she’s generally not what some people traditionally expect from an engineer. Being young, female and Asian, she’s a minority in an industry that’s been dominated by white men, and that’s had its challenges, she says.

Whether in a high-viz vest or not, in an industry as male-dominated as engineering, Jenny really stands out

“Our perceptions are influenced by our individual differences and preconceived notions.

“As someone who looks a bit different to the majority of people in my industry, I feel like sometimes I need to spend more effort to prove myself to get my point across.”

But, prove herself she has.

Jenny speaks multiple Asian languages, and that’s been invaluable in helping her team liaise with the growing number of investors, suppliers and stakeholders from Asia.

While there’s challenges with being different, there’s also lots of opportunities and advantages, she says.

“Diversity allows us as a team to solve a problem more creatively.

“I find that most of the time, despite the initial perception, as I work with people, people appreciate the value and different perspectives I bring to the table.”

Jenny says being part of the Asia New Zealand Foundation Leadership Network has helped develop her into a more well-rounded person, which in turn has helped her work.

It’s broadened her horizons, built connections, and added to her professional knowledge base, she says.

“From design considerations for the changing fabric of our society to how we can unlock opportunities to collaborate with Asia to engineer a global village.” There’s no doubt Asia is having an increasing influence on Kiwi projects, she says.

In recent years, Jenny has facilitated people to people exchanges between New Zealand and Asia on governmental, professional institutions and civic society level, and she is looking forward to developing her governance experience in this space.

“It just makes sense for New Zealanders to better understand Asia. I’m quite proud I can play a little part in that.”