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Interview with
Alice Chaplin
General Manager New Zealand

Alice Chaplin is the General Manager of Coffey New Zealand and is a civil engineer.  Alice has more than 20 years experience in her field and works on projects across some of our major markets, including buildings, energy, environmental management, infrastructure, transportation, and water.  She has a Masters of Engineering from Imperial College of Science Technology and Medicine and is also a Chartered Engineer.  

What inspired you to pursue a career in engineering?

became an engineer because of the work I could do to help shape the world we live in. Our engineering skills allow the world to have high performance buildings, clean drinking water, sanitation, power, transport infrastructure, and so much more. Without our skills, the world would be a very different place.

What do you like about working at Coffey?

At Coffey we are technical specialists who are passionate about what we do and about being really good at it. We don’t want to be the biggest engineering consultancy, we want to be the best at what we do.

How can we encourage female students to pursue a career in engineering?

I am passionate about helping people see how rewarding an engineering career is and how impactful our collective efforts are. There are very few careers where you can say that your work will be used by millions of people for generations to come. We can when one of our major projects, such as a new road, is completed—and that experience is a hugely rewarding feeling.

The role we play in shaping the world means that we need to deliver the very best possible outcomes that we can - we can’t do that with just half of humanity!  

What are the greatest qualities you may find in a female engineer?

Engineers tend to be very logical thinkers. No problem is insurmountable; we just need to break it down into smaller parts that we can solve. These problem-solving skills make engineers extremely useful people to have around—whatever the problem might be!

How do you define your success as an engineer?

Throughout my career, I’ve been lucky to take on a wide range of roles. I started off as a graduate engineer on a training scheme, working both in the design office and on-site. I progressed through detailed design, site management, design management, project management, program management, and line management roles. To me, success is not about the roles you’ve had; instead it is about the projects you’ve worked on, the people you've worked with, and if the project delivered - or exceeded - the expected outcomes.

What do you look forward to in the years to come in the engineering field?

I am excited about the changes that technology is bringing to our field. How we do things today will be different in a year, and radically different in five years. It is important that engineers embrace these new technologies and work out how to use them to our advantage, rather than be afraid of them.

What project are you most proud of?

I’m most proud of the Auckland Electrification Project where we electrified the Auckland, New Zealand train network. It was a long and challenging project with many tough moments; however, it was all worthwhile.

Every time I see a clean and green electric train whiz past I think, “We did that!” It was a huge team effort, and I was lucky to work with a fabulous team who came together to deliver a great outcome for the people of Auckland. 

Do you have any advice to pass along to male mentors?

Women often think and act differently to men. That’s a good thing. We need to embrace diversity of thought and actions on our project teams. If everyone is the same, then we won’t get the best possible outcomes on our projects. The role we play in shaping the world means that we need to deliver the very best possible outcomes that we can—we can’t do that with just half of humanity!