16 August 2017

Profile: Sharing a passion for engineering


Allan Leahy FIPENZ

Based in: Auckland
Role: Principal Technical Specialist, MWH now part of Stantec.
Education: Bachelor of Engineering – Civil, University of Auckland, 1987.

Congratulations on being named 2017 WaterNZ Stormwater Group Professional of the Year. What was it like to win this award?

It was totally unexpected. I’ve been lucky enough to have worked with some of the top people in the stormwater field, across a range of professions. To be recognised in that company was simply stunning. The award acknowledges that I’ve been willing to share what I’ve learnt and the mistakes I’ve made over the last 30 years, through my work delivering IPENZ stormwater management training courses.

Why did you become an engineer?

My father was a professional engineer, but never pressured me into engineering. I left school with an interest in being a vet. I then travelled around Australia, growing up and getting an education along the way. Two years later, I returned to New Zealand with a new intent to study engineering.

What have been the highlights of your engineering career?

Getting my first job at Brickell Moss and working for the legendary Andrew Brickell FIPENZ with Terry McCarthy GIPENZ and the late Selwyn Green FIPENZ was a fantastic grounding. Passing my professional interview and being recognised by my peers was an honour I will never forget. My father presented my membership certificate at a Branch meeting; a poignant moment in my life, as he died a few months later. It’s also been an honour to judge the ACENZ Awards of Excellence with some of the top engineers in the country.

How did you get involved in presenting IPENZ CPD courses?

My co-worker John Cocks FIPENZ suggested me. I’m passionate about my area of work and I love conveying that passion. I’ve been inspired by the many engineers and non-engineers who have attended the courses. I remember one young engineer approaching me after a course, absolutely beaming. A simple exercise we went through had clarified something they’d been doing wrong until that point. It’s incredibly rewarding when you see the light go on as someone grasps a concept that had been eluding them.

What’s next for you?

My goal over the next few years is to become more familiar with what is happening overseas in stormwater and see what lessons I can bring back to New Zealand. Also, we need more knowledge on the operations and management requirements for the stormwater treatment systems we’ve been installing over the last 20 or so years.

What do you think the future of engineering looks like?

The drive to do things cheaply, rather than by best value, downgrades our profession and causes some of our clients to undervalue our most valuable attributes – our professionalism and our ability to think and evolve. We’ve got to do better. We need greater collaboration across disciplines and professions to deliver our projects. Increased involvement within our communities is also needed. I see in young engineers a greater awareness of their place in society and willingness to engage. This can only be for the good of the profession and our communities.