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Q&A: Talking with Kate Simmonds, Section Leader Water and Wastewater Infrastructure, New Zealand

Kate Simmonds shares insights on her role at Jacobs, what sparked her interest in a career in water and how she’s bringing international best practice to New Zealand by connecting clients to our global Jacobs water business.

At Jacobs, we think differently about the future because today’s challenges demand innovative approaches to deliver a more connected, sustainable world. With a fierce commitment to the spaces we inhabit, both globally and environmentally, we’re continually reinvigorating our efforts to be responsible stewards of the natural world, as we contribute forward-thinking sustainable solutions for our clients.

We’re getting to know members of our water team who are solving the most pressing challenges in water resilience and sustainability to shape the water industry of tomorrow.

Section Leader Water and Wastewater Infrastructure, New Zealand, Kate Simmonds shares insights on her role at Jacobs, what sparked her interest in a career in water and how she's brining international best practice to New Zealand by connecting clients to our global water business.

Kate with award

Tell us a bit about yourself and what you do at Jacobs.

Currently I look after our water infrastructure team in New Zealand (NZ), comprising nearly 60 dedicated water engineers, spread over three main offices. I enjoy problem solving and coming up with innovative solutions to engineering problems, with a propensity for strategic consulting and option identification and development. Supporting the development of business cases and connecting our local clients to our broader global Jacobs network, my team is helping to bring international best practice and technology advancements to NZ, applying local knowledge and context to ensure solutions are tailored for our local environment.

What sparked your interest in a career in water/engineering?

From a young age I was interested in engineering. My Dad used to build boilers in mines in Western Australia and I was fascinated with watching him pull machinery apart and put it back together again. Growing up in the Bay of Islands, NZ, meant I spent a lot of time on the water sailing, fishing and swimming, which stemmed a passion in me for the environment, particularly for water. A guidance counsellor at school suggested environmental engineering as a possible career for me, and I was sold.

What’s your favorite part of your role?

For me, it’s helping interpret what the needs are to help make a path forward for the team to accomplish the project. To help remove barriers and drive towards completion. Interaction with all the varied team members from the craft workers on up to the client teams is what makes the job fun.

Kate on project site

Tell us about your proudest career moment. 

My proudest career moment? That’s a tricky one. For me personally it was winning the Victorian, and then National, Australian Water Association Young Water Professional of the Year in 2013. This was a very proud moment for me as I had recently rejoined the workforce after having my son and had invested a lot of time and effort into balancing being a parent, furthering my career, and being very involved in supporting the industry through volunteering on committees and specialist groups.

Another moment I am possibly even prouder of was a recent site visit to the Central Interceptor Project to take a number of the design team to see the construction activities. This included our lead drafter who had been working on the project from Day 1. It was her first time seeing the construction sites, and she was so happy to be there – I truly think that was one of the most rewarding moments of my career.

What are some of the key considerations that will help drive a more resilient and sustainable Three Waters sector (drinking, waste and storm) in NZ?

Global threats such as climate change, population growth, and rapid urbanization pose a significant challenge to water management. To ensure the ongoing reliability, resilience and sustainability of service provision, a paradigm shift is required. Some of the key considerations that will help drive resilience and sustainability in the Three Waters sector in NZ include looking at solutions more holistically, with focus on social, economic, and environmental consequences as well as technical outcomes. The more obvious considerations of climate change, population growth, and rapid urbanization need to be considered in balance with cultural and social elements to ensure solutions are robust and sustainable.

What excites you about the future of water in NZ?

At the moment the Three Waters regulatory reform is front of mind for many of us in the water industry. It’s a time of significant change with plans to move from 67 territorial authorities or TLAs responsible for managing our Three Waters assets, to four entities. The finer details of this reform are still being worked through; however it is clear that significant change lies ahead, which makes it a very exciting time to be a water engineer in NZ!

Kate with family

If you aren’t in the office, what would we most likely find you doing?

I’m a very proud mum, and I’m very organized by nature, so when I’m not working you’ll often find me on the sideline for my children’s sports and various after school activities, or behind the scenes supporting these activities. I’m the chairperson of the Parent Teacher Association for my children’s school and am also assistant coach and coordinator for my son’s football team. I support the Wonder Projectfor Engineering New Zealand and just recently presented at the local high school encouraging students to pursue a STEAM career, and I’m a mentor for the First Foundation Program. When I’m not busy with these activities you’ll generally find me at the beach or on the water, or if the weather’s not great, I love nothing more than curling up inside with a good book!

What do you enjoy most about being part of Jacobs?

I’ve been fortunate to work in three different countries with Jacobs, on projects globally recognized as award winning and innovative. These roles have provided me the opportunity to work with colleagues from all around the world and to see places and experience things I wouldn’t otherwise have – one of my favorites being working in the United Arab Emirates where I got to experience Ramadan and Iftar, as well as forming a friendship with a colleague from Lebanon and having them show me around their country and experience their culture from a different lens than if I had gone on my own. 

Join #OurJacobs team

What drives you drives us as we work to build a better world – together. At Jacobs, every day is an opportunity to make the world better, more connected, more sustainable.

We’re always looking for dynamic and engaged people to join our team. Bring your passion, your ingenuity and your vision. Let’s see the impact we can create, together.

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