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Published 3/12/2021

Never a dull moment - a graduate engineer's story

Paremata Emergency Management Team. Sheena O'Brien, second from right.

 The morning was cold, 22mm of rain had already fallen when Sheena O’Brien got the call that no one expected to receive.

A wastewater pipe in Paremata, Porirua had ruptured sending untreated wastewater into the Porirua Harbour.

“I remember the call, I was relaxing at home when my colleague - Damus Ogle called me and told me, so I jumped up, put on my gear, and went out the door.”

That’s what being a Graduate Engineer at Wellington Water is all about, Sheena said.

Sheena O’Brien is 22 and came to Wellington Water straight from the University of Canterbury. Auckland-born she’s settled into Wellington and is enjoying her first full-time role.

“I did civil engineering at university with a focus on the environment – especially water” she said.

“When I left university there were lots of different jobs I could have taken, but I liked Wellington Water’s values and commitment to the environment, so I packed up my stuff and moved to Wellington.

“I knew I wanted to work with water, but I wasn’t sure where my graduate role would lead. So, I worked on shaping what I wanted to be doing, learning from others and following my passion and skill.”

Sheena came into the Fulton Hogan, Wellington Water alliance and was immediately scooped up and placed into a graduate and young professional’s programme.

“I’ve learned so much in these programmes, from time management and resilience to CV and interview prep, they’ve prepared me for not only working at Wellington Water, but also for the future – wherever that may lead.”

And Sheena has a bright future indeed, moving from a Graduate Engineer to a Technical Advisor within her first year.

 “I never thought my interests would end up in drainage and wastewater” Sheena laughed,” but investigating public and private leaks and overflows is where I’m drawn too – especially preventing wastewater from entering our rivers, streams and beaches.”


Technical Advisors Drainage Investigations - Sheena O'Brien and Raphael Canedo

At Paremata, that’s exactly what Sheena did. After arriving at the overflow site, she joined up with the team to manage the over pumping – to minimise the impact of the wastewater pipe failure on the Porirua harbour.

“It was cold, it was wet, and it was hard - but it could have been worse. Together we prevented further wastewater from entering the environment and repaired the pipe.

“Now that same pipe is being replaced and that area of Paremata is more resilient because of it. That’s what this job is all about, being passionate about what you do, being confident in what you have to offer and improving the three waters – for now and into the future.”

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