On Wednesday February 12th, around 30 young engineering professionals turned up at a central wellington bar for YIPWEA’s (Young IPWEA) inaugural Inspiring Speakers Event for 2020.

We were extremely fortunate to secure the likes of Dr Jo Cribb and Hon Min James Shaw, who took time out of their busy work and family schedules to offer advice and inspiration to our YIPWEA members regarding setting and achieving career goals.

Dr Jo Cribb addressed the room first.  Dr Cribb has a formidable career runsheet. She has a PhD in Public Policy that investigated contracting relationships between governments and NGOs.  Former Chief Executive of the Ministry for Women, she was one of the youngest Chief Executives ever appointed in the New Zealand public service.  Formerly the Deputy Children’s Commissioner, Jo is a director on several Government and NGO boards, including NZ Media Council, Royal NZ Navy Leadership Board and Institute of Public Administration of NZ.  she co-authored the 2018 book, “Don’t Wory About the Robots: How to Survive and Thrive in the New World of Work”. In 2016 she was a finalist in the New Zealand Women of Influence Awards and in 2014 was one of three recipients of a Westpac Leadership Fellowship.

Jo was extremely engaging, entertaining and open.  She had the whole room repeat “Don’t be like Jo!” as she delivered some key lessons she’d learned over her career.

Life lessons: Don’t be like Jo!

1: What you fear is very unlikely to happen. What if someone sees me fail?  Looking back  – Probably no one is that focused on me.  Others are just thinking of themselves.!  Avoiding risk – slows our learning.  The plodding projects don’t get you noticed.

2: There is so much more to life than work.  Don’t expect your job to entertain you.  The angst will disappear. Develop all aspects of yourself outside of work.  Stop to smell the roses.  Find your balance between sprinting towards what you want, and taking the time to nourish yourself and relationships, to have down time to recharge the batteries, taking the time to fully develop all parts of yourself; and enjoy family, hobbies, friends, your interests.

3:  You don’t know everything and that’s ok.  Being a know it all is exhausting.  People don’t expect you to have all the answers.

Some good questions came from the floor during Q&A.  When asked how to change an organisation’s culture as a young person, she responded that, “Culture” is not “out there” – it’s about how we treat each other.  It’s “in here”.  So, if we treat people in a way that is consistent with our values, we are influencing the culture and the organisation.

Regarding the quality of the public sector in general, she noted that there is a variable quality of tier 2 and tier 3 managers in New Zealand. And that the hallmark of a true leaders is someone who give you tools to be able to be awesome.  She left YIPWEAN’s with the advice to hunt for someone in the organisation that they can relate to, and make them a mentor.  Finding our direction can be just as much about who we are teamed with, as the work we are doing.

James Shaw

The second speaker for the evenings was the Co-Leader of the Green Party, Honourable Minister James Shaw.  James is the Minister for Climate Change, Statistics, and Associate Minister of Finance.

Despite having come from an intense select committee hearing on security issues, James breezed in as if he’d just been tree-bathing, and sipped a cold beer, cracking a few good jokes to break the ice, and then addressing the audience as if he were sitting down to talk with a cherished friend.

James presented his early career guidance by way of a beautiful sailing analogy to find one’s purpose or calling.  When sailing from A to B, you’re never actually pointing at B; you’re tacking and jibing.  If at the beginning you’re not sure where you are going, work out your destination point (B) moment by moment, to make life simpler. You can ask yourself, “am I more or less on course?”  “Am I more or less aligned with my goals and purpose?”

To help answer whether we are on track to our destination, James quoted St Augustine:

“Where your talent meets the needs of the world, therein lies your vocation”

(He also jokingly referred to another St Augustine quote: God make me good, but not yet”)

Work out what your talent is, but also work out, what do you want to apply it to – and the magic happens.

With regards to James’ views on infrastructure and the future of engineering, he commented that we need to design businesses and towns with a more collaborative model, not hub and spoke but plug and play.

James recounted a positive anecdote regarding a comment from the CE of mercury energy, who said that, because of the bipartisan support of the zero carbon bill, he was doubling the size of the new windfarm.  New business models are showing that we can balance capex and opex differently.

James closed his talk with an apt quote from Benjamin Franklin, “When you are finished changing, you are finished.

Thank you Jo and James, what a brilliant start to the year – so much thought-provoking guidance, inspiration and wisdom (& laughs) packed into one evening.