We’re so happy to share this Senior Mechanical and Piping Engineer thinking to the space of women in engineering today. She’s an amazing role model for up and coming engineers.

Meet Jacob’s Karen Robertson. A lady who brings over 20 years’ experience to the table – including 15 years’ geothermal experience.

She has worked on a number of projects across the world including Kenya, the Olkaria II steamfield and the Olkaria II Unit three extension. Specialising in geothermal steamfield design, stress analysis of piping systems (including cross-country geothermal piping and plant piping) and design of pressure vessels.

Her most recent role as Lead Mechanical Engineer making her responsible for the complete mechanical design for 2 x 140 MW geothermal steamfields and leading an international team, with team members located in overseas locations as well as in NZ.

She’s also been involved extensively with work in the Philippines at both Mak-Ban and Tiwi, working as project manager and lead mechanical design engineer on a number of piping projects!

Jacobs Senior Mechanical and Piping Engineer, Karen Robertson.

What do you love about your job?

Working with great people on interesting projects all over the world.


What are the key challenges facing women in Engineering?

There is an ongoing push for gender equality and Companies and Governments continue to  look at setting a requirement to achieve a set ration of male to females in what have been male dominated roles like engineering.

In my opinion this has a negative impact on the woman who are in Engineering or want to move into Engineering.

When trying to progress into more senior technical and leaderships roles, you need to be there because you are capable and the best person for the role. Once you start making it a requirement that woman need to be given certain roles to produce a statistically determined result, I believe you risk devaluing the woman that are in your organisations.

The assumption may be made that you are only in that role as the company had to appoint a woman, when there are already many females in senior engineering roles and they are doing these roles because they are qualified and experienced to do them.

When I started working in Engineering 30 years ago as a technician in a Government department, there was policy about needing to appoint a percentage of these type of technical cadet-ships to females.  Obviously that plan did not work out that well as 30 years later we are still having these same discussions.

Achieving a manageable work/live balance. That is a challenge for all working parents. The traditional 40 hour week is disappearing and the world is becoming more global. There is more of an expectation that people will be instantly mobile, and willing to move at short notice around the country and the world as projects require it. If you have family, partners, children to consider then it is very difficult to juggle everything.


What impact do you want to make in your career?

I want my daughter and my son to see that as I work as an Engineer they are moving to a world that is moving away from traditional roles for men and woman and that they know that they can strive to do anything they want to.

My kids have never thought it was unusual that I was an Engineer because in their lifetime I have always been an Engineer.

It has never entered their heads that they may be told they are not able to do something because they are female, or male (except when my daughter started school when she was 5 and wore her spider-man outfit – she was told that girls can’t be spider-man!)